Link Building

1000 666 Lauren Wilden

The benefits of newsjacking in digital PR

When it comes to the daily tasks of a typical digital PR strategist, there is a never-ending list of plates to spin, and jobs to keep on top of. 

Making sure clients KPI’s are being met, that multiple campaigns are on track, and that high-quality and relevant links are being built are all vitally important, of course. But the truth is, we can sometimes get so caught up with data, design and outreach planning, that we miss some golden opportunities to build instant links with nothing more than some well-timed expert-led commentary and insight.

So, if newsjacking isn’t already a part of that plate-spinning process when it comes to your link-building strategy, then I’m here today to explain to you why it absolutely needs to be.

What is newsjacking?

First of all, let’s determine what exactly constitutes newsjacking, understand how it differs from reactive PR efforts, and look into why it should be a vital component offered to your digital PR clients, no matter what sector they operate within.

A quick Google search will give you the following definition of newsjacking:

“The practice of taking advantage of current events or news stories in such a way as to promote or advertise one’s product or brand.” 

Sounds pretty straightforward doesn’t it? Simply take the biggest news headlines or trending topics on social media, and find a way for your client to piggyback on the discussion with their own knowledge.

Oh, if only it were as simple as that…

The trouble with newsjacking is that pretty much EVERY PR person with clients in a similar field – regardless of whether they work on the digital or traditional side – will be consuming the same news outlets as you, and waiting to strike as soon as a relevant opportunity arises.

The sheer amount of competition from other PR’s with the same overall goal therefore means that your own efforts need to be as interesting, newsworthy and relevant as possible, in order to cut through the noise and grab the attention of the journalists on your newsjacking media lists. Because trust me, if your subject link and opening sentence doesn’t immediately grab them, those links aren’t coming your way.

 

Importance of newsjacking in the current climate

Whilst newsjacking has always been a vital component of any digital PR strategy, the circumstances of the past year and half surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic have only served to emphasise its importance even more.

With the world put on hold, and the majority of us forced to stay indoors during lockdown, a huge number of carefully planned PR campaigns and stunts were thrown into total disarray.

On a more positive note, the ever-changing and unpredictable nature of the media landscape during the height of lockdown also meant that there were daily opportunities for us PR’s to find various ways for our clients to become part of the dialogue, and comment on a range of important matters relating to the pandemic.

Normally, there are very few scenarios where a tragedy resulting in such global devastation would justify a newsjacking opportunity, but COVID has been a notable exception as an ongoing topic that impacts almost every individual, company and industry around the globe.

In recent months, as the travel industry has been preparing to allow passengers to start enjoying international travel once again, there has been no shortage of opportunities for digital PR’s to offer up advice and bring awareness to a client brand.

Below is just a small selection of the links we’ve built for our client money.co.uk in recent weeks reacting instantly to breaking news within the UK travel sector:

How can you use newsjacking to stand out from the crowd?

As briefly touched upon above, the level of competition we face from our digital PR and wider marketing industry peers when it comes to newsjacking content is fierce; and with a number of larger agencies now employing specific individuals and teams with the sole purpose of gaining coverage and links through the tactic, it’s getting increasingly tougher.

That being said, there are a number of different techniques you can implement and improve upon over time to ensure your clients newsjacking efforts generate coverage and links:

1. Know your clients industry inside out 

In order to keep abreast of the trends, breaking stories and topics that your clients that realistically offer newsworthy and insightful commentary on, you need to have a firm grasp on what their experts are qualified to speak with authority on.

Familiarise yourself with any previous newsjacking or reactive material they may have previously outreached in order to understand the correct tone of voice. It’s also worth swotting up on their website and blog content in depth as there is every chance you’ll be able to take inspiration from this when drafting up a comment for sign off, and for knowing if a story is worth them commenting on in the first place.

You can never have too much information on your clients or the industries they operate within. For planned newsjacking opportunities, where you can easily predict what the media will be focusing on (a global sporting or political event for example), give yourself a head start by setting up google alerts relating to the topic you want to newsjack, consume what’s already been written, and try to offer something different or unique to what’s previously gained traction.

2. Update media lists regularly 

It’s all well and good constructing a fantastic comment then having it signed off by a client in record time, but if you’re not sending it to the right contacts at your target publications, then honestly what’s the point in all your hard work and efforts?

