Want to Increase Brand Awareness? Use SEO as a PR Tool!

Post by Alison Knott | Last Updated: September 2, 2021

You know that you can leverage public relations to skyrocket brand awareness, but did you know that SEO can be used as a PR tool? Whether your company is new and wants to make tsunami-level waves, or you want to move from being a local brand to an international go-to, thinking about SEO in terms of PR is the key to getting the Google rankings you want. While creating a buzz about your brand at the same time.

While there are only a select amount of articles on Forbes or local news that your business could be featured in, SEO is something you can rely on every day of the year for continued brand awareness. And the great news is it takes a similar approach and effort as DIYing your PR strategy.

 

How do SEO and PR work together?

SEO and public relations (PR) are two peas in the digital marketing pod. The two have far more similarities than differences:

  • SEO and PR both strive to attract as much attention to your brand as possible through brand messaging, building social proof, authority and trust for your business.
  • Both rely on having a strategy in place, executed with a specific target audience in mind.
  • You can DIY both SEO or PR, or you can hire a consultant.
  • They function as a two-way street, with PR wins contributing to organic traffic and your SEO strategy contributing to multiple PR angles.
  • Both provide your website with backlinks, which give your domain and page authority a huge boost (more in that in a moment).

Yup, you guessed right… this is a backlink article. Gotcha! Before you run away screaming “I don’t want to read about spammy backlink email templates!”—hear me out. This ain’t that kinda article!

 

Backlinks: the critical part of SEO everyone avoids

There’s no way to sugar-coat this: if you don’t have other sites linking back to yours, don’t expect to rank. No amount of green lights in Yoast SEO or compelling copywriting can fast-track ranking like backlinks.

The thing is, without these backlinks, search engines have no way to see if your content is any good. They’re looking for people who ‘vouch’ for your content before offering it to users in those first-page search listings. After all, why would they serve up relatively unknown content when they already have answers that perform well?

Think of the last time you purchased something. Did you check out the reviews online? Or request recommendations on Facebook? Of course you have, everyone does. You’re way more likely to purchase from a company that someone you know or follow vouches for.

In the case of SEO, search bots rely on websites linking to each other to crawl them and gather context. The more quality websites link to your content, the more you appear to be authoritative and relevant.

 

Why you need to care about Domain Authority as a brand

Domain Authority (DA) is a score from 1-100 that shows how ‘trustworthy’ your URLs are in the eyes of other websites. It was created by search engine marketing company Moz. While it is not a direct line to Google, years of data have proven a correlation to rank in relation to backlinks. DA refers to the score of your overall website, but there’s also Page Authority (PA) specific to each page or post of your site.

Your goal is to get that number as high as possible, and you can check your DA and PA easily with Moz’s free tool. Go ahead, check right now.

Certain kinds of websites automatically have a higher authority than others. Government and educational websites (.gov., .edu, etc) tend to have a DA of 80+. A healthy range to aim for is 30-70. New websites start with 1, and most small business websites remain between 2 and 10. Why? Cus they neglect those backlinks, baby.

And I understand why. Getting backlinks requires you to reach out and ask a brand to link to your content. Bringing it back to PR, the same is true in trying to get featured in a big-time publication. Many people are afraid of getting a ‘no’ in response, or worse, no response at all. Others are afraid to come across as spammy or figure they don’t have the time to put into either strategy. It’s much safer to continuously write content and just assume it’s ranking.

So if you’re kicking back, waiting for those organic backlinks to happen, you’ll be waiting a pretty long time. And meanwhile, your website won’t be ranking.

Luckily, I’m here to tell you that getting backlinks don’t have to take hours or come across as spammy! You just need to believe that your awesome content deserves to be recognized by other brands and that the only way to do that is to reach out and show them what they’re missing.

So let’s put on our PR hats and approach SEO from a positive “wait until you hear about my brand” perspective!

Woman looking repulsed and the words 'Dear Sir/Madam, Blah blah blah blah blah.' imposed on top of the image.
Spammy backlinks are a real problem. If you treat your recipient like a trusted colleague and less like the next email on your cold-call list, you’ll have backlinks in no time!

 

How to increase the chances of getting a ‘yes’ when you ask for a backlink

Before you start reaching out to other brands for your backlink campaign, you need to have a few ducks in a row to increase the chances of your contact saying “Wow, how can I NOT link to this?”

