Building link campaigns that top-tier journalists LOVE for a brand that NO-ONE’s heard of or likes
Carrie Rose Founder & CEO
10 min read
Tuesday, 15th February 2022
Brighton SEO went on tour and yesterday (9th July 2019) I spoke at their Manchester event sharing my tips and strategies to creating link campaigns that top-tier journalists LOVE for brands that no-one’s ever heard of or even likes.
This talk came about following another talk I presented a couple of months ago at Leeds Digital Festival. Here I spoke about landing links on top tier press and my ideation process. However, someone in the audience highlighted how all is well and good for a brand with big budgets and a huge identity but what about those within gambling, insurance, or a brand that no-one’s ever heard of selling UPVC windows (for example).
I’ve worked with national and international brands and I’ve also worked with brands that have little to no identity or brand recognition. So, I made it my mission to present a talk on this topic, teaching others how to tackle the difficult or bland niches with small budgets or tight regulations.
You can find my slides here and a full write up below…
Link building for any brand now needs creativity
Building links for any brand is not easy. But for those working with a brand within a spammy industry, a bland topic or bad reputation – many think this is even harder. However, one thing is clear, we need to start thinking a little more creatively. Which is why myself and Stephen Kenwright have just launched a creative SEO agency. Yes that’s right, SEO just got creative with a kick ass technical expert behind it.
In the past 5 years of working in this industry, I’ve built thousands of links on sites like the below and I haven’t paid for a single one of them. I started in the industry just as SEO started using Digital PR techniques to acquire links and those that paid for them sat in the dark corner of the room. Meaning everything I did and learnt was about earning quality links from the start.
I’ve also created content that caught the attention of people like Sadiq Khan, and publications like ITV and BBC, generating 2.5 million views for an insurance brand which no-one had ever heard of. I’ve won awards for the sort of stuff I do, and even made 1 client cry once (with happiness of course). But I STILL get clients say to me “Top-tier press won’t link to a brand like us”. And this is absolutely, categorically not true!
So how do we do it?
Think like a PR but act like an SEO
But first, let’s talk about what journalists want and need
Last week we met up with journalists from The Sun, House Beautiful and Cosmopolitan magazine. And they ALL said the same thing…
- They’re KPI’d on traffic
- They’re KPI’d on social shares
- And KPI’d on time on site
- They have 1 hour to write up a story
- And produce 6-8 articles a day
This is insane! Journalists use to spend days, maybe even weeks putting a good story together, knocking on doors to interview people and gather data. But with just 1 hour to put something together and having to produce 6-8 of these in just 1 working day - what does that tell us?
- We need to create stories that resonate with a wide audience
- Stories that are shareable
- Content that help them keep readers on site
- The Sun told us… every article needs video – whether that’s their own or yours
- …Every article needs imagery – whether that’s their own or yours
- But you’re much more likely to land a placement if you can provide all of that at once
Tip: Journalists use videos to not only keep users on page for longer but to make money too! Publications put ads on videos to make money, helping them keep their publication going. They’re screaming out for video content so if you can either create this, or give them a reasons to use video within their story – they’re more than likely to cover your work.
Here’s an example of where stock video footage (which we paid just a few hundred quid to get from IStock) and put it in a simple blog post got 169 links from nearly every national publication.
The blog post campaign with stock video footage which generated 169 links
Whilst working at my previous agency, I worked with a client SpaSeekers who sold spa trips and deals across the country. We came up with an idea of “The Dream Summer job” where we were on the hunt for someone to become our official spa-ologist and get paid to test out hot tubs and infinity pools. We created a job ad in the form of a blog post, a mini 30 second video clip using stock video footage from IStock and pushed this to press. Blog post can be found
The campaign spread across nationals, regionals and female lifestyle and in just 2 weeks achieved the following:
Nearly every media placement included a link back to the blog post – why? Because the blog post had all the T’s & C’s in which journalists couldn’t be bothered to write up themselves so just linked to instead. GENIUS!
Some may say “well that’s easy with a fun brand and topic like that”
So let’s talk about how we did this same thing for a health and safety training client (which some may call a bland industry) just this week…
Last month, news hit the headlines about a child choking on a hot dog and how Robinsons fruit shoots have been recalled due to being a serious choking hazard for children. We decided to look into this and found that choking deaths were on the rise amongst both children and the elderly. As our client operate in health and safety training, we decided it was important to raise awareness of this and provide content to educate parents and act as a resource for journalists.
So, we created a report on-site. The report highlighted the issue using free data from ONS, shared 12 food items which children are most at risk of choking on as well as listed a number of deadly toys that have been recalled in the last year from trading standards.
