The tweets are getting more frequent and the journos more irritated as link “requests” (read: begging) come through after every brand mention – my personal favourite being a link request for a mention of “William Hill” in a store burglary piece…
Our website once reported about a robbery at a local William Hill. To which we got an email from a PR company a few weeks later asking if we could link the words William Hill to the William Hill website…
— David Lewis (@drl) November 7, 2018
This fixation on links has to stop, not just to maintain our healthy media relationships, but also because they’re not as valuable as you think.
To explain why, let’s think about why links are used by search engines to help them rank content.
A search engine’s ultimate goal is to show the best quality content to their users, and links are one of the thousands of different ways that quality is judged.
They’re used because if a website of quality links to another website, then you can assume that the website being linked to is also of a good quality. This used to be very important, but that’s changed.
Who are the websites that are seen as high quality?
Mostly, it’s media, thanks to their popularity, authority and engagement. And do they tend to link to branded websites? Not any more (as we’ve seen above).
Search engines are smart, they know this is happening and they are tweaking their algorithms accordingly to focus elsewhere.
This isn’t just opinion, it’s fact. Recent studies from people like Tom Capper and Malcolm Slade prove this.
So what’s left for PR? Well, it just got a lot simpler.
Branded search volume (i.e. the number of people searching specifically for a brand) has grown to be absolutely key.
Citations will also play an increasingly bigger role, since algorithms are better able to determine the media narrative around your brand, so it’ll only get more important.
Engaging on-site content hasn’t gone away either.
So all that brand awareness you’re raising? Those media placements? The content you’re producing? It all still has a huge role to play.
Good, honest PR work will win out.
Measure links, sure, but obsess over brand search volume, media mentions and narrative and your on-site contents engagement – then connect your success with search engine rankings.
It’s the only way to futureproof your strategy.
Alex Judd is GCore Business Director at Grayling
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