Relying on media lists crafted more than a month or two ago is arguably going to have a detrimental effect on the chances of you landing coverage. Not only do online journalists regularly move publications, roles and shifts, but there will also be key contacts that will fail to receive your newsjacking comment if you don’t keep your eye on who is writing about what, where and when.

3. Be smart with your subject line

A well-crafted and enticing subject line is fundamental to ensuring that a busy journalist dealing with literally HUNDREDS of PR emails each day bothers to open your email, so you need to make sure it’s as powerful as possible and that your client can add some real value to an ongoing conversation.

Don’t bother trying to come up with any clever alliteration or puns to try and make a newsjacking email stand-out – the chances are they won’t be appreciated. Instead, simply state exactly what it is you’re sending and by whom, for example:

National rail introduces season tickets for part-time commuters: money.co.uk offers insight on cost-effectiveness for consumers

Or…

“Greece & Spain give green light on foreign travel: money.co.uk tips on securing best exchange rates this Summer”

4. Be tactful

A risk with newsjacking, due to how fast-paced PR’s need to be, is that comments circulated are deemed reckless or off-brand. As PR strategists, it’s our responsibility to only suggest newsjacking opportunities to clients where they can genuinely offer an authoratative and trusted reaction or insight to a news story or trending topic.

All too often PR’s fall into the trap of encouraging their clients to react to everything and anything, even when it barely relates to their industry, sector or product offering. Personally, I believe this is nothing but a waste of time when it comes to building valuable links, time that could be spent wisely elsewhere generating relevant links and increasing brand awareness.

This JBH webinar  featuring Amie Sparrow, Head of Digital PR at Blue Array, covers what journalists are looking to be sent in a post-lockdown climate, and could very well offer you some great tips when it comes to your newsjacking efforts.

 

SEO benefits of newsjacking 

We wouldn’t be doing our job as digital PR’s if we didn’t strive to ensure our newsjacking efforts were geared towards the online publications and blogs most likely to include links back to our clients websites for positive SEO purposes.

In fact, some of the highest DA links to one client’s specific category pages we’ve generated in recent months have been thanks to newsjacking and giving journalists a reason to alert their audience to specific advice or content on a site.

SEO is essentially focused on making a website rank as high as possible in organic search rankings on Google and other search engines. Breaking stories that are dominating the news agenda will give certain keywords importance on Google due to how many people are already searching for it, and discussing it on their social media platforms.

By including these keywords and phrases in your newsjacking outreach and clients onsite content, this will hopefully, over time, help to give their pages the same level of importance and ultimately increase search result rankings.

 

Timing is everything when it comes to newsjacking

Newsjacking is a wonderfully simple and effective theory for a digital PR, and until you begin implementing it as part of your ongoing client strategy, it’s hard to fully comprehend just how tricky it can be to start generating results and links.

One of the the most challenging barriers I’ve personally encountered with newsjacking centres around timing, and being able to outreach comments and insight as quickly as possible after spotting a relevant opportunity.

In a perfect world, a client would be available via email, Slack, or Skype at all times to proof and sign off a newsjacking pitch or comment. Sadly, this is often not the case due to heavy workloads and meetings, and PR’s subsequently lose their small window of opportunity to successfully outreach.

Each breaking news alert is obviously unique depending on what it’s relating to and how many industries and demographics it impacts, but as a rule of thumb it’s wise to try and send out a newsjacking pitch no later than 90 minutes after a story breaks for the biggest chance of coverage.

For those wary of being able to persuade clients to sign off newsjacking comments quick enough to have an impact, here are a few tried and tested ways that could help to speed up the process:

1. Check in with your client immediately 

It can be tempting to begin drafting up a comment on behalf of a client as soon as you see a story break or a google alert come through, but in order to avoid any wasted time, I’d always recommend running your idea past a client first.

Not only does this give them the heads up that you’re working on something they will need to keep an eye on to look over ASAP, there is always a chance the hypothetical topic is something they want to refrain from commenting on, meaning none of your time will be wasted drafting anything up that doesn’t even get circulated.

2. Recycle previous content 

As much as I wish I could sit here and type that every single newsjacking opportunity I’ve worked on during my career so far has resulted in copious amounts of links and worldie coverage for clients past and present, that would, quite frankly, be a huge lie.

