Digital PR

PR in a pandemic
1024 682 Rebecca Moss

PR in a Pandemic: 5 Campaigns that Worked in 2020

What did PRs learn from top lifestyle journalists amid COVID-19?

As the year comes to an end, we look back at the toughest 12 months of our careers and we’re pleased to say that we’ve not only survived, but we’ve thrived.

On the 21st April 2020, we launched the first of our ‘Missing Link’ webinars, where we called upon top lifestyle journalists Almara Abgarian and Sian Elvin to tell us how and what to pitch as PR’s living and working in lockdown. 

We listened. We learned. We grafted long and hard hunched over our makeshift desks to ensure our campaigns were timely, newsworthy and interesting. 

And it worked. 

Even with the sudden sidestep of the pandemic, and even through the growing pains of remote working, JBH grew. We built the team, built the accounts and most importantly we built links. 

We developed campaigns to be proud of which is why we have decided to showcase five of our favourite campaigns that smashed all expectations this year.

 

OnlyFans Rich List Campaign

1. OnlyFans Rich List

OnlyFans is the site that’s encouraging celebrities and influencers to flash for cash – and we discovered that it’s set to make them millions.

After seeing many celebrities and influencers flock to the paid content creation site, we used the OnlyFans earnings calculator to estimate how much celebrities and influencers could make, if they started producing and promoting exclusive content via the OnlyFans platform. 

Whilst the campaign was a tongue in cheek look at pop-culture, it actually sparked some wider conversation around monetising content, landing this piece in Glamour

This campaign was an immediate success, with Love Island star Megan Barton-Hanson and Singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi sharing and tweeting about the OnlyFans Rich List, proving that digital PR has wider impact than just link building for SEO

This campaign continues to pick up links, both organically and through newsjacking; whenever we see that a new celebrity or influencer has joined the platform, we big name we dust the rich list off, and newsjack it for even more links and coverage. 

Results:

  • Total Links: 48 (and counting) 
  • Average DA: 71

 

 

Ministerial Mansions PR Campaign

2. Ministerial Mansions

If you’re running the country, you don’t usually go home to an average three-bedroom semi in the suburbs. Instead, you’re more likely to retreat to an opulent mansion that would quite literally take your breath away.

This data-led campaign for online estate agent Emoov looked at 20 ministerial mansions that the world’s most powerful leaders call home, and then calculated just how much they would be worth on the market today (and which world leaders had enough in the bank to be able to buy it for themselves) 

This campaign was not only incredibly fun to do, but it also spread far and wide, with people eager to report that the Queen could not afford to buy Buckingham Palace or that Trump could afford to buy The White House a few times over. 

But we didn’t stop there. 

With Buckingham Palace topping the list, we knew we wanted to squeeze more coverage for, beyond property and lifestyle publications (which we’d already achieved links for). So we decided to put the palace up for ‘sale’, which went wild following coverage on the Express

This campaign was a hit in many countries including the US where we gained coverage in The Wall Street Journal and many other large publications around the globe. Politics can be a niche subject to nail, but this unique research landed perfectly and created a great conversation piece for publishers. 

Results:

  • Total Links: 72
  • Average DA: 60

 

 

Dirty Delivery Report PR Campaign

3. Dirty Delivery Report

Sustainability and eco-focused campaigns have been doing very well in recent months and as Black Friday approached during lockdown V.2 in November, we investigated how much CO2 could be produced by the millions of packages set to be delivered across the country. 

After crunching numbers we predicted that, with sales estimated to rise by at least 14% vs last year, Black Friday 2020 could be responsible for 429,000 tonnes of carbon emissions; the equivalent to 435 return flights from London to New York.

The shock factor of this data is what made it so fascinating, landing on the BBC, Telegraph, Forbes and various industry publications the campaign ‘delivered’ 46 links with an average DR of 68. 

Results:

  • Total Links: 46
  • Average DA: 68

 

 

Worlds Best Subway Systems PR Campaign

4. The World’s Best Subway Systems 

Whether you travelled as a commuter or a tourist, it’s likely that you’ll have travelled on at least one of these subway systems. From the London Underground to the Shanghai Metro, we ranked 10 of the busiest subway systems based on what travellers find the most important, for our client Essential Living. 

Using a variety of factors to rank them including price, comfort and friendliness we were able to determine the best metro in the world. This campaign was not only eye-opening for us but also to the 117 publications across the world that became captivated by the campaign, including TimeOut, CountryLiving and Tag Spiegel

Global rankings like this have the potential to spread to all corners of the world, whether it is the top country boasting their metro credentials or low ranking countries reporting the bad news. 

Results:

  • Total Links:117
  • Average DA: 60

 

Celebrity Chefs Credit Report PR campaign

 

5. Celebrity Chefs Credit Report

There was once a time when fame and wealth were the exclusive domain of actors, singers and sports stars, but in recent years, the money has been spreading into the kitchen, too.

Chefs are now celebrities in their own right, with incredible net worths, From Nigella to Jamie, we crunched the numbers to reveal which celebrity chefs are the most successful.

As this campaign is evergreen, each time a chef releases a new book or TV show, we can pick up where we left off and re-issue the campaign for more links and coverage

With top chefs from all over the world featuring the report, we were able to generate coverage in brand new markets for Money.co.uk hitting publications in Italy, the Netherlands and more. In total, this campaign cooked up 42 links with an incredible average DR of 71, including Vanity Fair, Esquire and the Mirror

Results:

  • Total Links: 42
  • Average DA: 71

 

JBH digital PR experts reveal what they have learned about conducting PR during a pandemic 

We asked members of the JBH team what their key takeaways were from running campaigns in 2020 and how they will take these learnings through to 2021’s digital PR campaigns. 

