One of your primary goals as a PR professional should be to land backlinks in your PR coverage, because ultimately you want an engaged reader to visit your website to learn more. If you land a backlink, it’s a direct path back to your website, where you own the messaging and can directly influence the readers’ impression of your brand. Google Analytics also requires backlinks to be able to measure the impact of coverage, so they’re worth working for.
Backlinks can also have a positive impact on your company’s search engine ranking. Search is one of the most important marketing channels because it’s free and drives highly qualified visitors. Google gives priority in search to companies with the greatest number of relevant backlinks, and PR is one of the best sources for generating backlinks. PR can hugely impact SEO, which further contributes to overall marketing goals.
Attributing SEO improvements to PR can be difficult, but here’s one way you can start to measure it:Count the number of backlinks you generated last quarter.
- Use a free SEO tool like Moz Open Site Explorer to measure overall domain authority and page authority for the pages you linked to at the beginning of the quarter and end of the quarter.
- Identify any other confounding variables - ex addition of content or video to the page - that could be independently contributing to improvements in SEO.
- Report PR as contributing to improvements in domain and page authority, which directly impact how your pages rank in Google Search results.
- Competitive benchmarking is another way to track backlink success. SEMrush has a free tool to compare the number of backlinks to your site vs. your competitors sites.
Landing a backlink isn’t a sure-deal. Some journalists happily link to your website if you just ask, whereas with more high-profile publications (like The Wall Street Journal and TechCrunch), it can be a bit of a negotiation.
Your marketing team is quickly catching onto the value of backlinks, so it’s up to you to gauge appropriateness of pushing journalists for one. As forward-thinking PR pro John Yarbrough of Bigcommerce sees it, "For many marketers, securing a backlink in a top-tier publication is now more valuable than the coverage in which it appears. As a communications professional, it's important to acknowledge this reality while also continuing to have conversations with colleagues about the contextual appropriateness of asking for links.”
Backlinks are the new currency of earned media. Yarbrough advises, “If you formulate a strong PR strategy and produce interesting and thoughtful content, a journalist is much more likely to return the favor with a backlink.”
The PR professional’s role is getting increasingly strategic - first they must identify the right publications and influencers for their stories, pitch an interesting angle that resonates with their audiences, negotiate for the give-gets in the article (like backlinks), and then set appropriate expectations internally about expected outcomes.
Best-in-class PR professionals like Yarbrough are rising to the challenge, and becoming more influential within their marketing organizations. If backlinks are something you want to give greater priority to, consider setting goals around it - perhaps this quarter you aim to land backlinks in 50% of articles. That way, you’re maximizing the business impact of your media coverage.
This post is a chapter from our new eBook, “Everything a PR Pro Needs to Know about Google Analytics.” Download the eBook to learn how to use modern technology to concretely measure the impact of PR on business metrics.