  1. Make sure your content is the best option out there. Take time and effort to create irresistible content. If it’s only 300 words, or super out of date, why would anyone want to link to it? Bonus points if your content is super niche or regional. It also means spending time researching what else is out there, so you know what you’re competing with.
  2. Only pitch content you know is a perfect fit for their audience. Your content should be written at the correct comprehension level and geared for the search intent of your prospect’s ideal reader. Offering content that is too generic or misaligned will come across as spammy.
  3. Make it easy for people to add the link to their site. Seriously, get this right and it’s a matter of cut and paste for the person receiving your pitch. Find the exact page you want them to include the link on, and even write the sentence the link will appear on for them.
  4. Offer to create content for them. You can do this instead of asking for an anchor link or as an added bonus. A guest blog post, creating a version of an existing resource tailored to their audience, the possibilities are endless. Make sure you understand who will have the canonical links if they request to duplicate content you already have on your own site.

 

Example of a successful backlink request

Yes, I read backlink request emails. Why? Because as a consultant I want to be sure that the content I offer on my blog is as relevant and up to date as possible. If a stranger emails me with a better piece of content than I currently reference, you bet I update it!

And oohhhhh boy I’ve read some doozies. I don’t mean the canned ones; they’re easy to spot a mile away (“Dear Ma’am” or “Dear Sir”). I’ve also seen some that tried too hard by filling the request with gifs and jokes with poor taste. Don’t do that.

Here’s an example of a backlink email from someone I didn’t know, that was a no-brainer for me to say ‘yes’ to:

Example of a HARO pitch with pointers on items to pay special attention to.
Example of a backlink request I felt was worthy of my time. They got my name right, obviously read my article and directed me to where I could place their better link in my content.

Hello Alison,

I wanted to briefly say that I really enjoyed reading https://alisonkconsulting.com/privacy-policy-template-canadian-website/. Some great content and a lot to think about.

I wanted to share with you this hugely detailed post on data privacy. https://www.broadbandsearch.net/blog/privacy-in-the-digital-age

It’s really relevant for everyone but the main points are:
a. the key issues – where exactly are we with data privacy in 2021?
b. what are the steps the average person can take to protect their privacy?

It’s had a great response and I wanted to suggest linking to it form https://alisonkconsulting.com/privacy-policy-template-canadian-website/

I saw you linked to a page on csoonline.com but our article is newer and a bit more comprehensive. I’m confident your readers will appreciate and value access to such a detailed resource.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

So I looked at the link. And yes! Indeed it did have more relevant information for Canadians than what I had sourced. If you visit that privacy policy post, you’ll see the updated link is now snuggly there.

 

Should you answer other’s backlink requests to your website or ignore them?

I often have clients ask me if they should ignore or pay attention to cold emails they get for their business that ask for backlinks. Like all things, it depends. Ignoring them all is a misstep, in my opinion. Your job as a website owner is to offer the best content possible around the topic you excel at. That means taking the time to review links you’ve placed to make sure they’re still relevant to your audience. So I believe you should be choosy as to what you update, but a quick skim of the email based on my tips above should quickly determine if the back and forth is worthy of your time or not.

 

Get backlinks via your existing network and communities

Ever delete an email from someone in your community without opening it? Of course not! That’s why reaching out to your existing network and communities for backlinks is super low-hanging fruit. It doesn’t feel like a cold email because you already have a relationship.

That doesn’t give you permission to be lazy about your request, because you want to keep that relationship toasty. You still need to be intentional with what you want to share, but keep things open for collaboration beyond a simple backlink. People you can target include:

  • Marketing coordinators of any business associations or organizations you’re a member of.
  • Colleagues you’ve worked with in workshops, seminars, masterminds or podcasts.
  • Organizations you volunteer with that are in a similar industry to what you offer.
  • Past and current clients.
Example of a HARO email with 1 media query that I actually applied to and was accepted.
This is just a tiny snippet of a morning HARO email. Just because you don’t see any topics relevant to your field today doesn’t mean you should quit the list. #4 actually paid off for me!

 

Get backlinks by signing up for HARO (Help A Reporter Out)

HARO connects journalists and publications seeking expertise for their content to people who want to have their opinion sourced for articles and news outlets. You can sign up for free at https://www.helpareporter.com/ which will add you to their mailing list. From there, you’ll receive three emails a day filled with opportunities to be featured on large and small publications, which often include a backlink to your website.