 

Rebecca Moss

Rebecca Moss – Digital PR Director

“I think that running campaigns in 2020 has proven that news jacking will become vital for hero campaigns to get cut through. Teams will need to be agile enough to accommodate this new way of working and clients need to be open to it too. The news agenda moves so quickly that larger campaigns (and the people running them) will need to be flexible, willing and able to pivot at any given moment.”

 

Lauren HenleyLauren Henley– Digital PR Manager

“This year has reinforced how important it is for campaigns to be credible. There is still an abundance of fake news and as Digital PRs, we shouldn’t be fuelling or adding to this. It has also taught me to be bolder with ideas. With a deluge of depressing news, lighthearted campaigns have shone through and offered a welcome distraction. As long as PRs are being mindful, we should all embrace more fun campaigns.”

 

Sophie Campbell

Sophie Campbell – Senior Digital PR Executive

“Learning to prepare for the unexpected has been a key learning from 2020. Watching campaigns that within a day became completely irrelevant to current affairs and having to try and successfully change its course was a challenge a lot of PR specialists will have had to have faced during the past year, but it’s also taught us to think ahead and ensure we consider all possible outcomes so that we are able to land those links.”

 

Sophie ClintonSophie Clinton– Senior Digital PR Executive

“I think 2020 has taught us how important it is to absorb the news and make sure every campaign is in keeping with the news agenda. With restrictions changing across the UK throughout the year we have had to be flexible with our campaigns and be able to pivot or change up the content. By doing this you can also take advantage of the news to hook your campaign to a breaking and/or trending topic.”

 

Tori SaundersTori Saunders – Research and Content Writer

“2020 has been a huge opportunity for development. We found that people are navigating a sea of uncertainty, especially within the media so having data-led campaigns which use credible sources remain so important. Data-led campaigns with strong methodologies will also make outreach more streamlined and offer insurance to publications.”

 

Hannah Sheaf

Hannah Sheaf – Digital PR Executive

“This year has taught us that communication is key in every aspect of our lives. If a topic has provoked a discussion, whether at work or at home, look into it. It may be a good starting point for a campaign. The most successful campaigns come from sharing insight and ideas with your team to achieve the best possible end result for your work.”

 

Thomas O'RourkeTom O’Rourke – Digital PR Executive 

“I think 2020 has proven that audiences need an equal balance of hard and soft news. Many of the best campaigns in 2020 offer an opportunity for escapism, giving the reader a chance to take a break from the hard hitting news we see everyday on TV. I think moving into 2021, we’ll see a lot more digital campaigns that try to unite us as a nation, through humour and other emotions that audiences can connect with.”

 

 

 

1024 682 Rebecca Moss

How to generate campaign ideas with topical Trust Flow

So you want links to your websites, but it should not be any link… ideally, backlinks come from authoritative, trust-worthy websites that are topically related to your website.

That is an important bit: topically related. Of course, you would not turn down a link from a high authority website in another niche, but when you invest time in link building, outreach and digital PR, you would want to focus on websites in the same niche as yours. After all, relevancy matters.

Identifying suitable websites to outreach to can be easy for some industries and difficult for others. Sometimes you need to find creative link building ways. This is where topical Trust Flow can help.

What is topical Trust Flow?

Trust Flow is a metric by Majestic and measures how authoritative a website is based on its backlink profile. The higher the TF, the more authority the website has. The BBC for example has a TF of 95, Wikipedia follows with 94.

There is a sub-metric called topical Trust Flow. It assigns a topic to each website and calculates the Trust Flow for all websites within the topic. The below screenshot is for Wikipedia.org:

Screenshot of Majestic showing topical Trustflow for Wikipedia.

For such a website, you would expect a wide range of topics. In this case 14.13% of the backlinks to Wikipedia come from websites within the travel niche, 5.25% are from other encyclopaedias and so on.

Other available topics are for example Business, News, Sports, Health, Home, Shopping and Games. There is a topic for your niche too!

How to identify opportunities with topical TF

Identifying the topic that relates to your business is the easy step. How do you find websites to outreach to that are within the same topic?

Identify competitors

At first, you want to identify competitors for your website – we do not mean the shop across the road that sells the same items as you do, but those websites that compete with you for the space in Google’s SERPs. In some cases, you might have a competitor for your business who is selling the same products or providing the same service as you, but who relies on other channels than SEO. When you are looking at SEO opportunities, you want to look at those competitors that are doing their SEO well. Tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush provide a list of competing domains based on your keyword rankings. If you don’t have those tools available, you can put your most important keywords into a Google search and see who shows up. You should verify though that the website is indeed a competitor in terms of business model and product offering.

The competitor’s backlink profile

Once you have competitors identified, you can put those domains into Majestic to find the one with the best backlink profile. A high TF or a high number of referring domains is always a good point of call.

Let’s say that you have a health-related business. A good website to draw inspiration from is healthline.com. It has a TF of 52, with a topical TF within health and more than 160k referring domains:

Screenshot from Majestic showing the summary of stats for healthline.com

If we want to see where this website is getting backlinks from, the best place is the tab called Ref Domains.

The best opportunities are websites with high authority. We therefore sort the list by Trust Flow and refresh the list:

Screenshot from Majestic showing how to sort referring domains by trust flow

In the last step, we want to filter the list for websites that have a topical Trust Flow within the health topic:

Screenshot from Majestic showing how to sort referring domains by topic.