We also included a video. This video was not our video, but in fact a highly viewed video created by St Johns Ambulance showing how to save a life in 40 seconds. And we wrote up instructions of what to do, a step by step guide.
We reacted to the press stories in just 24 hours and because of this, we landed 68 links across top-tier press, health and safety and parent sites. These were sites the client had NEVER managed to land links on before.
So what made this campaign a success?
- Timely – choking stories dominated press and we reacted fast with expert insight as well as useful content
- Positioned our client as an expert in this topic
- Targeted a highly engaged and sharing community – parents
- We created graphics/imagery and shared a video for press to use
- We created a resource on site “Choking report 2019” for journalists to link to and use for future stories
- We targeted journalists who were already talking about this topic
We should be thinking about link-building as a two-step process:
- What can we do to earn the coverage? (creating a story, gathering data etc)
- What can we do to turn that coverage into links? (what can we create on-site that journalists will link to)
Using digital PR and content marketing as the ultimate link building strategy
What is Digital PR and content marketing?
Digital PR and content marketing is creating stories or content that journalists and users naturally want to talk about and link to, because it’s that awesome, resourceful, useful or different.
It’s a tactic I primarily use to building quality and relevant links to my client’s sites. I would never pay for a link, never use bloggers as part of this strategy and never guest post.
However, you should ALWAYS start with the story and not the content type. So many agencies create stunning creative assets which are interactive and fun but the story is none existent. It’s not something the press could talk about naturally and therefore flop from a links perspective. So, starting with the story before anything else is KEY!
Remember you have experts – whether it’s in UPVC windows, chainsaws and hammers, or courier insurance. Use them! Find data related to the interests of your audience and not the interest of your brand. Stop creating stories or content which is heavily product focused. This won’t work.
On the scale below anything between 0-5 (content/stories which is safe, on brand or easy to get sign off) very rarely works from an off-site perspective but on-site is ok.
To get pick up, your ideas and topics need to be outside of that realm. Try not to go below an 8. Don’t be afraid of going off topic or brand to create stories that your audience will share.
The best way to explain this, is this…
And when thinking about what publications you should be targeting, according to Search Engine Journal you should …“only approach websites that are relevant to your target readers”. This doesn’t mean if you are a gambling client you need to just target gambling sites/blogs like Gambling times. Your audience aren’t there! This is where most link builders are going wrong!
Those betting on the World-Cup or engaging with sporting conversations are more likely to be on Sport Bible or reading The Sun online (for example) so think more about where your audience is and target those.
Testing out your story – the most scientific proven way of a successful campaign
Do the mum test!
Ok maybe it’s not scientifically proven but if you can...
- Explain your campaign to your mum in one sentence
- Without questions
- Or a face which clearly says “I don’t get it”
Then you are on to a winner! If you can get your mum interested or excited, you can get anyone interested too.
So, let’s see some of examples of building links within difficult industries (including recent campaigns) …
How Porn hub achieves links…
- Remember when Hawaii received that missile launch text by accident back in January 2013? Well Porn Hub created a blog post sharing their Hawaii traffic numbers shooting up suggesting that everyone rushed and spent their last moment watching adult entertainment than scrambling food together or hiding in caves. This landed 104 links
They also created a campaign called “The Wank Band”. A fake product page (we all love the fake product link bait stuff) which promotes a band you wear on your wrist whilst “doing your thing” and generates electricity to charge your iphones (and other devices) at the same time. Genius right. Well everyone loved it including AdWeek, Gizmodo and more and the content achieved 521 links.
How an escort site is landing top-tier links…
Luxury escorting site Xstasy took search volume data surrounding sex fetishes and mapped this out via a blog post on site. The content has been pushed to press and so far has achieved 14 top-tier placements across Daily Star, The Sun, and more.
How a Bingo site is landing top-tier links…
My good friend James Brockbank is currently working with a client within Bingo and creating content to land quality links. He conducted an analysis of some of the worst rated films and revealed the actors and actresses that feature the most.
He launched this just a few days ago and already achieved links from The Mirror and Yahoo.
How a pay day loans company achieved positive press and links from the nationals…
Provident created a campaign “Unbroken Britain” which took survey data and mapped out the most communal areas of the country. The map revealed the most (and least) friendly areas, most welcoming as well as safe and ran this annually as a national content piece which revealed information about your area. The content achieved over 100 links from the BBC, government and education sites too.
So if these brands can do it, so can you. It all goes back to this…
Thinking like a PR but acting like an SEO.
Having something on site to link to which ticks at least ONE of these boxes:
- Adds Value
- Positions you as an expert
- Acts as a resource
- Is engaging
For those struggling with their link acquisition efforts, get in touch.