Fortunately, one thing I have learnt from the many times a comment I’ve worked on has failed to deliver any coverage, is that there is a very strong chance that the messages, tips or advice at the centre of the insight can be reworked at a later date for my clients benefit.

It may well need some edits or additions further down the line, but the advantage of having a base to start with next time should give you a head start in beating all the other PR’s to journalists inboxes.It’s therefore ALWAYS worth keeping any and all newsjacking pitches for future reference.

Similarly, if a newsjack that you work on performs particularly well, be sure to try and understand what it was about your pitch that helped it to land, and try to replicate in your future opportunities.

3. Assign newsjacking sign-off elsewhere 

When working on digital PR for a client on the smaller side, regular communication is often only with one or two individuals from the business. If these contacts hold senior or managerial positions, it can be somewhat of a struggle to get hold of them for a quick newsjacking sign off.

Being able to liaise with a more junior employee that has the authority to ok an idea and then push a comment for sign off is therefore an effective way to speed up the sign off process between agency and client.

4. Set up a separate comms chat 

Here at JBH, we’ve noticed the huge benefit of setting up dedicated slack chats that are used exclusively for newsjacking purposes and separate to any of the wider campaigns we’re concurrently working on.

Whilst certain conversations may contain messages that aren’t as urgent or pressing, clients have come to realise how advantageous a fast response on the chat is for link-building efforts.

For more advice on account management, be sure to check out this recent blog from JBH co-founder Jane Hunt. 

 

Best newsjacking sources

As much as we all need a well-deserved break now and again, the unfortunate truth is that news never sleeps, and therefore opportunities to newsjack can (and often do) occur at the most unlikely and unsociable of times.

Unsurprisingly, the best way to ensure you’re among the first to see breaking news relating to your client’s industry is to religiously follow the news on a regional, national and global level. The nature of the 24 hour news cycle means that the lifespan of a story is limited, so waiting until the next day or Monday morning in order to react to a perfect opportunity is a risky move, especially when there is a greater chance of your email being seen by journalists working during the evenings and weekends.

Here are some of the ways we monitor the news here to make sure we can react as quickly as possible when it comes to newsjacking opportunities:

BBC websiteThe holy grail as far as breaking news you can trust upon is concerned. The business live blog on the website is great to bookmark and check regularly throughout the day for any commentary opportunities that could relate to your clients sector.

24 hour news channelsWith so many of us digital PR’s continuing to work from home for the foreseeable future, having a news channel or radio station such as BBC News, Sky News or Times Radio on in the background can help to keep you up to date with any breaking stories throughout the day.

Google Alerts and Talkwalker AlertsNot just useful for tracking existing client coverage and brand mentions, setting up keywords or terms that relate to existing campaigns that you want to newsjack can be a fantastic way to make sure you’re one of the first to jump on an opportunity when it arises.

Newsletter subscriptions  Signing yourself up to receive weekly newsletters is a great tactic for spotting who is writing about what topics when it comes to the big ticket publications you want to land client links on.

There are a huge amount of sector specific newsletters depending on the industries your clients are operating in, but some of our favourite and most insightful national examples include Metro Lifestyle | Huffington Post UK | Reuters Morning Digest | The Daily News In Brief (Sheerluxe) | Stylist | The Telegraph Breaking News and lots more!

#journorequest on Twitter a personal favourite of mine when it comes to spotting reactive PR opportunities to newsjack is to keep on top of the hashtag #journorequest over on Twitter.

Here, you will find an array of UK and international journalists seeking specific comments, experts or data that you may be able to match your own client or campaigns with. As well as being a great way to build up a relationship with journalists, this is also a really fast way to build up some extra links to a campaign that hasn’t right reached KPI, and the journalists who use this method are normally on fairly quick deadlines, so you can often see successfully pitched content translate into links and coverage within a matter of hours!

Key takeaways:

  • Always be aware of the current climate and ask yourself if a newsjacking opportunity is really going to add value to your client before getting carried away
  • Timing is of the essence with a good newsjack, those other jobs can wait!
  • Don’t just rely on one source of media for hearing breaking news to react to, get to know your clients inside out and keep on top of the outlets most likely to be reporting on the topics affecting their industries

If you’d like to know more about newsjacking using your existing digital PR campaigns, click here.