 

We start selecting those from the top and will receive a list of health-related websites, sorted by authority (TF) that link to a competitor of ours (in this case healthline.com):

Screenshot from Majestic showing how to sort referring domains by topic.

Content ideas and an outreach list

If we click the numbers in the column called Backlinks, we can see the exact URLs of the pages that are linking to healthline.com. This provides a good understanding how the website attracted links from high authority websites and will guide your link building strategy. Once analysed, you will have plenty of ideas for your backlink campaign assets and a list of domains to pitch your content to. Happy link building and don’t forget to get in touch if you need some help.

1000 665 Jane Hunt

If you work in digital PR then you need to rip up the rule book

It’s not that rules are there to be broken, but in times of immense challenges and uncertainty, the old rules just don’t apply in the same way. 

If nothing else, this year has proved that you don’t need to follow a rule book for building a business and delivering a service. But what you do have to be is adaptable.

Adaptable brands always thrive in times of crisis.

And JBH is no different. We’ve thrived during 2020, tripling in size and revenue, but it’s no coincidence and I think it comes down to one key thing – we’ve been able to adapt quickly and learn as we go.

“Sometimes you just have to take the leap, and build your wings on the way down.” Kobi Yamada

So what has 2020 taught me?

  1. There is no one ‘right way’ of delivering a digital PR service and campaigns
  2. Speed is everything – you need to be setup to respond to opportunities in a matter of minutes rather than hours or days
  3. Forget the silos. Digital PR involves all stakeholders and agencies should be working with SEO, PR, social and wider marketing teams – especially amid a crisis
  4. Traditional public speaking has been replaced by webinars, vlogs and podcasts and I don’t think this will shift back again once the pandemic is over – this is our new norm
  5. Brands are much more specific about what success looks like and agencies need to adapt and respond to each brands unique objectives and challenges
  6. Campaigns should always seek to go beyond delivering just links and add additional value to the brand or business
  7. A blended ‘always on’ approach is required for digital PR requiring a skillset that fuses hero and reactive PR techniques
  8. PRs need to be multi-skilled and agile, constantly learning, questioning and tweaking
  9. With so much competition for talent, we’re focused on providing the best training, bringing in outside experts to provide a range of knowledge and perspectives
  10. There is more scope for fast career development than ever before, for those with the right attitude, the sky’s the limit!
  11. Tear up the rule book, what worked traditionally won’t anymore. The only thing that is consistent is that the world of digital marketing is constantly changing and there isn’t time to sit back and relax or you’ll get left behind.

So 2020 has taught me that instead of following an old set of rules, we need to be constantly rewriting the rules, challenging ourselves and figuring it out as we go – and that’s ok.

1000 665 JBH - The Digital PR Agency

WATCH AGAIN: Missing Link #5: How to harness newsjacking for digital PR

Over the last 6 months, newsjacking and reactive pitching has become one of the favourite techniques in our digital PR toolbox. This method provides so many opportunities to earn links, build brand awareness and also help to turn around any underperforming campaigns for our clients.

In this webinar, Rebecca Moss, our digital PR director takes you all through her newsjacking process, from sourcing news stories and ideas, to the importance of being set up to succeed. She’ll also provide some tips to get you started and maximise your opportunities, as well as sharing examples of this technique being used effectively by brands all over the world.

 
The webinar covers:

  • Where to look for newsjacking or reactive pitch ideas
  • Why speed is so important to success when using this technique
  • How to deliver a pitch journalists really want
  • How to build links more consistently from newsjacking
  • How to think like a press office
  • Q&A – Opportunity to ask Rebecca anything about newsjacking

About Rebecca
Rebecca Moss is the digital PR director at JBH, leading a team of experienced digital PR experts to deliver PR and link building campaigns for clients across a range of sectors, including personal finance, home and lifestyle.

Rebecca works strategically with PR and SEO teams to ensure the campaigns JBH creates not only build brand awareness and credibility for our clients, but are also sensitive to current news stories.

Follow Rebecca on Twitter

  

Next Webinar:

Sign up now!

 

1024 682 Rebecca Moss

How to Newsjack with your Digital PR Campaigns (plus 20 sources of inspiration)

There’s no getting away from it, resource-heavy hero campaigns will always have a place in digital PR and newsjacking can elevate them above and beyond what you set out to achieve originally.

What is newsjacking?

Bestselling author David Meerman Scott explains newsjacking as a technique that allows you to introduce ideas and opinions (from yourself or from your client) into a breaking news story.

He describes the lifecycle of a breaking story as a ‘bell curve’ and in order for newsjacking to be effective, you have to hit the bell at the right point, just as the story has broken.

In the traditional sense, newsjacking would always be run as a separate PR specialism, rather than in conjunction with a larger campaign. But we’ve quickly realised that blending newsjacking techniques into our larger campaigns yields better results, in terms of quality AND quantity of links generated.

And as such, we don’t define it as an extra service, it comes part and parcel with every campaign we run for every client on the roster – it’s just part of what we do.

How to use newsjacking as part of your digital PR campaign

If you are running a digital PR campaign, there will be a reason for that. And it is usually due to the topical nature of the idea. Without even realising it, you’re basically ready to incorporate newsjacking into your outreach process.

Live and breathe the topic of your campaign

At the very least, you have to have an interest in the topic you are trying to newsjack. From following subject experts on Twitter and LinkedIn, to subscribing to newsletters related to the subject. You’ll be really surprised at how much this passive action can help frame your thinking.

