Even with a steady dose of blog posts, podcast episodes and social media updates, no content marketing strategy is complete without the addition of earned media. With that third party validation tempering any skepticism of marketing tactics or spin, media coverage in news or trade outlets can be a powerful tool for your business. Brand awareness, website traffic, social shares and new business leads are just a few of the potential benefits of having your company featured or mentioned in the right media outlet, but perhaps the most beneficial is gaining authority for your content efforts and improving your search engine optimization, or SEO.
Research the Best Media Outlets
If improving SEO is your mission, the goal with earned media is to maximize your mentions by ensuring they are seen and consumed by members of your target audience. Rather than just firing out pitches to any and every journalist or blogger that crosses your mind, do some background research and determine those who warrant the attention of prospective clients. Even if you have no journalism background and have never stepped foot in a newsroom, you can still target the right reporter, writer or commentator by knowing their coverage area or consumer demographics.
For example, if your target audience is made up of a younger generation, pitching to a print newspaper probably wouldn’t be as valuable as an online publication. Or, if you’re pitching a story about the achievements of your CEO, an education reporter or sports writer likely won’t be of much help. Study your market. Chances are there are niche publications or journalists reporting on the ins and outs of your industry that your business can target to make the most of your pitches.
Determine What to Pitch
According to a study from Muck Rack, 43 percent of journalists receive five or more different pitches each day. That doesn’t include press releases and a slew of other solicitations for their editorial attention, so you want to make sure your story is worth their time. Put yourself in a journalist’s shoes. They’re committed to their readers, viewers or listeners just as your business is to its customers. Focus on important and timely topics to ensure that your pitch has its best chance of being published.
Staying up on current events and trends provides an opportunity to connect your own company with timely subject matter, but it must be done appropriately. Using the COVID-19 pandemic as an example, nearly any story related to the virus will be considered newsworthy, but don’t try to force a connection to the virus if one doesn’t exist. Of course you want to be a part of the conversation, but trying to wedge your way in can be counterproductive and damage your relationship with a journalist… and their audience.
Earning a Linkback
Even if you have researched the best media outlets, selected the ideal story to pass to a journalist and delivered a successful pitch, you’re still missing a key component: the linkback. This is where another website (a publication or news outlet) links to your website within the copy of its story. While the recognition and thought leadership are still valuable benefits, the linkback is what takes your media mention to the next level by driving traffic to your website and improving your rank in search engine results.
The most beneficial linkbacks for your business are those that are earned rather than bought. Search engines can detect purchased links and the ensuing penalties greatly diminish your ranking. The good news is that you have the tools to earn those valuable linkbacks on your own by creating relevant content and developing and maintaining relationships with media members.
Types of Linkbacks
A linkback is a broad term that includes both internal and external links. Linking from one page on your website to another, internal links keep visitors on your website longer, driving them to other related content to improve your reputation as a thought leader, establish a relationship and generate new business. When you include internal links in your content, visitors click, which leads them deeper and deeper into your site. You can use specific calls-to-action with your internal links, such as to read or learn more, download content or contact you for a consultation.
External links come from an outside source such as a newspaper, magazine or other online publication and while they can prove extremely valuable for improving SEO, the impact of an external link is ultimately dependent on a few determining factors.
- Domain authority of a host website. External links from high-ranking sites (think big publications with a large following vs. a local, niche site) can improve your SEO and put you closer to the top of the results page in search results .
- The “nofollow” tag. In an effort to reduce spam, some external links will be given a “nofollow” tag by the publisher, eliminating any potential SEO value for your business. However, if the source has a large audience, a nofollow link can still generate traffic to your site as people will open a search bar and find you. It just doesn’t provide much credit to your overall SEO capabilities.
- Relevance of the linking website. Similar to your own content production, the goal of a linkback is to have it reach your target audience. Having your business linked on an unrelated site won’t do anything detrimental, but being tagged by a respected source in your industry is much more likely to generate traffic with prospective clients or business partners.
As is the case with all aspects of marketing and communications, practice makes perfect with media relations. You won’t become a professional overnight and even some of your most well-written pitches may still fail to garner coverage or earn a linkback for your business. Don’t get caught up in the wins and losses. Stay confident, follow the same guidelines and you will be collecting news mentions, features and valuable linkbacks in no time.