1000 666 Lauren Henley

Five backlink profile red flags you should be aware of

As digital PRs we can be guilty of logging into our link tracking platforms, scouring for the ones we’ve built and jumping straight back out. Yet a full backlink profile often ranges from the wonderful, the weird and, occasionally, toxic. 

A deep dive into the links coming into your domain is essential for a digital PR strategy. The right links in the right places can help boost referral traffic and rankings for your key terms.

No bought link can compete with the power of a successful digital PR campaign. When done right, it’s a marketing technique that can bring those all-important relevant backlinks, as well as social media shares, referral traffic, coverage and will build your brand along with your traffic.

Do you know what’s lurking in your, or your clients, backlink profiles? The chances are probably not.

 

What are toxic backlinks?

Not all backlinks are equal, and just because you didn’t build anything dodgy doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Toxic backlinks can potentially damage your SEO efforts, meaning lower rankings and less traffic.

When building links to a domain that is new to you, it’s always good to ask if any link work has been done before – and what kind. Google cracked down hard on backlinks that attempt to manipulate rankings back in 2012, so if any link work was carried out before then the chances are it could be toxic.

Way back when SEO became a popular digital marketing tool, the backlink scene was more wild west than world wide web. Link builders could build blog networks and direct thousands of backlinks to their domain within minutes, or even rent link space on high powered sites to give themselves a boost.

This worked, and it worked too well. In 2012, Google introduced their Penguin update which all but put an end to this behaviour and sought to level the playing field so more money didn’t mean high rankings. It also put their users first, ranking sites based on the quality of their backlinks rather than just the quantity.

Google Analytics for a site hit with unnatural linking penalty

As poor quality sites take longer to index, it could be weeks or even months, before harmful backlinks show up in link tracking tools.

 

Where do toxic backlinks come from?

Historic black hat link building is a big cause of low-quality links, but there are other routes for these links to come pointing to your domain. Yet toxic link building isn’t always historic, and many still rely on these techniques to boost rankings.

While the days of buying backlinks, PBNs (private blog networks), and expensive guest posts should be long gone, there are still plenty of domains reaping the benefits of bad linking. However, this is a ticking time bomb and frankly – your site deserves better.

A natural backlink profile is generally made up of three different kinds of links:

  • High authority sites
  • Hyper relevant or local publications
  • Naturally occurring backlinks which you didn’t know were coming

 

Keyword Rich Anchor Text

A high volume of keyword-rich anchor text in a backlink profile is a sure sign that a domain is trying to game the system. A simple rule is that if it’s a term you’d hope to rank for, the anchor text is considered keyword rich.

Some links with exact or partial match anchor text are to be expected. Occasionally in forum posts or comments, someone with no SEO knowledge will link to you using keywords in the anchor to recommend a product or service. These are unavoidable and no-followed, so not all keyword-rich anchor text causes alarm.

However, if your backlink profile is heavy with keywords it’s worth an investigation. If the same keywords are occurring over and over again, from low-quality sites and to the same inner pages it could be penalised. Is the risk really worth the reward?

The nature of digital PR means we often have little control over what anchor text is used to link to our campaigns, but if something doesn’t feel right don’t be afraid to ask a journalist to change it.

 

Negative SEO

While not as common as it once was, this tactic is a perfect example of why you should regularly check your backlink profile. Negative SEO is the trick where a competitor pays for hundreds of toxic backlinks or negative reviews to point to your domain, in the hope of a Google penalty against you. In more severe cases people even hack your website to fill it with terms that promote risky products.

However negative SEO isn’t always intentional and you can occasionally be unlucky enough to find yourself mixed in with others leaving your domain with thousands of links on link farms and content scraping sites.

While you can’t always prevent a negative SEO attack, keeping a close eye on your backlink profile can ensure you’re prepared for the worst. An unnatural increase in backlinks can be a sign of a link spam attack, especially if the links are coming from adult sites or pharmaceutical domains.


Bought Links

Almost ten years since Google’s Penguin update this debate still rages on. The internet is full of tips and tricks on how to ‘carefully’ buy links in 2021, even though Google themselves say that paid links ‘don’t work’.

