PR agency trade secrets to help SEOs build elite links

Trade secretsWhen I started my public relations career, I used to peer out of the office window at the embryo SEO company across the street, green with envy at its specialist skills. Now, eight years later, I’ve trained myself in website optimisation and find myself in the exciting (if unusual) position of having something to teach the SEO profession.

You probably don’t need me to tell you that online reputation building is becoming critical to an SEO’s daily job. As a PR specialist, reputation building is my core skill, and building a reputation online is very similar to building one offline. If you look at Alexa’s listing of the UK’s top 50 sites by traffic, you’ll find it littered with news sites that are extensions of decades- (sometimes centuries) old traditional print and broadcast media: The Guardian, BBC, Daily Mail, Sky, Daily Mirror and The Sun. UK PR agencies have been placing content in these newspapers since the dawn of the profession. So when these outlets started moving online at the turn of the century, we naturally started placing content with them too.

The result is, that we have been building links on the likes of,,, and for years – even since before we knew how valuable those links were.

And now we find that this elite link building is exactly what many SEO professionals find so elusive. I won’t lie, it’s difficult. But if premium media links are high on your target list, here is a guide from someone in the PR industry on how to build them.

Media websites trade in information

The first thing to note is that media websites don’t trade in links, they trade in information, which means you need to understand what information you have that they might find interesting. Once you’ve whetted their appetites you can ask for that all important link. Take our client, online remittance specialist, WorldRemit for example. The company had excellent data (based on a significant sample) showing that remittances to developing countries are becoming smaller and more frequent. We presented the data to a blogger at the FT who specialises in emerging markets. She interviewed the client, ran the story and linked to the website. This was a great result (from both a digital PR and SEO perspective), but be warned that not every journalist, editor or outlet publishes links, so if links are what you’re after, check their previous work first before dedicating time to pitching them.

Keep it relevant

Journalists at major media outlets are busy. They receive thousands of emails or calls a day from PR agencies and they don’t have time to deal with untargeted pitches. So plan yours carefully to maximise your chances of achieving media coverage. That means research what the journalist writes about and pitch them at the right time (it’s no coincidence that journalists write stories about Christmas trees in December). This pitch to  on behalf of our client Study Group was successful because I made it ten minutes after a report on immigration had been published. It was topical, and we were able to work with the client to get the copy turned around within a few hours. Our reward? A followed link.

And if you need more time to prepare, try to find the ‘advertise with us’ page on your target website. Many media organisations publish forward features lists or editorial calendars which provide lists of upcoming special reports, features, articles or issues so you can time your pitches perfectly.

Find relevant reports and sections

Many significant media outlets offer specialist sections that are great for building links. Take the professional networks on They range from public sector to higher education. I would recommend that you find your niche network, follow its editor on Twitter and be ready to respond when they are looking for content you can give. That’s what I did to land this link from the Guardian Small Business Network’s Best Practice Exchange.

Read through the blogs

Most major media outlets have blog sections. And if your company has someone important, qualified or knowledgeable to put forward, then go for a guest blogging opportunity. You could land yourself digital PR gold dust in the form of a link from like this guy (note I can’t claim credit for this link – it’s just an example I found that illustrates my point).

Befriend journalists where you can

Journalists don’t just sit at their desks waiting to be bcc’d into an email from you or a PR agency offering a piece of content. If you want to place content with them, you need to get to know them and understand how they choose what to publish or write about. This byliner by our card payments specialist client netted a link from the site after we had met the journalist for coffee.

If you don’t have time for meetings you can always try Twitter. Journalists love microblogging, so follow the ones you’re targeting so that you can be ready to provide just the content they need as soon as they ask. Or follow the hashtag #journorequest to keep up with requests for information made by journalists.

The national media can be rewarding link building channels if approached appropriately. Remember, what works for nationals also works for most trade journals, so it’s often worth casting your net a little wider – you might find them more receptive to your advances too! 

Could your SEO strategy benefit from some high-level link building? Find out more about our elite link building service