Keyword research for digital PR can be different to keyword research for SEO

For each campaign you are running, uncover the keywords that would show you similar content related to your campaign. This is a bit different to keyword research for SEO.

You’re looking for keywords that will trigger Google Alerts to show you news stories that you can hijack for coverage.

So what does this look like in practice?

For example, we ran a campaign called Ministerial Mansions which discovered the world leaders with the most expensive homes for online estate agent Emoov.

Buckingham Palace topped the list and we knew we wanted to squeeze more coverage for this campaign, beyond property and lifestyle publications (which we’d already achieved coverage and links through our usual media outreach). So we decided to put the palace up for sale.

The Royal Family isn’t something I pay much attention to, but I needed to know it inside out to get the most out of this campaign. So rather than spend hours reading up or watching ‘The Crown’, I set up Google Alerts/Talkwalker Alerts for the following keywords: 

    • Royal finances
    • Buckingham Palace renovations
    • Royal cutbacks
    • Royal family cost to the taxpayer
    • Royal family salaries
    • ‘The Crown Netflix’

When the Royal Household published its annual financial statement for 2019-20, we were able to push our ‘Buckingham Palace Valuation’ story out as soon as we started seeing those stories come through. And we did it again when series 4 of The Crown aired on Netflix.

Trends are your friend and embrace the push notification

Google Trends and Twitter Trends – I have these pinned to my browser tabs and check them periodically throughout the day.

Push notifications on your browser and your phone can also be really useful – set them up for news publications so you can see exactly what is happening, as it happens.

Fun fact: The trends you see on Twitter are directly related to the people you follow, so make sure you are following the right people related to your campaigns to see the most relevant trends.

Newsjacking can be evergreen

When you newsjack a digital PR campaign, you get more than one shot at success. In October, we launched the OnlyFans Rich List for SlotsUp following the Bella Thorne controversy. We set up Google Alerts for all of the celebrities included on the OnlyFans rich list, and continually re-issued the campaign as and when we needed to:

  • Lewis Capaldi’s birthday
  • Jordyn Woods set up her account
  • Megan Barton-Hanson tweeted about OnlyFans earnings
  • Cardi B joined OnlyFans
  • Chloe Khan joined OnlyFans

And we can continue to do this each and every time a newsworthy name joins OnlyFans.

Prepare expert comments in advance (if you can)

If you can prepare and get approval on comments in advance of a big event, then do. But be prepared to tweak them as you go. However, some of the best newsjacking we’ve done has been off the back of a larger campaign, and hasn’t necessarily needed any additional commentary.

Use newsjacking to elevate a ‘slow burn’ digital PR campaign 

I am a realist, and I accept that not every single campaign will smash it out of the park. Some will be a slower burn than others. Why not try some newsjacking techniques to see if you can light a fire underneath a slow burn campaign?

Looking for newsjacking opportunities? Here are 20 sources of inspiration to help newsjack your digital PR campaigns

Make newsjacking your digital PR campaigns easier by having a few extra things in place before you begin:

IFTTT & #journorequest
If you’re anything like me, then you might sometimes forget to check #journorequest, but thanks to a handy TikTok tutorial from Mark Rofe you can set up IFTTT (IfThisThenThat) to send you an email every time a relevant request comes up. Here a trigger I set up for any property related #journorequest:

You can even connect this to Slack so that opportunities drop straight into a channel for the whole team to see and action. 

Spotify daily drive playlist
Even if you don’t drive, take a look at your Spotify account to see if you have the Daily Drive Playlist. It combines music with timely world updates from reputable sources. Mine always has The Times Daily News Briefing.

#tomorrowspaperstoday
A voluntary service bringing you the front pages of the papers before they hit the newsstands – give them a follow here. The BBC also have a dedicated page which is updated every evening.

Google Alerts
Not just for monitoring brand mentions, pop your campaign-related keywords into Google Alerts and see if you can react to any of the results that come back.

Push notifications
Those annoying little notifications popping up on your screen can actually be helpful when it comes to newsjacking opportunities. Outside the usual big news outlets, sector specific publications have begun to do this too.

Newsletters
Subscribe to the newsletters of publications you want coverage on. A few of my favourites include:

Metro Lifestyle | BBC News Daily | Sheerluxe Daily News | Stylist | Reuters Morning Digest| Daily Mail Travel Newsletter + loads more

Days of the year calendars
I’m still on the hunt for an amazing ‘Days of the Year’ calendar integration for my Google calendar. This PDF version from 10Yetis is great, though.

24-hour news channels
These are usually the first to break any news story, so another good source of inspiration that you can have on in the background.

Alexa; read me the headlines from X
Rather than waiting for the hourly news bulletin on the radio, if you have a voice assistant ask for the headlines from whatever publication you’d like to hear them.

Ask Chrome to open a specific set of pages
In Chrome settings, you can ask it to open up a specific set of pages each time you start up. For me, it’s Google News Top Stories | Twitter Trends | Google Trends

Independent news outlets
If you’re tasked with securing local coverage and links, then looking towards independent news outlets could give you the edge.

News wire services
Many of the big news publications get stories from The Associated Press, Reuters and Bloomberg News. You can also subscribe to their newsletters and follow them on social media to give you an up-to-the-minute overview of what’s happening.

Feedspot content reader
It can feel a bit overwhelming having to check all these different news sources every day, so this is where Feedspot can help. It’s a content reader that brings together all these news sources, so you can see at a glance, what’s trending/breaking and you can explore more, if you want. Here’s my Feedspot

Reddit – https://www.reddit.com/r/uknews/
Reddit is the front page of the internet so keeping an eye on subreddits related to your campaign keywords is a great idea.