Google has had ups and downs in its relationship with backlinks, and from its inception, links have been a core part of its algorithm.

Do links work in 2021? The short answer is: yes.

The longer answer is that now, it’s easier to rank well with good on-page content and a technically sound site alone. But when links are added to the equation, it’s like fuel on a fire.

We’ve all had the emails and LinkedIn messages from link touts flogging their wares. The problem with the domains on offer is that generally, they are low quality and low relevance.

A solid digital PR strategy can easily gain links that are more relevant and offer higher quality to a domain. In fact, Google’s John Mueller recently confirmed that one high-quality backlink from top-tier news is more powerful than thousands of lower quality backlinks.

Spotting bought links in your link profile often takes a bit of digging. If you see a new link come in and you don’t recall pitching to them, check around on the site. There are some telltale signs that the website accepts payment for content including ‘write for us’ pages or even a media kit referencing their prices.

If you can see this information, then the chances are that Google can too. Buying links may give you a boost in the short term, but as algorithms continue to get smarter the risk of negative effects increases.


Low metrics

For many digital marketers, metrics are our bread and butter and that is no different in digital PR. On their own, many metrics like DA or DR don’t mean an awful lot but when you look at a link profile as a whole it helps to create a picture of the quality of links you have.

A backlink profile will generally have a higher percentage of low metric links. This is because all sites naturally pick up several links over the years from all kinds of sources.

The nuance here is context. If a large proportion of low metric links also bring along with them exact match anchor text or are paid for, this is where it becomes a problem.

 

Duplicate content

Another fall out from the dark days of link building is duplicate content. Years ago digital marketers could write a press release, upload it to a newswire and (hey presto!) have hundreds of backlinks all using the same content.

This quick and dirty link building technique got slapped down hard in the Panda algorithm update. Guidelines meant that press releases were required to be 100% original, and publications changed their policies to only include exclusive content.

Canonicalisation now means that publications are safer to reuse content and keep themselves protected. Yet if duplicate content is showing up multiple times in your backlink tracking tools, canonicalisation may not be set up correctly on the sites linking out.

This is more of a problem for the sites linking back, but no one wants to be associated with a website that is facing a duplicate content penalty.

 

What next?

A natural backlink profile is made up of links on domains that are relevant, good quality and earned not bought.

When doing some domain digging, it’s important to stay curious and always be on the lookout for something that could be harmful, but don’t jump to conclusions.

Often there is an honest explanation for any dodgy links, the most important thing is to ensure your domain stays safe. If you can’t find the source of toxic linking, then keep checking your new links and manually remove them where possible or look to a disavow file for more severe cases.

Here we have covered off some of the main pointers that show toxic links in your backlink profile, but there is much more to these topics. Want to know more about the KPIs that can help drive digital PR return on investment or what makes a ‘good’ link? We’ve got you covered!

If you’d prefer to hear it from Google themselves, their Webmaster Guidelines are full of linking best practices.

1000 666 Rebecca Moss

How E-A-T impacts your link building efforts

For the past two years there has been an acronym that kept SEOs around the world on their toes; SEO and Digital PR agencies are no exception: E-A-T. It has been around since 2014 but it only was towards the end of 2018 that it became more obvious that those three aspects have a direct impact on a websites’ rankings in Google Search. It stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. But what does that mean?

Book with words "From the real experts". Photo by Rita Morais on Unsplash

Photo by Rita Morais on Unsplash

Expertise

If we take this whole discussion offline: Would you trust the medical advice your neighbour gives, or would you rather ask somebody with a medical degree? If you have a question on your tax return, would you ask your taxi driver for advice or rather see an accountant? Would you let your roommate take photos of your products or would you rather hire an experienced and skilled photographer? Well, the same applies online. If your business or your website is about a topic that can directly impact somebody’s life (e.g. financial trading, medical or legal advice), contribute to public opinion (journalism for example) or provide a service that requires knowledge, you should inform your readers and clients why you are qualified to do so. It builds trust and shows that you know what you are talking about.

How to show expertise on your website

A clear About Us page and author profiles are the first and foremost thing to do. Tell readers who you are, why you offer the service you offer and what qualifies you to write the things you write. If you have a legal website, tell them where you got your law degree. If you have a medical website, tell them where your authors got their knowledge from and what scientific evidence they can provide. If it is financial trading, list the experience your authors have in trading, financial markets and technical analysis.

