SEO Warning: if you don’t know about PR backlinks you will be seriously damaging your search rankings

I know so many people who are paying a lot for pay per click (PPC). I am no expert at SEO and this is my opinion, but I do honestly believe that unless you are a serious player with even more serious money, or in a niche big enough to make a long tail SEO strategy work, PPC is not the best way to improve your search engine page rankings (SERPS). Backlinks are Google’s most important signal when it comes to ranking your site, yet many businesses I know have never used them.

Now more than ever Google wants trustworthy, quality, expert content. Google does not want social media ‘wallpaper’ – posting for the sake of posting can end up being vapid and empty (and actually damage your SEO) – it wants insightful, knowledgeable, well researched pieces. Quality definitely trumps quantity. Whether that content is an article, video, infographic, graph, graphic, collage, animated infographic (and so on), if it is well-planned and created with knowledge and insight, Google will see it as valuable and what Google sees as valuable will get you clicks.

The No.1 source of content for SEO that you might be missing

According to Google itself, the two most important signals used by the world’s number one search engine to rank your website for search are high quality content and backlinks.

So, over and above quality, the most valuable types of content, according to Google, is where you get published by an independent third party, with backlinks to your own site. It is these backlinks that are the gold dust of SEO. But it is the getting published that is the ever harder to do bit. This of course is the world of public relations (PR): the skill of crafting a great story, pitching a story to an editor, selling in a synopsis, and having that editor publish it (for no cost) on their publication. The story has to be interesting, relevant (to the publication’s readership) and written in the house style of course.

If backlinks are the holy grail of SEO, how can you get your share? Digital PR used with content marketing can not only exponentially power your search engine results by helping you get those valuable backlinks, but your business success too – see my recent case study below.

Tips for better search performance

Whilst I would always recommend getting a good digital PR/content marketing expert in to help you, here are some tips to help you reach this holy grail, based on my 25 plus years of doing it!

Rule #1 – Know thy readership

Second position your customers’ customer. I mean live, breathe, truly get into the readers’ heads. To do this you have to care about them (your potential readers). Be interested in them. What are their needs, concerns, issues? How can you educate, entertain or make their lives better?

Rule #2 – Know how to write

Get the basics right of course; spelling, punctuation, grammar and style are all givens. I believe any educated person can write an article and tick these boxes. But the talent lies in being able to write with flow, in a way that engages readers emotionally, and is memorable. I think that this is hard to learn, it is more of a trait, an inherent talent that is almost part of one’s personality. You have got it, or you haven’t. So perhaps, for some, it is about letting go of ego, owning weaker areas and getting an expert to write it for you.

Rule #3 – Be an expert

I believe that to write about something well you have to be something of an expert and be prepared to put those hours in to get there. Whether your content is financial, legal, IT, industrial equipment, it undoubtedly helps to be genuinely passionate about what you are writing about. In fact, I suggest that if you cannot get passionate about it, don’t write it. But passion on its own won’t cut it. Becoming expert is commitment and slog; putting the hours in. I believe that in this dynamic, competitive, high-information world we need to be expert at one or two things and know them in more detail than our contemporaries. But we also need breadth of knowledge. This balance between breadth and depth is important. We can ignite knowledge by approaching it from different perspectives, and working collaboratively with others who see it differently.

Rule #4 – Be curious

Much research seems to point to curiosity being a cluster trait, something inherently wrapped up in our personality: apparently a combination of intelligence, persistence and hunger for novelty. Some of us have more of it than others and when we do we naturally gravitate towards certain professions. Journalists and editors will have bags of it. Not all marketing people may. Public relations pros will have this tendency though. And maybe it is something you can develop more in yourself. (

Rule #5 – Now how to sell

Ok so we are are talking about public relations here, according to some, a sub-set of marketing. Whether that is true, we all now that most marketing people are not salespeople (if they were perhaps marketing and sales would be able to work closer together). Public relations people are certainly not natural salesmen either. So this may be a skill you need to learn. Because one thing is for sure, even if you have the best idea for a pitch (to an editor), if you cannot sell it in to him or her your success rate will suffer. I always feel that when you are passionate about what you do and driven to help others (in true content marketing fashion), it does not even feel like selling.

Rule #6 – Ask

Have you ever noticed how many people around you, including leaders, do not ask questions? Even the dumbest of questions can be very powerful (and I am good at those!). If you aren’t asking question you are missing out on all sorts of detail and mystery that will help with the quality of your content marketing. And you are probably letting your brain die slowly at the same time! Coming back to the theme of this article, remember to check that any backlinks to your own site have been included in the published piece and, if not, contact the editor and politely ask for them to be.

CASE STUDY – How digital PR and content marketing powers up Howards Chartered Accountants

In December 2018, my client, Howards Chartered Certified Accountants told me about a small business they were helping. The business was a barber shop and Mark Egerton, the owner, was a character. The story was interesting, so I suggested that we do a case study as a press release, together with a video and 4 social media posts on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook. For a total cost of around £625 and coverage for my client and their client, it seemed a good idea. You can read some of the coverage here.

Here are the results:

Social media: average engagement rates of 4.3%, well over 1,000 impressions, and 46 engagements

Public relations: 166,800 audience opportunities to see (the number of people who would have been exposed to the article about my client); coverage in at least 4 regional newspapers with a value worth £54,868

Search rankings: powerful backlinks in 3 high profile regional newspaper websites, all with trusted content and strong domain authority; first item on the first page of Google news

Business results: this one story achieved an ROI of 8,800 per cent, or for every £1 my client spent on digital PR and content marketing they got an £88 return!; search rankings for client website: 3rd in local, 4th in google 1st page (bearing in mind the website is not fully SEO optimised). I have yet to find out about growth in business for either my client or their client, but both businesses have had a record finish to their years.

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