Digital PR

Are nofollow links worth having?
1000 666 Jane Hunt

Are nofollow links worth your time and money?

What is a nofollow link?

A nofollow link refers to a link with a nofollow HTML attribute. This attribute is used to tell search engine crawlers that the link should not affect the domain or page ranking of the site the link is pointing to or pass on any ‘link juice’.

Users visiting the page will still be able to use the link but search engine crawlers will not follow it and it will not pass on any SEO value.

 

Black hat seo such as blog comment links are part of the reason nofollow links were invented

Why were nofollow links invented?

If you were around in the early days of the blogging boom you’ll likely remember that people started filling up the comment sections of blogs with ads to their own sites in order to improve their SEO.

To tackle this issue, in early 2005 Google’s Matt Cutts and Blogger’s Jason Shellen addressed the problem and came up with the nofollow HTML attribute.

It helped established and trustworthy sites by stopping their credibility being diluted by spammers and freeloaders attempting to take advantage of it to improve their own site’s reputation with search engines.

Blog comment spam occurs less often these days and is now considered a black hat SEO technique. Search engines algorithms, like Google’s, are also now much more advanced and discount blog comment links as they aware of the tricks people use to try and cheat the system.

Where are nofollow links used?

 

links on social media all have nofollow attributes

Social Media

Any links you post on social media, including links in your profile will all be nofollow links. This prevents you from just creating accounts on these platforms for SEO purposes and is used to prevent users from spamming these platforms with linked content that provides no value.

Comment Sections

Any website or blog that has a comment section will most likely have made sure that all the links posted will have nofollow attributes to prevent spamming, and so trustworthy sites don’t have their credibility taken advantage of.

Open submissions

Sites like Quora, YouTube, and Reddit, that allow users to submit content will all be nofollow links to stop you from being able to boost your link profile by going to these sites and posting a load of irrelevant links

Some publishers

Large publishers that have huge outputs of content (like Inc, Forbes and Huff Post) are now, more and more using nofollow links for any content created by their contributors. For the most part, this is due to the time that it would take an editor to check that every link in a submitted piece of content was relevant and worth passing on link juice to, and it puts more focus on creating content that is helpful for its users.

 

Why do nofollow links have such a bad reputation?

After the creation of the nofollow attribute, search engines not only told website owners to use it for their blog comments but also for any ad links as well. This way Google and other search engines would be aware of what content was sponsored and know not to pass any link juice on to that link.

The differentiation between paid and natural links protected site owners in later years when Google updated their algorithm and started penalising sites using black hat SEO and that were full of spam content.

Using nofollow links as an indication of paid content meant that many SEO’s wrote them off as completely worthless. Buying and selling links went from a huge industry to occurring much less and since then most content creators and SEO’s have avoided nofollow links like the plague.

Do nofollow links have value?

For the reasons stated above, nofollow links do not have the same value as dofollow links, but that does not mean that they are worthless. In fact, they can be hugely beneficial to your site, traffic, and reputation.

5 Reasons why nofollow links have value

 

1.Brand awareness

Major publishers such as Forbes, The Huff Post, The Mail Online and The Sun have all been replacing all their external links with nofollow links for some time. Does this mean that earning a link from a publication like this is not worth your time? The short answer: No.

When you’re out there trying to make a name for your business, links from sites like these can have a huge impact on your brand awareness and reputation. A nofollow link might not get you the SEO benefits from this site but it does add to your credibility and get you in front of new audiences.

Getting your brand name in front of these new audiences is vital to growing a business, especially if you are just starting out or have a niche product. Sites like Forbes are also considered highly trustworthy, they have a lot of credibility with their audience and a little bit of that gets passed on when your name is mentioned on their site.

Audiences generally trust major publications and news sites because they are established and will generally only report on something of merit, that’s worth talking about. If a potential customer sees your name in a major publication this adds to your social proof and they are much more likely to convert at a later stage of the buyer journey.

Not only that, but content that is high quality and published on top tier sites has a much higher chance of going viral, getting shared and generating buzz around your brand. While there is no direct way to measure the impact that this has on SEO, it is clear that there is some as Gary Illyes, Google Webmaster Trends Analyst said at the 2017 BrightonSEO conference:

If you publish high-quality content that is highly cited on the internet — and I’m not talking about just links, but also mentions on social networks and people talking about your branding. Then you are doing great.

 

2.SEO

Google says that it doesn’t transfer PageRank or SEO value across links that have a nofollow attribute.

In their blog, Google have said:

In general, we don’t follow them. This means that Google does not transfer PageRank or anchor text across these links. Essentially, using nofollow causes us to drop the target links from our overall graph of the web.”

The key phrase to focus on in this quote is ‘in general,’ which indicated that Google may make exceptions from time to time. Most likely, Google knows that high quality sites such as Wikipedia can’t afford to link to low quality sources or they would lose their audience, so even if these links are nofollow (which all of wikis are) it may still take it into account and adjust that pages position in the SERPs accordingly.

