Trust and credibility are traits everyone strives to earn in life.
In SEO, backlinks are an essential part of earning those coveted traits.
But many people overcomplicate how easy it is to generate backlinks.
There’s no need to beg site owners with a digital tin cup asking for favors or shell out thousands of dollars to pay for links.
Buying links is considered spam, consequently reducing your brand’s trust and credibility, and possibly putting you up as a manual penalty case from Google.
There are simply many more effective ways to generate backlinks and build an effective digital PR strategy.
What’s more, it’s well known that backlinks are an important part of SEO, but they have just as much impact on other parts of your business, too.
It comes down to one key aspect: third-party social proof.
When backlink efforts are combined with high-quality PR, these tactics drive more traffic to your site, boost quality inbound leads and – ultimately – generate more revenue to grow your business.
What is the difference between digital PR and link building?
Here’s how I’d define them from a basic conceptual perspective:
- PR: Using media coverage to gain attention for your brand.
- Link building: Tactics that encourage other websites to link back to your own.
Both are considered highly effective marketing tactics. While they’re technically different at the root, they should be used interchangeably to support your overarching business goals.
The best successes I’ve seen have come from earned link building. The most effective brands have something unique to say through thought leadership that incentivizes other sites to associate with your brand.
For example, using data and success stories to create compelling content are the best ways to earn trust and credibility.
This is particularly true when you contribute this information through media like a guest article, podcast, or webinar, in which you then get a backlink because the platform owner needs to cite who you are.
So, if you focus link building efforts on complementing what you’re already doing for digital PR, you kill two birds with one stone and reap the benefits from both efforts.
The advantages of using digital PR for link building
If you’re still on the fence about combining digital PR with link building efforts, here are the primary benefits of doing so:
Build brand authority based on thought leadership
When you repeatedly showcase your expertise on third-party platforms relevant to your audience, your audience begins to trust your advice.
This is what turns you into an authoritative brand within your industry.
Third-party social proof generates inbound leads and conversions
Once other sites recognize your brand as a trusted expert, they’ll start sharing your content with their own audiences and followers.
As those people see more of your own content, they’ll feel motivated to contact you and learn more about how you can help them.
Reduces hesitation and speeds up your sales cycle
When you’ve earned that authority, demonstrated your leadership, and boosted your organic inbound traffic flow, over half of your sales cycle is already complete.
Once an inbound lead requests a conversation, they’ve shown active intent and placed their trust in your brand. This is a major step towards closing a new sale for your company.
Creates a digital PR flywheel
Over time, you’ll become known as a go-to expert, so much so that you won’t need to pitch for links anymore.
Other brands will voluntarily contact you to collaborate, in which you automatically get backlinks for this.
This creates “the digital PR flywheel,” i.e., a system that constantly feeds into itself with less required input from your side.
Grow a highly targeted network
As the Digital PR Flywheel gains enough momentum to constantly create new PR link building opportunities, you’ve created an effective mechanism to expand your network and following.
The industry now identifies you as an authority figure in your niche space. Other players in the game will regularly involve you in their own promotional activities.
Generate backlinks without begging or paying
If you’ve followed closely, you’ll notice that none of this process for generating links involves cold outreach or payment – and when put into practice correctly, all backlinks come from authoritative sites.
As the results bear their own fruit, cold outreach and paying for links by your PR or SEO teams becomes a completely inefficient use of time and resources.
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The 5 key steps to generate backlinks and grow your business with digital PR
Here are five of the key steps that you can use to fuel your backlink strategy, establish trust and credibility, and successfully grow your business.
Step 1: Identify the primary places your audience uses to learn and get advice
Like any good business strategy, the first step to earning quality PR backlinks is to conduct the proper research.
Look into the places where you know your target audience willfully spends their own time. You can do this by identifying resources like:
- News publications
SparkToro is a great tool for doing audience research. It lists relevant platforms backed by search data and organized by audience types, interests, and other variables. Use a tool like SparkToro as a starting point to do your own research, and then build from there.
As you conduct your research, include a mix of large and niche publications that you can target for your digital PR strategy – both are important to an organic growth strategy.
Smaller publications are relatively easy to get featured on, resulting in more quantitative coverage within that niche.
Larger publications are important as well because everyone recognizes their name authority.
Any links you can earn on these sites translate into instant credibility for your brand – both from Google and your audience.
Step 2: Submit topics that you’re an expert in and are relevant to your audience
Since the best way to earn links is to lean into your strengths, contact the manager of the sites you’re targeting and contribute ideas for topics you’re an absolute expert in.
You’re much more likely to be approved when you have proof, such as bylined content and event recordings.
Topics you submit should be relevant both to the platform and your target audience. Don’t go wild on product promos – instead, focus on being helpful to your target audience.
Here’s an example of how you could pitch for a podcast:
If your data or expertise tells a compelling story, you’re far more likely to create something that stands out and warrants earned backlinks from highly valuable sources.
Step 3: Start generating inbound leads, conversions, and high-quality backlinks
Repeatedly showcasing your expertise on third-party platforms is how to build those highly valuable traits of trust and credibility with your audience. This turns you into an authoritative brand.
Because your audience deems you a trusted expert, people will voluntarily contact you when they need help solving a core problem. This is precisely how digital PR generates high-quality inbound leads.
Depending on your business and the relative ease of your sales cycle, this approach can even translate into direct purchases that grow your business.
Additionally, events, publications, and anything that gains publicity automatically generate high-quality backlinks. This is the most effective way to do link building to support SEO and grow your business.
Remember that Google clearly states that buying or selling links can be considered spam.
These tactics are not only unnecessary (especially when you use the tactics I’ve described), but they can actually do more harm than good to the rest of your business.
Step 4: The digital PR flywheel starts to build
Follow the above steps, again and again, to create the digital PR flywheel – other brands willfully contact you to collaborate, so you no longer need to pitch.
In 2021, Google’s John Mueller, one of the greatest authority figures in digital PR, SEO, and organic marketing, gave his own stamp of approval on digital PR link building.
He encouraged brand builders to disregard misinformation that digital PR link building is part of an outdated spammy tactic by doubling down on efforts to build your own digital PR flywheel.
Step 5: Showcase everywhere how trusted you are across multiple highly reputable platforms
Include links within your own content to everything you’ve created in collaboration with other brands, including:
- Events you’ve hosted with another brand.
- Guest articles you’ve contributed.
- Podcasts you’ve participated in.
Those backlinks become your social proof because you’ve been cited as earning approval from a third-party site.
Think of it as earning a “peer review” for scientific journals.
Once you’ve been cited by a highly authoritative brand in the industry, you’ve earned those traits of trust and credibility for your brand that make all the difference to help grow your business.
This is again how to generate more inbound leads and direct conversions directly. People are coming to you because they trust what you have to say. You’re now selling to a warm audience, not cold.
Publish, rinse and repeat this strategy to generate more backlinks and grow business revenue
Please remember that outreach and/or buying links are not only unnecessary but it’s also an entirely effective use of resources.
You can do more harm than good if you revert to tactics that Google and other search engines have deemed to be spammy. Don’t diminish your efforts to earn trust and credibility by falling into the link buying trap.
Overall, your PR and link building strategies should work in tandem: Link building shouldn’t just be for SEO, and when combined with PR, they bring a deeper impact on the brand authority.
A highly strategic and fully aligned digital PR and link building strategy translates into long-term benefits.
Invest your time and resources into creating highly valuable content that has something valuable to offer to give other sites a quality reason to associate their brands with your own.
Once the digital PR flywheel runs on its own steam, you’re well on your way to scalable growth!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.