Facebook groups
Another great source of newsjacking inspiration here, especially if you’re looking for local or very niche coverage. Journalists scour these groups for story inspiration, so why not do the same too?

Daily news briefings & podcasts
Most major news outlets have a daily news briefing on Spotify plus podcasts can be an untapped source of inspiration too – I have created a playlist with all of my favourites in it for easy access – give it a follow

Tweetdeck / Hootsuite
Use a twitter monitoring tool to flag up relevant key phrases as and when they appear on Twitter. 

Buzzsumo
Buzzsumo automatically orders by engagement, which means older articles come up first. Use the filter to order by date, which means you see new popular/trending stories first in the list.

Twitter lists
There are a couple of ways you can use Twitter lists for newsjacking. You can either set up a list following a hashtag or topic eg #GBBO or follow pre-curated lists like this

Website change monitoring
If you’re waiting for a data set to be released from a site such as the ONS, it’s worth setting up an alert via a website change monitoring tool to alert you as soon as that page is updated, rather than having to remember to go and check the page. Visualping.io and Sken.io are just a couple of free options.

Newsjacking your digital PR campaign – 3 key takeaways 

  1. Use tools and alerts to your advantage – get newsjacking topics delivered right to your inbox.
  2. Don’t worry about planning ahead too much – it’s more important to be quick and accurate when the time is right.
  3. You don’t have to be ‘always on’ – but it is helpful if you’re frequently watching and listening out for opportunities.
1024 682 Rebecca Moss

We got a link, what next?

This just made your day: The alert you have created in ahrefs has informed you about a new link to your website and it points to your latest digital PR campaign. Jackpot! But does this automatically make you the employee of the month? No!

There are a few things you would want to check about any new link to understand if it is really the big win or if you have some cleaning up to do. Even with the best preparation and research before you reach out to any journalist, there are still some surprises that a live link can bring.

Which domain is that?

Not only work some journalists and bloggers for multiple websites, they often also publish on sub-domains and that is important when it comes to your link building reports as the metrics for a sub-domain can often vary greatly from those of the main domain.

In most cases, the KPIs of a digital PR campaign specify the minimum DA, DR or TF and you want to ensure you are tracking those correctly. The standard example for this used to be blogspot.com. If anybody wanted to create a blog on this platform, that blog would be hosted on a subdomain, e.g. myblog.blogspot.com. When we were trying to find an example, we noticed that most of those blogs are by now hosted on a dedicated domain, but we found some other examples:

It is not just blog hosting platforms, sometimes also authoritative websites create subdomains for certain types of content, e.g. the German magazine focus.de (TF 72) has subdomains for games, product comparisons and vouchers: games.focus.de (TF 32), gutscheine.focus.de (TF 44) and vergleich.focus.de (TF 43).

A language specific subdomain too can make a difference: Wikipedia.org has a TF of 94, the German equivalent de.wikipedia.org has a TF of only 78 and the Portuguese pt.wikipedia.org only a TF of 47.

That is quite a difference in metrics to measure, so before you open the champagne, you want to make sure the link contains what the label says.

Look at the link in its purest form

Apart from the domain, you also want to take a look at the link itself. The most obvious thing to look at is the anchor text which in most cases will probably be your brand name. If you see it being misspelled or the journalist has used an anchor you would not want to be associated with your brand, you should contact them and ask for it to be changed.

You also want to determine whether the link is a follow or nofollow link as this is in most cases something you want to include in your link building report. The easiest way to find this is in the source code of the page which you can access via CTRL+U or right click on your mouse and select “view source”. Via the usual search functionality in the browser (CTRL+F) you can find the anchor text on your link. We can use an example of a recent article published by Forbes that references many authoritative websites.

Code snippet that shows nofollow links.

We can see links to websites like the BBC, New York Times and Boston Globe. A link always has the following format:

<a href=”URL”>anchor text</a>

Everything else that might be added to it provides additional information. In the above example, we can see: target=”_blank” which simply means that this link opens in a new window.

What we want to look at is the rel=”nofollow” as this means that it is a nofollow link. Please note that there is no specific markup for a follow link, the absence of “nofollow” usually means that it is a follow link.

Other things you want to look out for is a rel=”sponsored” or all forms of tracking code on the link as those usually indicate sponsored or paid links and do not provide much value for SEO.

Does Google know about your link?

Another important check to perform is whether the page that links to your website is indexed in Google. If a page is not indexed (even after a few days of it being live) there could be some technical or qualitative issues.

The most obvious would be that the page is orphaned, i.e. not linked to internally on the website. If that is the case, you can bring this up in your communication with the journalist. If it is a legit website, they probably appreciate you informing them about the page being orphaned.

If you want to find out whether a page is indexed or not, you can perform a site search in Google. This is how it would look for the above referenced article in Forbes:

Screenshot of a site search performed in Google.

If the page you are looking for appears as in the above example, everything is fine. The page is indexed. If no results come up, the page is not indexed.

The above are some general health checks that should be performed on any link a digital PR campaign brings, not only for your reporting but also to ensure that the links you attract provide value.

1024 682 Jane Hunt

Writers block: How to find inspiration when you are stuck for content ideas

If we’re being completely honest, we all know these situations. You try to come up with a creative idea but all you end up with is an empty piece of paper. It simply does not flow.

We have all been there and it is part of the creative process to be stuck sometimes. The important thing is knowing how to get out of it and keep the creative juices flowing. What to do? How to spark your creativity when you are feeling uninspired?