Ideally, there is more than an author bio for each person publishing for your business. Social media profiles, activity in specialised forums, an own expert blog or publications (e.g. books, whitepapers), are just a few of those things that can increase credibility. It goes without saying that the information must be correct! If you are lying about education and experience, you will never be able to be trusted as an expert.

Equally beneficial are case studies of previous work where you state what you have done, why you have done it in that particular way and why it was successful.

Expertise in your link building campaigns

The same applies to link building campaigns. Add the information as to who created the content asset, where the information comes from and how you came to your conclusion/the statement you make. If your campaign contains quotes or information from an expert in the field, it can also increase your reach. A true expert usually has quite some following on social media or own platforms. Your campaign could reach that audience too.

Apart from that, it is much more likely to get a link if a respected expert stands behind a campaign.

"Product Review" in scrabble letters.Photo by Shotkit from Pexels.

Photo by Shotkit from Pexels

Authoritativeness

Authority refers directly to reputation and is built over time. If your website is the go-to resource for a certain topic, you are the authority in the field. It is almost impossible to measure authority. However, there are some clear indications. The most important one are links to your websites. All link metrics, DR in Moz, DA in Ahrefs or TF in Majestic refer directly to backlinks coming from authoritative websites.

If you want to get an understanding of your authority, mentions and branding are equally important. How do others talk about your brand? In which context are you mentioned? Who mentions you? Those references do not have to be from another authority in the field, but also your customers or business partners can contribute to your reputation. Positive customer reviews on external resources (e.g. Trustpilot) help building authority.

How to show authoritativeness on your website

Authority is mostly measured externally through links and mentions on third party sites. What you can do is replicate what is being said about your brand on your own website. The positive reviews you get on websites like Trustpilot or Google Reviews can be mentioned on your website with a link to the original source. If you have worked with other reputable companies or brands, you can mention them on a partners page.

Authoritativeness in your link building campaigns

Authority is directly related to link building. If your website has backlinks from other reputable sites in your niche and if your brand is mentioned in a positive way on external websites, it increases authoritativeness. Building authority, just as link building, takes time. It does not come overnight.

What you should not do is try to manipulate it by building PBNs or buying links. At JBH, we strongly advise against these tactics. It might seem as if they can speed up the process, but sooner or later you might lose all credibility. If you are being caught for paid links, also the organic links will lose their impact and you can never become an authority in the field. The same is true for selling links on your website. It might bring you some short-term cash but will hurt your reputation in the long-term.

Two pairs of hands holding each other. Photo by Pixabay from Pexels.

Photo by Pixabay from Pexels

Trustworthiness

Let us perform the same test as for expertise and take the question offline: Would you buy a property that you cannot find on a map because the address is incorrect? Do you buy from a shop on the high street that shows different prices in the shop window than the prices on the shelf? The same is true for your website. If visitors do not trust you, they are not going to buy from you either. If Google does not perceive your website as being trust-worthy, it will not rank your website in search.

Trustworthiness is a very subjective measure and if you are unsure about it, just ask yourself: would you trust your website if you looked at it for the first time?

How to show trustworthiness on your website

As with any human interaction, trust is built as the result of a multitude of things and is destroyed quickly. The most important aspect is truthfulness. Be transparent about who you are and what you do. All information provided on your website must be true. If they catch you with a lie, you will never be trusted.

This refers mostly to your About Us page and the contact information. Provide true information and as much about yourself and your business as you can. Any address or contact information should be correct and if a customer contacts you, make sure you reply. Nothing could hurt your trustworthiness more than a disconnected telephone line or bad customer service.

In the same way that customer reviews can help with authority, user-generated content can help building trust. Make sure you monitor any comments left on your website and respond in due time.

Other important aspects of trust building are brand consistency, professional layout/design and of course proper grammar and language use. Readers will not trust your website if your content is a bad machine translation with obvious spelling mistakes.

We spoke about case studies to show expertise. Part of transparency is to also mention the failures and the things that did not work. Nobody is getting things right all the time. If your success seems to be too perfect, you might also lose trust.

