Link Building Techniques: Online PR

PR link building is about getting excellent high quality links back to your site.   There are many PR tools and techniques that can be beneficial for SEOs.  The most obvious one is the Press Release, however too often I see unnecessary mistakes preventing these from being a success. In this post, I want to give some tips and tricks specifically for SEOs and show you how SEO skills can be an advantage when doing PR. I have split the process into five steps for ease of reference.

  1. Finding the news
  2. Writing the release
  3. Contact lists
  4. Sending the emails
  5. Follow up

1. Finding the news

The hardest part of the press release process from an SEO perspective is finding something news-worthy, so I have two main suggestions:

Speak to your clients

There will be several news-worthy things that you can capitalise on through a press release.

  • Interview industry experts, aka your client
  • Any charity work they are doing
  • Business performance (i.e. Year end results)
  • Their reaction to their market
  • New hires

Data dig

Market research from their data sets can produce some excellent results, but be warned: it can be very time consuming.

2. Writing the release

Use the three-point rule. Start with the news from your client, then put in two points on how this news relates to other current/ trending topics, including calendar events relevant to the industry. Use Google Trends and Twitter here.

How to write a press release

3. Contact lists

Next you will need contact lists of journalists, editors, site owners and bloggers to send your release out to.  Most small agencies and in-house SEOs will not have access to media databases such as Gorkana. But Twitter can be a great resource to find groups of people who share similar interests. So if you don't have a media database, spend a few hours picking a wish list of publications, and research the relevant contact details to produce a very reasonably sized list for you to send the press release to.

4. Sending the emails

I always do this in a two-tier process. Tier 1 is personalised emails with the press release enclosed. These will be sent to the most important contacts with the highest ranking and most influential sites.   The second is a more generalised approach: sending the press release to a relevant, carefully chosen group, but not with tailored emails.

Tier 1 tips : Its vital you approach journalists in the right way. As an SEO, you know the internet and how to find information quickly, so leverage this skill by finding out everything you can about the journalists you wish to contact. If you haven't done your homework, you'll be perceived as really annoying and almost certainly have your emails blocked.

  • Email subject: make sure any key words you want are in the subject line, as this will dramatically increase them being used.
  • Address the email directly to the person, by name.
  • Mention why you chose them.
  • Reference articles they have written that are relevant.
  • Mirror the type of language they use.
  • Sign off with your name and ensure there is a phone number for them to contact you.
  • Don't send attachments to people you don’t know. Paste the release into the email with images at the bottom, NOT at the top.

5. Follow up


Do follow up with a phone call where possible, as it will increase the pick up to your story -- but use it judiciously.  And remember, sometimes the best you can hope for in one of these calls is finding out why something didn’t work. Asking editors and journalists why they won't use your press release is vital, and the phone makes this easier.


Many SEOs are far more comfortable using Twitter than the phone, so if you're going to do this, be smart. Consider these things when @followupping journalists about news releases:

  • Many journalists are relatively up for the approach but this doesn’t mean that all journalists on Twitter want to be @followedupped
  • You still run a risk of being blocked and in some cases ridiculed online.
  • For the gregarious SEO, please note an @followup should be instead of a follow up call and NOT as well as the follow up call.
  • Don't ask if they got your press release. This is very annoying for journalists, so instead give them some more information relating to it.

Major Do’s

  • DO offer exclusivity for a period of time for an image, infographic or article.
  • DO go to events and meet people face to face. You are more likely to get a higher return on hours invested in outreach this way.
  • DO have pre-written articles up your sleeve to ensure that if they don’t have the resource to write about your release, you can offer to provide the copy (and still get a link).
  • DO tell the truth, but understand that when doing PR, you are promoting news, not links.
  • PR is about long-term relationships so DO follow up successes with a thank-you and stay in touch.

Other journalists are more likely to write about you if you’ve already been featured. So spend time on the key players.

Finally give editors tons of space and grace... Unexpected manna in the mailbox taught me that editors need time to respond - a lot more than eager SEOs often afford them.

These are just a few hints and tips, which I hope will improve your success and prove to you that SEO motivated press releases can be an effective way to build fantastic, high-quality, natural, Google-loved links.

And feel free to post any questions or tips below.

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