Pros:

  • HARO is free and only takes a few minutes per day to read the digests.
    It literally covers every topic you can imagine. Business, SAAS, lifestyle, politics, social justice issues, any niche you can think of—eventually a request will come past your nose.
  • It is especially great for service providers because most inquiries want to hear from experts, rather than from product-based companies.
  • The requests are pretty specific to answering a certain question, so it’s quick to decide what you’ll answer and how to craft a response.
  • The most common queries are for ‘roundup’ articles, meaning many other people will be in the content. Therefore, there will be more people sharing it, thus increasing its visibility.
  • If your submission isn’t used, it’s still useful to you! You can repurpose it into your own blog or social post. I have a notification in my calendar at the end of each month to review unused HARO submissions and fold them elsewhere in my marketing strategy.

 

Cons:

  • You’re rarely notified if your pitch was accepted or not. Even when your pitch is accepted, you may not be told. I recommend setting up Google Alerts to track mentions of your brand. And also monitor your referral traffic in Google Analytics. Not sure how? I have a handy Google Analytics Cheatsheet that can help!
  • If you’re selling a product, you will see fewer opportunities. Most queries are very clear about if they want a product pitch or not. So be diligent.
  • Not all brands asking have high domain authority. Some inquiries will disclose who the content is for, but some do not. If it’s a topic you think is a good way to showcase your expertise, I say do it, even if their domain authority is low.

 

Brand awareness example using HARO

Here is an example of how I answered a HARO request that not only got me a backlink, but also a post as a guest on a podcast! The original request was:

What is 1 tip for optimizing your Google My Business Listing?

Please explain.

Requirements: Must be (or be from) a digital marketing agency or freelancer.

Please include your name, email, business name and website so we can link to your website.

So I answered about the importance of UTMs in Googly My Business and was emailed by Review Robin that it had been accepted. My answer was a bit longer than what eventually became #8 for 13 Tips for optimizing a Google My Business listing. I also made sure to include links to other articles I was featured in, to help legitimize my experience. And you guessed it, 3 of those links were other HARO requests less than 6 months old!

But the party didn’t stop there. A few weeks later, the awesome folks at Review Robin emailed me to ask if I was interested in a podcast opportunity. I ended up being a guest on Her Agency Toolkit Podcast, where I talked to host Julia McLaughlin about the importance of mentorship within the marketing community. I’m usually asked to talk about business tips, so I was over the moon to explore the topic of mentorship that I hold so dear.

So, 15 minutes of me writing an answer turned into a backlink and a podcast appearance. Not bad for a free service, eh?

 

Get backlinks by hiring a publicist

While you can DIY your own PR strategy, it may make sense to hire someone to take care of PR. Especially if you need 10k eyeballs on your website like, yesterday. Local PR Siren Crystal Richard works with businesses across Atlantic Canada and beyond to help them get backlinks as a part of their PR strategy every day. Working with a publicist means:

  • Not having to track down outlets and writer contact details to fill out your media list.
  • Having someone else craft your irresistible angles for getting published.
  • Not having to write or send pitches to writers, podcast hosts and producers!
  • Having someone else track down backlinks and negotiate opportunities to get more of them linking back to your site.

 

One hot tip Crystal has for small businesses interested in PR is to recognize that it is never too early to start thinking about PR.

“All too often, I hear from small businesses who think they need to be doing over $1M in revenue or have bragworthy investors to be worthy of media coverage but that’s not true at all,” shared Crystal.

“Some of my best media coverage through the years has been for clients who were in their first year of business and in some cases, had yet to even crack six figures in revenue or sell a physical product.”

Even if you’re not ready to work with a publicist (or if it’s not in the budget) you can still do things like following journalists on Twitter to get to know them or send them emails to compliment their articles. “Relationships are the key to getting great media coverage. The sooner you can start making friends in the media, introducing yourself, and letting journalists and editors know your areas of expertise, the better. Then when a journalist needs a source for an article they’re working on, they’ll know who to reach out to and if you’ve shared their articles in the past or complimented their work, you’re going to shoot to the top of their source list.”

Get backlinks by taking my Link Building Strategy Workshop!

Building brand awareness through backlinks can be a pretty big task if you’re not sure where to start. Especially if you’re unsure which piece of content you want to pitch (it’s all gold, right?) and who is the best fit from a ranking perspective. That’s why I’ve built a special workshop around this very topic!

The Link Buidling Strategy Workshop is perfect for website owners who already have their content optimized, and are looking for the next evolution in SEO: ranking that content. But it’s also great for new-on-the-scene companies looking to make a big splash online as soon as possible.

So stop fussing with content that’s already optimized, and start pitching it to your networks and companies. You need to be the biggest cheerleader for your brand, and the best way is to think about SEO like the mighty PR tool it is!