Rand Fishkin from Moz, tested this assumption by pointing nofollow links at pages and measuring the effect it had on their ranking; concluding that there ‘may be a relationship between ranking increases and in-content, nofollow links’  

3.Having a diverse link portfolio

If your link portfolio is made up of all the same kind of links from just a few domains – even if they are from high DA sites – they will lose impact. Links to your site that consistently come from the same domains signals to search engines that the link juice that is being passed on to you is no more than link doping and that these links are being gained for the purpose of generating sales and not to provide high quality content to users.

A non-diverse link portfolio, even if it is built up of links from high DA sites, will end up having the opposite effect on your SEO than you would have hoped for, as Google will penalise your website rankings. Diversification is essential in link building and even if a nofollow link is not passing along link juice it is still building your link portfolio and not insisting on dofollow links means you can get a more diverse range.

Why do nofollow links have such a bad reputation?

4.Snowball links

The Mail Online, The Sun and a number of other big publications often get requests from other sites to use their content. A nofollow link on a site like this can easily snowball into a number of dofollow links from smaller sites.

Small publications often look to bigger publications for content, so your content will be viewed by a number of other journalists. If you are creating valuable content that would resonate with their audience, journalists will then ask permission to use this content on their own site.

You can ask for dofollow links from any journalists that make these requests and you may end up with a bunch of new dofollow links from a diverse range of sites off of one piece of content you were tempted not to give to a site because they didn’t want to give you a dofollow link.

Social media is another great snowball source; any content that gets a lot of shares or goes viral will end up in front of a few journalists. As the digital landscape changes, journalists are using social media more and more as a source for content so even though a successful social media post won’t get you ranking no.1 for your main keyword it might help you generate some dofollow links that will get you on your way to that goal.

5.Traffic is traffic no matter the HTML attribute

Nofollow links will generate the same amount of referral traffic to your site as they would have if they were dofollow.

The nofollow attribute does nothing to stop users clicking through to your site, making referral traffic one of the biggest benefits of nofollow links. If you get a nofollow link from a site like HuffPost, that almost exclusively uses nofollow links, that still has a lot of value in the traffic that it will generate for your site. Huge publications like this have massive audiences and you will be getting in front of them giving you a much higher chance of driving traffic to your site.

For example, in WordStreams link bait case study, they created a piece of content with the intention to generate links and traffic. The article they created used buzzworthy topics like social media and a news topic of an upcoming senate race that generated a lot of buzz and was linked to on sites like The New York Times and Politico, both of which were nofollow links.

The New York Times is one of the most trusted and most visited new sites in the U.S and as a result of getting a nofollow link on their site they saw the referral traffic quadruple, with thousands of pageviews in hours. A clear example of just how valuable these kinds of links can be in getting in front of new audiences and driving people to your website.

 

Nofollow links are certainly far from worthless. There are loads of benefits to acquiring them especially if they come from top-tier sites that will then generate further links and traffic for you from your content.

Any link building plan should include nofollow links, they diversify your link portfolio can get you in front of some highly relevant audiences and drive traffic that could convert to customers to your site.

Need help with your next link building campaign. Get in touch with one of our Digital PR experts.

 

Person using search engine
1000 667 Jane Hunt

The 3 elements of SEO success

There are hundreds of ranking factors that determine where your website sits on Googles search engine results pages (SERPS). Most of them fit into three key areas, that if you improve you should see your site ranking higher for relevant search terms.

 

Technical SEO

Possibly the most important part of SEO is Google (or any search engines) crawlers being able to find your website. Without being able to find your site there is no way for Google to be able to show it in their search results.

Not only does Google need to be able to find your site but it also needs to be able to crawl the content on it. By scanning your site it can identify keywords and the topic of your site so it can be displayed in appropriate SEPRs.

You might look at your site and think because you can see everything on your site without a problem Google can too. However, Googles crawlers can only crawl text – this means any nice images, audio, or other media you have Google can’t see.

This is where technical/onsite SEO comes in; it helps Google index your content.

 

Elements of technical SEO:

Navigation

Google crawls sites the same way you would – through the navigation and links. Ensuring all vital pages are linked (as text-only) means Google can find all of your important content and index it. Having internal links within your pages means that Google will also be able to find your less important content that isn’t directly linked in the navigation such as blog posts.

 

Page displaying 404 error

Links

Broken links can be bad for SEO but also for user experience. If you click on a link and get the 404 – ‘Page not found’ error then you need to redirect to either the new version of the page or an alternative page if that page is no longer available. This stops you losing valuable traffic and means once the crawler has clicked on that link it hasn’t reached a dead end and can keep crawling your site.  

 

URL structure effects SEO

URL structure

Both search engines and your users don’t like lengthy URLs or a URL that ends with a random string of characters or with a complicated structure. They are confusing and spammy; instead you should focus on creating sort, clear URL’s that have the focus keyword of the page included in them.

Page load times

Page speed can have a huge impact on user experience; a survey conducted by Akamai and Gomez.com showed that nearly half of web users expect a page to load in 2 seconds or less, and they tend to abandon a site that isn’t loaded in this time.