Look around you

The easiest way to kickstart the ideation process – and we do that often for creative link building campaigns – is to look at the things others have done. No matter the topic – travel, music, even engineering and mathematics – a lot of content has been created and is just waiting for you to be explored. Google your topic and see what comes up:

Screenshot from Google search for infographics about maths

We bet you did not know that there was a math awareness month. This is where the inspiration starts. Other than a Google search, sources like Pinterest, Instagram and Visually can be used to see what others have done in the past. Now look at this content, identify what resonates with you and why. What have they done that makes the topic work? How could you use it and add a twist?

Asking the right questions

Another way to get content inspiration is to find out what questions your audience is asking. This is also a good marketing technique and you are probably taking this into account already, but we sometimes forget that it can also be used to make your life easier. A good point of call is social media. Check what your audience is talking about. Did your social media team publish anything recently that triggered many comments or questions? Here is your starting point.

You can also use Google Trends to find out what people are talking about this week:

Screenshot from Google Trends early November 2020

Other tools you can draw upon are answerthepublic.com or alsoasked.com. All you must do is enter your topic and see related questions coming up.

Screenshot from answerthepublic.com for the topic Mathematics

What is happening around you?

Another approach that has proven useful this year is reactive PR. Traditionally it was understood as a reaction to negative press, but amidst a global pandemic, reactive strategies have become the new thing in digital PR. You are anyways monitoring your industry and you know what is going on. Is there any inspiration in this? Maybe you published a post a month ago that is no longer relevant. You can pick this topic up again. Did any circumstances for your customers change recently? If we stick to our maths topic, we could think of the way how 2020 has changed the way we teach maths. You could reach out to teachers and interview them about teaching from home. Are there any maths topics that are easier to teach in a classroom? How did remote learning change their way of explaining mathematical concepts? That is how easily you get an idea!

Re-utilize your own content

We already spoke about the content others have published as a source of inspiration, but what about your own content? Is there anything else that you can do with content you previously published? Is there anything else you could do with the original data? Maybe you used it for a blog post, maybe there is a graphic you can create out of it. If you had lots of pictures, maybe you can create a slideshow out of those you did not use for the post. If we look back at our maths example, you might have published the interview with the math teacher. Did he mention any specific calculations you could elaborate on? There might be opportunity for blog posts to explain some of the concepts he mentioned in the interview and so on…

What inspires you?

Creative minds can usually tell you exactly what it is that inspires them. Some go to the bathroom, others take a long walk in the woods, others listen to music. You probably have something as well that sparks your creativity. The common trait of all those techniques is to distract the mind. Stop thinking too hard about being creative! Stop the logic! The best way to do so is to get your mind onto something else.

If it does not help or if you simply cannot go for a walk in the woods right now, there are some quick exercises that can get you into the right mindset. You could take a random object, e.g. a chair, and give it new meaning. If this was not a chair, what would it be? A clothes hanger? A bookshelf? A ladder? See what you can come up with, but don’t think too much. Just write down a few ideas.

Alternatively, you could take randomly selected images, look at them and create a connection between them.

When we tried it, it created those 4 images:

Baby dressed up in a beach outfit. Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/hisins30-3587860/ Skateboard flying through the air, the feet are visible. Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/santa3-3503898/
Pink high heels with grass growing in them. Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/manfredrichter-4055600/ Water drops in front of a blue background. Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/inspiredimages-57296/

How do you make a connection? Maybe the baby is dreaming of riding a skateboard, jumping and flying through the air. But in reality, it looks as if it is trying mum’s heels that are 5 sizes too big walking over the grass that the hoar frost has turned wet.

Are you feeling inspired? Try it yourself. Generate some random images and see what this exercise does to your creative mind.

And if nothing helps, you can still get back to the old technique of drawing a mind map. Put everything in it that comes up when you think about the topic and see what you will end up with.

1000 666 Rebecca Moss

How to clean up a toxic backlink profile

When we speak about link building to build authority online and to get your website ranking in search engines there is one thing we cannot ignore: the existing backlink profile.

We regularly come across websites that have engaged in black hat techniques, namely paid links, in the past or have had negative SEO attacks. The best way to identify those is to do a backlink audit.

Tools to find backlinks

As with anything in SEO, there are plenty of tools out there that you can use for backlink audits, but there is no single tool that can do it for you. Even the best algorithm will miss certain things that require a human eye to look at and every tool gathers data in different ways. If you compare the information you get you will always notice differences because the tools crawl the web differently and therefore have never exactly the same information. For that reason, backlink audit tools such as Link Research Tools combine data from as many sources as possible and that is what you should do too.

Majestic

One of the backlink tools we trust is Majestic. It is a paid tool but totally worth it when you are analysing or building links. All you have to do is enter your domain name, head to the tab “Backlinks” and export the data into Excel.

Majestic screenshot: How to export backlinks

Ahrefs

This is another trusted tool by digital PR and SEO agencies and also a paid tool: Ahrefs. The steps to follow are similar to Majestic. You enter the domain, select “Backlinks” on the left side, choose “One link per domain” and export the data to Excel.

Ahrefs screenshot: how to export backlinks

SEMrush

The steps in SEMrush are very similar to the other tools: enter the domain, select “Backlink analytics”, choose the tab “Backlinks” and export the data.
 

