Today’s digitally savvy PR professionals are adding organic search to their repertoire. This makes good sense because organic rankings are just another form of earned media—just acquired in a new way. For over a decade it’s been well known that search engine rankings are influenced mainly by two things: what a brand says about itself on its own website and what others say about it off of its site. The latter is often called off-site SEO and it’s the most heavily-weighted component of Google’s algorithm.
Off-site SEO has been a hotly debated subject for years because spammers have used numerous poor tactics to help brands win at organic search. Luckily, this period of link-spam has come to a close, and the only effective way forward is with crisp online media relations efforts. The relatively small subsets of legitimate links on the Internet have become incredibly powerful for the brands capable of earning them. Thanks to recent Google algorithm updates, the other links—link-spam—no longer really matter.
The kicker is that the legit links drive real business outside of search. In other words, these links are aligned with brand strategy. They aren’t keyword anchor text, obscured and hidden at the bottom of coverage. On the contrary, these links are strong calls to action that drive an audience from a media outlet to a relevant content asset on the client’s site, producing copious amounts of conversions. And the results are completely measurable. Especially if the content promoted is gated behind a form that acquires lead information. These high-authority links will also drive lots of that “link juice” SEOs are always talking about—the stuff that drives rankings across entire websites.
To learn the best way to earn these powerful links, we need to look no further than one of the most prolific SEO software companies, Moz. Moz has a large audience of SEO practitioners who participate in their community, led by the well-known and inspired Rand Fishkin. Their blog is full of SEO goodies, but we’ve found that the best way to learn from Moz is to just watch how they do SEO for themselves.
Sure, Moz does all the standard stuff. As mentioned above, they blog a lot and have an engaged community, but they also do one special thing that we don’t see the majority of brands doing for SEO. They regularly make lasting and meaningful contributions to their industry with high-impact content. Rich, interactive, thoroughly researched and evergreen content that makes blog posts look like mere child’s play.
Their two most notable examples are their Beginner’s Guide to SEO and their annual Search Engine Rankings Factors Survey and Correlation Data. These are both bibles for the SEO industry. The Beginner’s guide to SEO is even ranked number three on Google for the SEO industry’s ultimate keyword, SEO. I know these resources are incredible because I’ve learned much from them and have personally linked to them many times, as I am in this very post.
But the real off-site SEO power isn’t my inbound links. They do help, but they aren’t going to rank a brand for the hardest keyword in their industry. The ones that really move the needle come from the established media outlets that cite them all over the web—the industry media outlets with large engaged audiences and domain authorities in the high 90s. These are the links Google’s head of web spam, Matt Cutts, recently called, “The hard links to get.” That’s why he says to go after them. They actually matter. They can’t be gamed and they’re not going to get you penalized.
PR pros have a huge leg up in terms of earning the hard links. They have the ability to reach top media outlets and get content assets covered—content assets that are more about solving a large problem in a given industry than they are about touting a brand and its products. Not performing this crucial media outreach step is a big mistake that will lead to lackluster results no matter how powerful the content.
A Relevance enterprise client had a stagnant content asset that had earned no coverage because they had never really tried. After just two weeks of media outreach it had earned nearly 50 powerful links on top industry media outlets and social mentions from some of most reputable influencers in their industry. The Internet will not promote your content for you. It’s not that good yet and likely never will be. Effective content promotion takes great content, thorough media research and lots of outreach sweat.
To gain more insight on effective content promotion strategies, register for Relevance’s upcoming webinar on content promotion hosted by Chad Pollitt on March 25th.
Kevin Bailey is a co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer at Relevance. An Indiana University graduate, he has more than fourteen years of Internet marketing experience involving organic search engine optimization, eCommerce, conversion rate analysis, statistical analysis, affiliate marketing and web design.