Not only is a slow site bad for your users but it is ranking factor for Google on desktop, and since July 2018 the Google Speed Update means its a ranking factor for mobile as well.

 

Content

Content is King – you’re probably sick of hearing it, but it’s true. Whenever you enter a search term into Google you are searching for content, this might come in different formats – infographics, videos, podcasts, blog posts – but its all content.

For SEO, content is what gets you visibility in results pages. This is because your content is providing answers to users search queries.

Regardless of what is being searched for the results are going to bring up some form of content. It might be different forms of content but it’s all content; having content published is the only way to appear in search results.

While crawling the page Google determines the topic of the page so that it can display it in relevant search queries. It will also determine the quality of the page through things like page length and structure, with higher quality pages displayed higher in the search results.

Keyword research

Keyword research is a way you can optimise your content for search engines. It can help you attract high quality and relevant traffic that will be more likely to turn into leads and convert into customers.

By discovering what phrases your potential customers are entering into search engines when looking for products or services like the ones you offer, you can then target those keywords and include them in your content for better search engine visibility.

On page SEO

On page SEO helps Google crawlers understand the page it’s on and mainly focuses on the words you use and where you use them.

  • Post title: place your keyword as close to the start of the title as possible
  • URL: include your keyword and remove your stop words
  • First 100 words: finding the keyword at the beginning of your page helps Google know that the page topic is correct
  • Atl tags: search engines can’t see images so using your keyword in alt tags helps add SEO value to your images

Link Building

Relevance, expertise, and authority are key factors that Google’s algorithm takes into consideration when ranking pages.

Backlinks can help you establish all three of these.

A backlink is content on another site that links to a page on your site.

 

Example of content linking back to JBH website

 

For example, the article above on unbounce features an infographic that our agency created so it links back to our site.

This link comes from a site relevant to ours (covering the same topic; content marketing) which provides more authority than coming from a random and irrelevant domain.

The more high quality links your site has the more of an authority on your topic you appear to Gooogle which is why when building links for SEO it’s not about quantity but quality.

Guest post JBH did for The CMA

Guest post JBH did for The CMA

Ways to generate links for your site:

  • Organic links: links that come organically from sites referencing great content you have created
  • Outreach: contact websites and pitching them ideas for content that they will find valuable and feature on their site that you can put a link back to your own site in
  • Guest posting: publishing a blog post on a third party website in return for being able to add a link back to your site in the post
  • Profile links: many websites offer the ability to add a link when setting up a profile.

 

These elements are responsible for your sites SEO success, by making effort to improve each one of them then you’ll start to see better rankings in the SERPS and in turn more high-quality traffic that will convert into customers.

 

Want to learn more about SEO and where it’s heading in future? Check out our key takeaways from this years BrightonSEO conference.

 

BrightonSEO front window
1024 538 Jane Hunt

BrightonSEO: What we learned

BrightonSEO is a twice-yearly search marketing conference that welcomes 4,000 SEOs from across the globe to listen to some of the world’s top search marketers discuss the future of the industry.

For their September event, the conference chose a slogan of ‘Understand algorithms, understand the future’ and, of course, this meant they had a Back to the Future theme. Kelvin Newman, the conference’s founder, even came onstage to open the conference wearing a pair of Nike self-lace shoes and carrying a pink hoverboard.

 

the Delorean at brightonSEO

Source: Twitter

 

The conference bought in professionals from all backgrounds in digital marketing to give some great talks and share their keen insight into various aspects of the industry, covering everything from voice search to content strategy.

 

Key takeaways from BrightonSEO:

  • Web design is an important element of SEO. It helps build trust with your audience and provides them with a better user experience – user experience metrics (such as time spent on page) are having a greater ranking influence than ever before.

 

  • Inputting clients first party data into Facebook audience insights can give you insight into their audience, such as who they are, what they’re interested in and what they’ll engage with.

 

  • FOI (Freedom of Information) Requests can be used to gain access to public information that can help with idea generation and pitches to journalists.

 

  • 78% of online audiences are already watching Facebook Live videos.

 

  • Finding broken links to your competitor’s site and offering to replace them with your own content is a great tactic for keeping link building cheap.

 

  • When pitching to a journalist, don’t assume who their audience is, study their publications media and what you find might surprise you – The Daily Mails audience is 78% millennials, 68% mums, 6/10 are foodies.

 

  • Reputation is a ranking factor.

 

  • Related videos and Browse/Featured sections on YouTube are bigger sources of traffic than organic search.

 

  • For every 10 organic clicks on the SERPs, there are 8.8 searches that end in no clicks.

 

  • Google is monopolising its advertising space and trying to answer queries in the SERPS so now is the time to make your website the centre of your campaigns.

 

Rand Fishkin's Keynote at BrightonSEO

Source: Twitter

Highlights

Even though his talk encountered a few technical difficulties, Rand Fishkin’s keynote was one of the standout talks of the day. He covered the future of SEO, focusing primarily on the SEPRs, in a funny, if not slightly cynical 30-minute presentation, that delivered a ton of interesting insights into how Google has started taking advantage of its over 90% search market share.