Google Search Console

This tool is available for free and we highly recommend using it as it provides information Google holds about your website and can be used in many ways to improve your SEO. Apart from technical errors, it also reports on backlinks. The data extraction however involves a few more steps than in the other tools. You first select “Links” on the left side, scroll to “Top linking sites” and hit “More”. (Please note that we removed any domain names from the following screenshots to protect the data of our clients.)

Google Search Console screenshot: How to find backlinks

Now you reach the screen where you can export all referring domains. You will notice that the dataset it significantly smaller than your exports from the other tools. The others give you the URL of the exact link, Search Console only lets you export the domain name.

In order to see the page that is linking to your website, you click on the domain that is listed under “Top linking sites”. That will list the pages on your website that have a backlink from the domain. If you now click on that URL, Search Console shows you the exact URLs that contain the links.

Google Search Console Screenshot: Export referring domains

Combine the data

If you have access to any other tool that provides backlink data, we recommend to export that too to get as much information as possible. The data that you have in different Excel sheets, should now be combined into one master file. From tools like Majestic and Ahrefs, we exported backlinks (not referring domains) because we want to see at least one example of a link, the domain name can easily be exported from the URL but not the other way around. We recommend adding the list of referring domains from Google Search Console last and then deduplicate. That way, you will only have the domains from Search Console that the other tools have not picked up which saves you some time analysing them. After all, you will have a lot more data in your Excel sheet from the other tools.

When it comes to the data you want to keep, we recommend keeping the anchor text and information about nofollow and follow as this will help you during the analysis. Metrics such as TF and DR can be useful too.

The good, the ugly and the bad

Now that you have your master file of backlinks, it is time to analyse them in detail. There are tools, e.g. Link Research Tools, that make a pre-evaluation of your links and give you hints as to which links might be harmful. That certainly saves you some time, but you should still look at those links before you take any action. Please ensure that your antivirus software is up to date though!

In all honesty, there is no formula that will tell you whether a link is good or bad and the more experience you get, the easier it will become. Experienced SEOs recognize the bad apples within seconds of looking at a website, but if you are new to this, feel free to dig a bit deeper.

The obviously bad

There are some obvious signs for bad quality or even malicious links. If you see a screen full of images that you would classify as adult content, there’s your sign (unless your website is in that industry.) Another one is a malware warning. It goes without saying that you should not open the site if your antivirus software tells you not to and we recommend clearing your cache and cookies afterwards.

If you see a page that looks like a Japanese manga or a comic book (and your business is not related to that topic in any way), this is another strong signal. In that case, you should verify the stats in a tool of your choice to evaluate if that website could hold any value. We like to look at the number of referring domains in relation to the number of backlinks and the TrustFlow. A low TF and backlinks from only a few domains are an indicator of low quality. In most cases, this is what you will see. You can also get information about IP addresses of those websites and if they all come from the same source, it is a sure sign of a negative SEO attack.

Another strong sign is the anchor text on the link and how it is embedded on the page. If you see a list of links with anchor text that could be classified as adult content or vulgar language, the link was most likely placed with malicious intent.

The less obvious

There are some other links that could hurt your website but are less obvious. Those mostly refer to PBN links or paid links. Unfortunately, there is no clear sign that would tell you that a link has been paid for or placed upon request unless it is marked as a sponsored link in which case you can ignore it as this will not cause any harm.

The best way is to read over the paragraph that contains the link to your website. Does this feel natural? Does it make sense that they are linking to your site on this instance and not to a competitor? You should also check which other links are in the text. Is the link to your site the only external link? Are there even internal links? If you think that it is obvious that a link has been placed, it probably is too obvious and not a natural link.

The ugly

When you do a backlink audit, you will also come across links that are not great, but they are not harming you either. It is normal for a natural backlink profile to have backlinks of mixed quality. If a backlink profile only contains high quality, it screams manipulation and paid links. Anything that is not harmful should just be left untouched. You simply have to accept that there are links that are not great.

Depending on how long your website has been around, you might see lots of directory or forum links. Those techniques are by now frowned upon, but they were once valid techniques. If you had those links for a long time, there is no need to worry about them. They will not harm you, but they will not have any positive impact either.

The good links

This is an easy one: We are talking about the links that your website received because you engaged in digital PR and created great content that other websites want to point their audiences to. You might want to highlight those in your audit to show your stake holders the good work that has been done in the past. Maybe you will even get more budget for digital PR in the next quarter to do some more exciting campaigns.

Actions to take

Once your backlink audit is done, you would want to disavow the bad links. This means that you are informing Google about those backlinks that the crawlers should ignore. Everything you have classified as malicious should be disavowed. Google has stated multiple times that their algorithm detects negative SEO and would ignore those links anyways, but you are better safe than sorry. Disavow them.

Where things become tricky are the PBN and paid links. Google has recommended to disavow links if you have bought them in the past, but we recommend checking for how long your website has had that link (the tools can tell you when they first detected the link) and if there was any impact on your rankings around that time. If you can correlate a paid link to a drop in rankings, we recommend disavowing that link. If your rankings have improved or if there was no impact whatsoever, chances are that Google does not detect this link as a paid link. No algorithm is perfect!

When you decide to disavow a link, you should keep in mind that you cannot reverse that action. Once disavowed, links from that domain cannot give your website any value anymore. You should therefore be very careful with your disavows. If you had links that you are not proud of for a while and they did not cause any harm, disavowing them could have a rather negative effect on your rankings. If the reason for your backlink audit is a drop in rankings and you suspect a penguin penalty, you can be more generous with what you disavow. We cannot give you a one-size-fits-all-recommendation as the circumstances should be taken into account and it rather is a question of common sense than a strict formula.

