Opinion, Student/PR

Teach PR First, Link Building Second

Link building is a lucrative practice, very few master it. But to SEO, it’s invaluable.

Google still values earned links as one of the top-ranking factors, thus proving their fundamental value to any good search campaign. The issue is though, as mentioned just then, is that very few seem to properly get the hang of link building through outreach.

People who build links through PR are particularly special. Not least because the links they’re attracting are usually the best kind (earned, high domain rating etc.), but also because they understand the value of links in an SEO respect. This is something that people with traditional PR backgrounds can’t always grasp. Coverage is coverage at the end of the day, unlinked or not. A traditional PR will be pleased with a media placement and whether a backlink has been included in that piece or not tends to make no difference. Those hardwired with digital PR and link building tendencies, however, break a sweat until we’ve secured that sweet backlink in a piece.

Anyway, I might be biased (can you tell?!) but I don’t think there is a better way of link building than through digital PR (so media relations, and occasionally educated guest post placements too). However, there’s a serious flaw in this industry.

PR First, Links Second

That issue, I believe, is that link building is something that many try to master without having a proper understanding of the fundamentals of PR first. This is why so many fail, and is why we link-builders are a very rare breed.

Breaking it down, link building requires outreach. Outreach is a tactic that is crucial in PR. If you work in PR and communications, you need to know how to communicate (I mean, the clue’s in the name). The same goes for link building.

The Issues With Outreach

This whole topic of discussion came about after I noticed a post by PR Place yesterday on Twitter. Which basically aired a really shoddy attempt at a guest post outreach email.

Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 13.41.12.png

As the tweet states, PR pitches can sometimes be shambolic. But from a link builder, they’re arguagbly even more cringeworthy.

Screen Shot 2019-07-18 at 13.41.20.png
Image source: @PR_Place

The issues in this email are pretty damn obvious, but to summarise:

  • There’s no personalisation at all, the sender hasn’t stated why they want to contribute to the publication, nor have they explained what they can offer.
  • In fact, they haven’t even mentioned topics, which is a basic for any guest post outreach email I’d have thought…
  • Thirdly, the demanding of a link is enough to make anybody squirm. I mean, we like to assure a link is going to be included in a publication. But stating ‘the link will be do-follow‘. Yikes, if I was that publication I’d run a mile.
  • And finally, PayPal. Huh. Nobody mentioned payments for one. And for twos, paying for links is something you should never do. Google is incredibly clever, and it knows that a backlink from any site that sells them is going to do more harm than good to your SEO campaign.

We Need More Education

As I’ve stated explicitly above, I think the main problem here is that SEO people are having a stab in the dark at link building, without learning the basics of PR first. The reason that the majority of link builders are ‘digital PRs’ is because they understand the value of communication. They know how to utilise their talents to generate backlinks, and they do so in a natural way. They earn the links.

Link building isn’t easy. Many argue it’s the hardest SEO practice to master. I believe that education into PR and communications is the best way to start, before plunging headfirst into being link-driven. Learn how to communicate, and the value of building relationships. Learn what makes a good campaign and how to sell a story. And then, once you’ve learned media relations (as we like to call it). Only then should it be time to learn link building. Here, you should learn the value of links and how they’ll have an impact on SEO. Learn how to acquire links and to convince publications to link back to your website.

Combine all of that together, and you have an A-class link builder, the kind that are few and far between.

If you don’t get the basics right, then not only do you jeopardise your chances of earning links both now and in the future, but you also risk damaging the reputation of both yourself and your client. All it takes is one tweet to spread like wildfire, and if your outreach tactics aren’t up to scratch, it could be you on the receiving end of that burn.

What do you think? Are you a link builder who hasn’t learned PR first, I’d love to hear how you mastered it. Or, do you agree with me? Well-wishes are welcome too! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or on Twitter.

4 thoughts on “Teach PR First, Link Building Second”

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