 

Other highlights included a look into Data Journalism by Ross Tavendale, Marie Haynes dive into Google’s Quality Raters’ Guidelines and Laura Hogans presentation on Using Your Competitors For Free Links.

 

Want to learn more about optimising your content for search results? Check out our post on why content auditing is essential for SEO

Find PR Opportunities Using Twitter
1000 563 Perri Robinson

4 Simple Ways to Find PR Opportunities Using Twitter

Adweek reported that journalists make up 25% of verified accounts on Twitter.

The platform is swamped with the exact people PR pros are trying to reach, offering vast potential for PR opportunities. With that being said, not all of us know how to capitalise on Twitter with PR in mind. Here we discuss 4 ways to do exactly that!

Increase PR Opportunities Following These 4 Tips

1. Following relevant hashtags

Due to the real-time nature of Twitter, many journalists use the platform to help build on their stories since their requests are answered by the community quickly. Hashtags such as #PRrequest and  #JournoRequest are awash with potential PR opportunities. Simply pop the hashtags into the Twitter search bar.

If you want to make the search more relevant, you can use Twitter’s advanced search console to add more keywords. For example “#PRrequest” and “fashion”. This will help you filter out the noise and find PR opportunities that are more applicable to your company.

 

Twitter Advanced Search

 

Twitter Advanced Search

 

Those using a social media monitoring tool such as Meltwater can do the same, with the added benefit of receiving real-time alerts. Alerts are sent straight to your email to ensure you’re the first to know when any applicable PR opportunities come about.

2. Connect with Industry Thought Leaders

The message you’re trying to push via PR has more chance of pick up if you include another credible source to help tell the story. Connect with industry thought leaders (not just journalists) on social media and start nurturing the relationship with project collaboration in mind.

Chances are the thought leaders in your field are influencers in their own right. This means competition to get their attention will be high. To overcome this, you need to start acting like the advocate you claim to be. This can be achieved through relationship nurturing. Increase your number of PR opportunities by using the below influencer nurture flow as a guide.

Nurturing Pathway

 

If you engage little and often, gradually building up the engagement, your brand will be top of their mind. Taking the longer route isn’t for everyone, but if you’re organised and start the nurture process before you need to work with them, the relationship will be way more organic and authentic. Remember, mutual respect for one another doesn’t appear overnight.

Additional thought leader outreach tips:

  • Ensure the thought leaders you choose are active on social media so you can benefit from their reach
  • Never make the first contact with them about you and your brand. Instead, comment on their blogs or articles and share their content (ego boosts never hurt anyone).
  • Download their whitepapers, subscribe to their blog, ask them questions to show your genuine interest in what they cover
  • Deliver added value by answering their community’s questions to.

 

3. Follow Other Twitter User’s Twitter Lists


Feeling like you’ve exhausted your black book of contacts? Don’t reinvent the wheel and create more work for yourself by manually searching for new journalists to connect with. Instead, follow other Twitter user’s Twitter lists!

The beauty of a Twitter list is that you don’t have to create it yourself to benefit from it. By keeping an eye on relevant Twitter lists so you can identify new journalists – and therefore new PR opportunities!

Here’s an example of Marketing Week’s list of journalists.

Marketing Week Twitter Profile

 

You can find useful Twitter lists by looking at your competitor’s Twitter profile, as well as looking at the lists the influencers have been added to – not the lists they’ve created. You can do this by going to their Twitter profile, click ‘lists’ then ‘member of’. Chances are those lists are full of similar people – helping you to widen your search for journalists.

 

4. Follow Breaking News

We’re seeing a shift in how we consume news.

Since the introduction of Twitter, more and more stories break here first, rather than in the papers. Again, this is due to the real-time nature of Twitter and how community members use the platform. The pic below demonstrates this nicely!

Examples of tone of voice for various social media platforms

 

Journalists are using Twitter to keep up with what’s going on. This is most likely why they make up a quarter of all verified accounts. We can use this Twitter characteristic to our advantage.

Set up a social listening search and monitor conversations occurring in your industry before they hit the news. That way, you can flag the potential story, along with your expert quote, to journalists. Making their lives easier can only benefit your relationship with them, even if they don’t always pick the story up. Repetition of your message helps to reinforce what you do and position you as the source of authority – and with brand, credibility comes more PR opportunities!

Want to discover more savvy ways to increase PR opportunities? Read our eBook!

The Savvy PR Pros Guide to Media Intelligence e-book

Digital PR: How to put a smile on a journalists face
1000 667 Aran Jackson

Digital PR: How to put a smile on a journalist’s face

Any agencies, freelancers or brands involved in digital PR and outreach know how stressful it can be to spend so much time researching, ideating, creating content, pitching it and then not hearing anything back from a journalist – not even a squeak.

And there are so many things that could have contributed to its failing:

  • The subject line
  • The salutation
  • The opening pitch
  • Lack of relevant angle or hook
  • Wrong tone of voice
  • Too much copy
  • Bad formatting
  • Or just purely bad timing (how many OOO’s do you get in July/August?!)