One thing though we can tell you for sure is that after the backlink audit, you will have a better understanding of the gaps in your backlink profile. You will know which efforts have been made in the past, what to do more of in the future and what to avoid from now on. Most likely, you want to do more digital PR and link building and you know how to get in touch with us at JBH.

1024 682 Rebecca Moss

6 Ways to attract links to your website

Getting your website seen and ranking in search engines involves multiple aspects: technical SEO, content creation and backlinks.

The latter often seems intimidating because you cannot control the whole process but rely on other website owners – that is if you do it the white hat way. (And we strongly advise against black hat techniques such as paid link building.) Here are 6 link building tactics that will take some of the pressure off:

1. Unlinked brand mentions

It almost seems too obvious, but wouldn’t it be great if those websites that are already talking about your product or your brand would link to it? All you have to do is find them and contact them. How do you find them?

The easiest way is to set up alerts, for example in Google Alerts or TalkWalker. When your brand is mentioned on the web, those tools will inform you via email. We recommend you create those alerts for your brand name (including different spellings that might be used, even if you do not like them) and popular products.

This unfortunately will not provide you with already existing mentions. There is another technique to find those: Simply search for your brand in Google and wrap it in quotation marks:

Screenshot from Google for the search term "Asos"

This will give you all the pages that Google has indexed that mention your brand, some of those might already link to your website.

2. Unlinked images

If you host any proprietary images on your website, infographics for example, it is worth checking if any other website is using them. Similar to the above mentions, you could reach out to the website owner to request the image being linked to your website. Please note that this is not about copyrights (that would be a separate topic), we talk about links here. Images such as infographics are created with the purpose of them being re-published and linked to the original source.

The easiest way to find out if other websites use your images is a reverse image search in Google. Simply paste the URL or upload the image and you will see who else is using it:

Screenshot of Google image search

3. Recently lost links

This technique is referring to backlinks you had to your website in the past. The importance here is in the word “recently”; links that you lost two years ago are probably gone forever.

The tools you use to monitor your backlinks, e.g. Ahrefs and Majestic, all have a feature that lists lost links. Below is a screenshot taken from Ahrefs:

Screenshot of Ahrefs lost links

We suggest you take a look at those websites (and URLs if they still exist) to understand why the link has been lost. Was the page removed? Was the link replaced by another one? Before you contact the website owner, try to understand the reasons. If the page was removed, check where it is redirecting to. If the link was replaced, find out why they deem the other source a better link target than your page. You might also want to consider updating your content before you contact them.

A useful tool can be the Waybackmachine where you can check how a certain page looked like in the past.

4. Link moves

This tactic can relate to mentions that you want to convert into a link or to existing backlinks that you change to better target your ranking goals. In most cases, if a mention is converted into a link, it ends up being a link to your homepage with the brand name being the anchor. There is nothing wrong with that but the rest of your website should also get some link love.

Depending on the context of the mention or the existing homepage link, you might be able to suggest a better page to link to. In your email to the website owner or journalist, you should mention the topic of your page which conveniently can be the anchor text you would like to have on that link. Try to make it not too obvious that you would like a specific anchor for the link and remember to highlight the value for the reader by providing a better suitable link.

5. Your content as a better alternative

Another way to get a link to your site is by taking them away from your competitors. You can again search in Google for the brand name of the competitor in quotation marks (how we have done it above for “asos”) or simply put their website into a backlink tool (e.g. Ahrefs, Majestic) to find out where they get their links from. Analyse what they are doing and then do it better.

You might already have some content on your website that only needs some updates or you can create content. It goes without saying that it needs to be of good quality and provide additional value to that content that your competitors created to get links. Once you have done that, reach out to the website owner or journalist and suggest your content as a better link target. Again, highlight the value for the reader.

6. Digital PR

This is our favourite: Digital PR campaigns are our raison d’être. In the same way as the previous tip, it starts with great content. When we create that type of content, we make sure that it provides useful information, has something news-worthy to it and makes the reader stop to read – because it is interesting! You will understand this better by taking a look at our digital PR case studies and previous campaigns we created.

It is not just about content creation, but also entails the distribution of said content. For a journalist to link to your asset, he or she needs to know about it. This is where outreach starts and it can be a simple email or a full press release, depending on the campaign. The journalists we reach out to are all well-researched and we ensure that it fits their style and topic.

A successful backlink campaign involves a lot more, of course, but this should be enough to give you an idea.

You might be tempted to say now that you go with the technique that seems easiest, but keep in mind that none of the above is easy or quick. If it is, the success probably will not last for long. We recommend to rather spend a little more time on quality link building that will bring long-term success.

1000 665 Jane Hunt

WATCH AGAIN: Missing Link #4: How to smash digital PR campaigns for travel clients in today’s climate

In this very timely webinar, Iona Townsley discusses what travel journalists are looking for in a pitch and how you can create campaigns that give them what they want, how to create campaigns that work no matter what happens in the world and while doing all this, how to keep your client happy.

 

The webinar covers:

  • The travel pitches journalists are looking for right now?
  • What kind of PR activity should people be doing right now
  • The campaigns she’s worked on have that do well
  • How can in-house PR teams get coverage for their clients?
  • How to manage accounts with travel brands and expectations

About Iona:

Iona has years of experience working in marketing before settling on Digital PR as a profession. She first started her journey at SEO Travel, an SEO agency specialising in travel companies before moving to Rise at Seven as a Senior Campaign Executive where she delivers strong campaigns and integrated PR strategies. She specialises in travel PR and creative campaigns that bring more than just links.

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