So you end up split testing your subject lines, trialling different openers and sending all of this to as many relevant journalists and sites as possible, just hoping one will land and pave the way for more.

And then, one day you work on a campaign topic that the whole nation is talking about and the little lightbulb goes off in your head, flickering with excitement and you think…

“Yes, this is my chance to write a really funny outreach email, the ultimate outreach email – one that will make journalists chuckle.”

 

Digital PR and outreach email example

 

And it does the trick…

 

digital PR and outreach email reply

 

And another…

 

positive digital PR and outreach email reply

 

Obviously, their head wasn’t turned – but we’ll take the praise…

 

Not interested digital PR and outreach reply

 

Not a bit of them ?

 

great email digital PR and outreach reply

 

So while we wait and see whether we get pied off, we have learnt something. We’ve learnt that in a world where we receive so many emails (we receive our fair share of bad pitches too – mostly for guest blogging), if you can write an email – especially a humorous one that creates an instant connection with top-tier journalists, then that’s half the battle won.

And even if the content isn’t right for them, we still got their attention in a positive way and each future email can be followed up with “Oi, oi…”

 

Let’s hope we’re 100% their type on paper email in the future! ???

If this sharing of a small moment in our world has got you thinking, then spend a bit more time with us and read our definitive guide to digital PR

 

Digital PR apps
1024 683 Jane Hunt

Want to be a digital PR pro? These 5 apps will help

When it comes to digital PR, no two days are the same…

Whether it’s researching opportunities, putting together proposals, finding the right media contacts, or keeping track of campaigns, you’ve probably got an ever-changing to-do list that shows no signs of getting any smaller.

But this is where you need to work smarter, not harder. More so than ever before, PR professionals are able to call upon a cavalcade of tools to not only manage their everyday duties, but also improve and optimise them for the very best results.

Here are 5 of our favourite apps for digital PR pros…

 

1. Trello

Free to $20.83 per user/month

This all-in-one organisational platform enables you to organise and prioritise projects with the greatest of ease. Trello’s uncluttered dashboard provides a transparent overview of what you’re working on, who else is involved, and what stage the project is at.

Handy features like checklists and deadlines ensure you’re always on top of everything, while the ability to collaborate and communicate with others is invaluable. You’ll only need to use Trello a few times before it becomes the very first app you open.

Digital PR app - Trello

 

2. Meltwater

Pricing on request

Whereas some digital PR apps prevent our minds from going mad, others do what the human brain is simply incapable of. Take Meltwater for example, which decodes billions of digital documents from the industry’s largest database of global media, social media, and online content to deliver big picture trends.

In other words, you’ll receive all of your media mentions in one place, which are backed-up by intuitive dashboards, invaluable insights, and one-click reports.

You’re also given the tools to connect with key influencers and generate ready-made reports.

Digital PR app - Meltwater

 

3. Canva

Free

Even the most unimaginative or unartistic PR pro can create visually stunning graphics with the help of Canva. It’s also incredibly easy to use thanks to a drag-and-drop system for layouts, elements, texts, and uploads.

Next time you need to grab your audience’s attention with an Instagram post, impress stakeholders with an internal presentation, or excite attendees with an event invitation, head over to Canva.

Digital PR app - Canva

 

4. PressReader

Free (From $1 per paper)

PressReader is one of those apps you’ll find yourself using outside of work again and again. Along with delivering an endless stream of relevant news stories to your smartphone, it also enables you to keep track of client mentions in the print publications you don’t receive.

It also eliminates the need to manually clip articles (hang your head in shame if you’re still doing this). Simply search the name of your client, select the publications you’re interested in, and capture those all important press clippings.

Digital PR app - PressReader

 

5. Buffer

Free to US$399 per month

Quite possibly the easiest, most efficient tool for social media management. Buffer is a one-stop-shop for scheduling, posting, and switching between your Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts.

But that’s not all. You can also create social media calendars, schedule custom posts for each platform, track your top-performing content for future repurposing, and give your followers visual stimulation with native support for video and GIFs.

Digital PR app - Buffer

 

Need additional help? Check out our digital PR services to see how you could gain more relevant, authoritative links.

Is Digital PR Getting Harder?
1000 667 JBH

Is Digital PR getting harder? [Article]

Is digital PR getting harder? In some ways yes, but it’s not all bad news. Stay committed to good storytelling and embrace the winds of change – they bring a broad range of new and exciting opportunities.

For those of us working with brands, the question of whether or not it is getting harder to get coverage is an important one. As digital PR continues to evolve, just keeping up can feel like a challenge. With help from some key PR influencers, we address some of the most common fears about whether or not the industry is getting more difficult to navigate.

 

The first PR campaign on record was the work of Edward Bernays back in 1929. Down in the history books as the ‘father of public relations,’ Bernays was employed by Lucky Strike to convince women to smoke. Bernays wanted to show women that smoking cigarettes was not only respectable, but a step in the right direction in the fight for equality. He paid his secretary Bertha Hunt to smoke on a crowded street during the Easter Parade. While people were initially scandalised, other young women soon followed suit brandishing their ‘torches of freedom’.  A few ads claiming cigs were great for those watching their figures and BOOM –  Lucky Strike sales had doubled by the end of the year.

Today things are a bit harder. Back in the good old days the lunches were long and boozy, KPIs were an afterthought and getting coverage was a piece of cake. Then digital came along and everything got a bit murkier. As print slides ever more out of fashion, today most of us are out chasing those elusive backlinks – and they’re getting harder to catch all the time. Linked closely with content for SEO and link-building strategies, the rules for Digital PR seem to change on a day-by-day basis. People expect more compelling content, the pace of change is accelerating and yesterday’s news was forgotten before yesterday lunchtime.

For those of us working with brands, the question of whether or not it is getting harder to get links and coverage is an important one. As digital PR continues to evolve, just keeping up can feel like a challenge. Since launching as an agency back in 2013, we have often found ourselves discussing changes in the landscape and the state of the industry with our colleagues and clients. Has it really got harder to make an impact, or are we imagining it? What are the new challenges faced by those working in PR  and how can we turn them to our advantage?

Some things never change. Whether you specialise in link-building or traditional media relations, everything comes back to the essential need for strong storytelling. As for the rest of it, it’s simply a matter of navigating modern challenges and turning them into opportunities.

With help from some industry influencers, we guide you through some of the concerns shared by those in the industry and advise on how you can turn them to your advantage.

 

CHALLENGE 1

Things that once seemed new, now seem old

They grow up so fast. The internet is 28 years old now but many of us are old enough to remember when it was new and exciting. Online shopping is 23 years old, the blog is 23 and with ‘Dancing Baby’ being the best thing about 1996, the viral video is 21 – almost a responsible adult! As publishers started to wake up to the power of the internet, the volume of online content grew exponentially. This has its pros and cons.

 41% of people (and 33% of millennials) claim to feel overwhelmed by the sheer wealth of content choice on the internet.

With so much content out there, it’s getting hard to surprise audiences with something new.

Make it work for you Don’t rely on cheap tricks and trends with a fast-approaching expiration date. If you have to spend time on refining that angle or money on sourcing that quality data, do it. To ensure you tell a strong story, stay authentic to your brand and its voice but also think about the sites you are targeting and the issues that really matter to their audiences. Embrace new technologies like AR, VR and chatbots, but to keep those links flying in, focus on getting creative with existing formats. Make sure you have a good story to tell – then tell it in a creative way.

“Has public relations really changed or is it that we just have various new definitions for what is essentially traditional PR? Influencer outreach, content marketing, stakeholder management – these are all classed as more modern PR tactics but they’ve actually been about for years under the umbrella banner of ‘Communications’. Yes, the platforms on which we unleash various campaigns are now wider than ever before, but the arsenal of tools available to the modern day PR professional makes tracking this work far easier than in days gone by. Not dark social though, that’s a whole new barrel of giggles for modern PR folk.”

 

CHALLENGE 2

More background noise

With new agencies sprouting every five minutes and more content uploaded in an hour than anyone could read in a million years, competition is stronger than ever.

400 hours of video are shared online every minute – and that’s just one format. [Expanded Ramblings]

Make it work for you For standout content embrace creativity, weirdness and trends for stand-out content. Make the most of your in-house talent. If you make great video content, work tirelessly to stay up-to-date with trends and refine your skills even more and build your reputation in that area. Obvious but effective.

“It is possible to have too much of a good thing. Sorting the wheat from the chaff is a huge challenge for communicators now more than ever. Everybody has the ability to access so much material instantly without going through traditional media channels, filtered by ‘professionals’. Equally, this means the opportunity for PR people to get their content directly to audiences without passing it through filters.”

 

CHALLENGE 3

More channels and platforms

As audiences flock to more channels and platforms every day it can be hard to know where to invest your time and energy

Make it work for you There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to this one – your strategy should be tailored to the specific needs of the business. Rank social networks according to where the brand’s audience currently is and where they are likely to be in the future. Don’t just look at numbers but at engagement, demographic patterns, organic activity, alignment with the core product and content.

“New forms of media have supplemented and become a channel for old. Modern relations practitioners must be able to work across all forms of media, and paid and earned. Media relations is making way for influencer relations. Journalists in almost every category have been augmented by so-called influencers that have built their own networks on reputation.”

 

CHALLENGE 4

Harder-to-impress journos

Journalists are so bombarded with pitches and requests (see Challenge 2) that it’s hard to get a response – let alone a feature.

Make it work for you The biggest complaint from journalists is that brands and agencies are sending impersonal emails pitching ideas and content that bear little to no relevance on their site/ publication. Spend time personalising your emails and targeting your content well. Try making the most of new and exciting contacts by asking if there are any specific topics they want covered and shape your campaigns and content around their needs.

“More and more PR pros are chasing fewer and fewer journalists. Journalists are being swamped with ‘spam’ press releases. It’s time the PR industry took their research more seriously and tailored their pitches. 90% of what is distributed needs to be cut out and the other 10% sharpened up.”

 

CHALLENGE 5

Jaded audiences

As content online gets ever more varied, authentic and often bizarre – audiences have more or less seen it all.

Make it work for you Packaging your content in the right way works, promoting it innovatively helps but it will all be for nothing if the angle doesn’t work. Finding a strong, unique angle may take time, more time than any other part of the process, but it is time well spent. Gather your whole team together, even those not usually involved in the content-producing process and try out some new brainstorming techniques. Our current favourite is the ‘hat’ or parallel-thinking method.

“Being able to target particular demographics means we’re still able to ‘shock and awe’. If all you’re trying to do is shock someone, you first need to select an audience that will react to seeing such a thing. By segmenting your audience, you’re able to more accurately predict how people will react.”

CHALLENGE 6

We’re so busy!

Technology has created a fast-paced 24/7 environment where PR pros are under pressure to be flexible and strong in multiple disciplines.

Make it work for you Try partnering up with other people to help bolster each other’s skillsets and relieve some of the pressure. Embrace change and stay flexible and open-minded. PR involves more tasked with the advent of social and digital media – but that’s also why PR is becoming more credible as a discipline – more value. Monitoring and responding in real time to negative sentiment on social and digital channels has become the norm for PR practitioners, consumers might knowingly or unknowingly become the catalyst for a major scandal, look at the American Airlines fiasco.

“At JBH, we think about PR holistically – it’s no longer a separate discipline with different objectives. PR is now so closely aligned with SEO, social and influencer marketing, it makes sense to combine strategy and activity.”

CHALLENGE 7

We’re drowning in data

We know the importance of an analytical approach but it’s hard to know where to find tools that pull the PR value out of all the data.  

Make it work for you It already is! Today we hear news in real time and have access to everything we could possibly want to know about audience trends and behaviours.No one has time to analyse it all – pick three metrics (e.g. backlink profiles) that correspond to your goals and check on them religiously.

“PR is becoming more scientific and data-driven – this is a good thing. Content needs to be relevant, with clear benefits and actions. PRs are now starting to track the effect of their output and feed this back into doing things better.”

CHALLENGE 8

Our job roles are changing

We’re all under pressure to learn more skills, our roles are entangled and everyone is stepping on eachother’s toes.

Make it work for you No one can do it all. Work with your strengths and take the time to really listen to new professionals as well as those from other disciplines. Accept help and offer yours to others. Stay receptive to change, no matter how long you’ve been in the industry.

“Time served is the typical measure of competence in public relations. It’s a lousy metric in a business that is moving so quickly. I’ve 20 years in practice but my social media listening skills are a work in progress and I’m lousy at visual community management. The Global Alliance recently published a global competency model. It needs to be developed and adopted as a standard by organisations and industry bodies. Practitioners need to sign up to continuous learning.”

We hope this has helped answer any questions you might have about the changing nature of digital PR. Every industry changes but the rules of good PR remain the same. Keep your finger on the pulse. Deliver the right stories to the right people at the right time. Embrace change and keep good storytelling at the heart of everything you do.

 

Happy link-building!

Digital PR: Is it Getting Harder?
1000 667 Jane Hunt

Digital PR: Is it Getting Harder? [Infographic]

For those of us working with brands, the question of whether or not it is getting harder to get coverage is an important one. As digital PR continues to evolve, just keeping up can feel like a challenge.

With help from some key PR influencers, our new infographic addresses some of the most common concerns about the present and future of the digital PR industry.

Digital PR is it getting harder?

 

Transcript

Digital PR: Is it getting harder?

Is digital PR getting harder? In some ways yes, but it’s not all bad news. Stay committed to good storytelling and embrace change – it brings a broad range of new and exciting opportunities.

For those of us working with brands, the question of whether or not it is getting harder to get coverage is an important one. As digital PR continues to evolve, just keeping up can feel like a challenge.

With help with some key PR influencers, we guide you through some of the biggest challenges in digital PR and show you how to turn them to your advantage.

CHALLENGE 1

Things that once seemed new, now seem old

What’s the problem? With so much great content out there, it’s getting hard to surprise audiences with something new.

Make it work for you Embrace new technologies like AR, VR and chatbots, but to keep those links flying in, focus on getting creative with existing formats. If you have to spend time on refining that angle or money on sourcing that quality data, do it and stick with strong stories that are authentic to your brand and your target audience.

New definitions

“Has public relations really changed or is it that we just have various new definitions for what is essentially traditional PR?”

New Tools

“The arsenal of tools available to the modern day PR professional makes tracking this work far easier!”

New challenges

“Dark Social, that is a whole new barrel of giggles for modern PR folk.”

Andy Barr, Owner, 10 Yetis

CHALLENGE 2

More background noise

What’s the problem? With new agencies sprouting every five minutes and 400 hours of video shared every one,  competition is stronger than ever.

Make it work for you For standout content embrace creativity, weirdness and trends. Make the most of your in-house talent. If you make great video content, work tirelessly to stay up-to-date with trends and refine your skills to build your reputation in that area. Obvious but effective.

More Noise

“Everybody has the ability to access so much material instantly without going through traditional media channels, filtered by ‘professionals’

#Nofilter

There’s an opportunity for PR people to get their content directly to audiences without going through filters.”

Quality not quantity

“The challenge is to find out how our stories are best received. It’s not (just) about quantity, it’s about quality.”

Mike Love, PR Adviser, Burson-Marsteller

CHALLENGE 3

More channels and platforms

What’s the problem? As audiences flock to more channels and platforms every day it can be hard to know where to invest your time and energy

Make it work for you Rank social networks according to where the brand’s audience currently is and where they are likely to be in the future. Don’t just look at numbers but at engagement, demographic patterns, organic activity, alignment with the core product and content.

Be Flexible

“Modern relations practitioners must be able to work across all forms of media, and paid and earned.”

Reputation counts

“Media relations is making way for influencer relations. Journalists are working with influencers that have built their own networks on reputation.”

Be persistent

“Be absolutely persistent in your prospecting – but not annoying.”

Stephen Waddington, Partner and Chief Engagement Advisor, Ketchum
CHALLENGE 4

Harder-to-impress journos

What’s the problem? Journalists are so bombarded with pitches and requests (see Challenge 2) that it’s hard to get a response – let alone a feature.

Make it work for you Nearly 25% of email pitches are rejected by journalists for being too impersonal [Cision]. Personalise your emails and target your content so it’s relevant to your chosen site and its audience. Ask contacts if there are any specific topics they want covered and shape your campaigns and content around their needs.

How can you impress journalists with so much noise?

Quality PRs

“More and more PR pros are chasing fewer and fewer journalists. Journalists are being swamped with ‘spam’ press releases.”

Thorough research

“It’s time the PR industry took their research more seriously and tailored their pitches.”

Look Sharp

“90% of what is distributed needs to be cut out and the other 10% sharpened up.”

Michael Davies, Director, Roxhill Media

CHALLENGE 5

Jaded audiences

What’s the problem? As content online gets ever more varied, authentic and often bizarre – audiences have more or less seen it all.

Make it work for you Packaging your content in the right way works and promoting it innovatively helps but it will all be for nothing if the angle doesn’t work. Finding a strong, unique angle may take time, but it is time well spent. Gather your whole team together and try out some new brainstorming techniques. Our current favourite is the ‘hat’ or parallel-thinking method.

How do we surprise jaded audiences?

Target practice

“By being able to target particular demographics, we’re still able to ‘shock and awe’.”

Shock tactics

“If all you’re trying to do is shock someone, you first need to select an audience that will react to seeing such a thing.”

Mystic PRs

“By segmenting your audience, you’re able to more accurately predict how people will react.”

Quentin Langley – Author of Brand Jack, Chair of Global Affairs Committee PRSA

CHALLENGE 6

We’re so busy!

Technology has created a fast-paced 24/7 environment where PR pros are under pressure to be flexible and strong in multiple areas.

Make it work for you Try partnering up with other people to help bolster each other’s skillsets and take off some of the pressure. Social media and digital have made things more complicated but have brought infinitely more value – making PR far more credible as a discipline.

How can we work efficiently when we’re so busy?

Think Holistic

“At JBH, we think about PR holistically – we no longer see it as a separate discipline with different objectives.”

Work Together

“PR is now so closely aligned with SEO, social and influencer marketing, it makes sense to combine strategy and activity…”

Repurpose

“… This can provide brands with more opportunities to repurpose content and campaigns – plus it can lighten the workload!”

Jane Hunt, Marketing Director, JBH

CHALLENGE 7

We’re drowning in data

We know the importance of an analytical approach but it’s hard to know where to find tools that pull the PR value out of all the data.  

Make it work for you It already is! Today we hear news in real time and have access to everything we could possibly want to know about audience trends and behaviours. No one has time to analyse it all – pick three metrics (e.g. backlink profiles) that correspond to your goals and check on them religiously.

Is PR becoming more data driven?

Driven by data

“PR is becoming more scientific and data driven – a good thing. Content needs to be relevant, with clear benefits and actions”

Track stars

“PRs are now starting to track the effect of their output and feed this back into doing things better.”

Maud Davis, PR Trainer and Consultant, mauddavis.com

CHALLENGE 8

Our job roles are changing

What’s the problem? We’re all under pressure to learn more skills, our roles are entangled and everyone is stepping on eachother’s toes.

Make it work for you No one can do it all. Work with your strengths and listen to new professionals as well as those from other disciplines. Accept help and offer yours to others. Stay receptive to change, no matter how long you’ve been in the industry.

How can we adapt to our changing roles?

Age v Beauty

“Time served is the typical measure of competence in public relations – a lousy metric in a business moving so quickly.”

Self-improvement

“I’ve 20 years in practice but my social media listening skills are a work in progress and I’m not great at visual community management.”

Continuous learning

“Practitioners need to invest in continuous learning – pushing themselves to learn new things wherever possible.”

Stephen Waddington, Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum

 

Happy link-building!