Not to forget are commercial links, pop ups and ads. Use them wisely and only where appropriate. Would you trust a website that is cluttered with ads that distract from the content?

Trustworthiness in your link building campaigns

This aspect can be summarized in a very simple way: If people don’t trust you, they won’t link to you. Simple as that!

It becomes especially important for data-led campaigns for link building. Place a methodology and sources below the content or the infographic where you state clearly where your data came from and how you came to the conclusion you made. If you ran a survey to collect the data, provide the details about where, when, who and how. List the steps you went through when you analysed the data. If you took statistics from third party websites, ensure that those are trustworthy and list every single source you used.

When you contact journalists and distribute your content, mention who you are and how you can be contacted.

E-A-T for link building

If we look at all those recommendations once again, it becomes obvious that those should be part of a good editorial standard. Unfortunately, bad practices on the internet have caused for those to be forgotten over time and many publishers need to be reminded again. If you get your E-A-T right and remember it in everything you do for your business online, it will not only improve your organic rankings. It will also facilitate any link building campaign. The moment you are a trusted expert that is perceived as an authority, others will happily refer to your website with a backlink.

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.

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.

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.

1024 682 Rebecca Moss

Avoid the link confusion: DA, DR and TF – What they really mean for link quality

Link building is an important part of any SEO strategy. Backlinks are (still) a strong ranking signal and can push your rankings up. But are all links equal? The answer is: “No”. Some links are better than others, some links will not have much impact on your SEO, some others could even harm your rankings. If you are wondering how to recognise good or bad, we understand. One thing we need to get out immediately is that there is no single figure you could look at to judge the quality of a link. There are multiple things to take into account such as the authority of the donor site, the topical relevance of the link, the way how the link is embedded in the content, the backlink profile of the donor site and so on… One metric link builders and outreach agencies that run digital PR campaigns like to refer to is DA, for others it is DR or TF – but what are those?

What DA, DR and TF mean

All three are measures for the authority of a website based on its backlink profile. The reason why they are called differently is simple: they come from different tools:

  • DA stands for Domain Authority and is a metric in Moz
  • DR stands for Domain Rating and is a metric from Ahrefs
  • TF stands for Trust Flow and is a metric from Majestic

All three tools are constantly crawling the web to discover new websites and links. They report on those links and update the numbers regularly. What is important to know is that none of these tools has crawled the whole web and their algorithms work differently. If you compare the referring domains they have listed for any given website, you will always notice some differences.

Moz highlights that DA is evaluated by multiple factors such as the referring domains and the total number of backlinks to a domain. They would not give it all away, of course. It is highlighted that DA is not a ranking signal nor a Google metric, but merely meant to compare websites to each other. You can see the DA by creating a (free) account on Moz and adding the toolbar to your browser extensions:

Moz tool bar for theguardian.com

Ahref’s DR looks similar if we look at how their documentation explains the calculations: “ […] metric that shows the strength of a target website’s total backlink profile (in terms of its size and quality).” To see the DR of a domain, you need to create a (paid) account in Ahrefs:

Ahrefs DR screenshot for theguardian.com

The TF in Majestic, however, is calculated differently: The tool has manually selected seed sites that were chosen on the web and are trusted by Majestic. The scores that you can see under TF are dependent on how far away a website is from a seed site through links. To see the TF in Majestic, you need to create a (paid) account:

Majestic TF screenshot for theguardian.com

The figures are also accessible via a browser extension:

Majestic browser extension for theguardian.com

Comparing the numbers

Because of the different ways of calculation, those numbers are not meant to be compared to each other, but just for fun, here are some comparisons of popular websites:

Domain

DA (Moz) DR (Ahrefs)

TF (Majestic)

Theguardian.com 95 93 84
Bbc.com 95 92 79
Youtube.com 100 98 99
Foxnews.com 94 91 83
Asos.com 90 87 78
Amazon.co.uk 94 93 83
Gov.uk 94 80 93
Asda.com 75 81 52
Tesco.com 91 86 70
Sainsburys.co.uk 73 82 60

If one thing has become evident by looking at those numbers, it is that the figures cannot be compared. DA and DR seem to be generally higher than TF (not for all of the above websites though), but there is no clear tendency that would make them comparable. The figures are close to each other amongst the top players, but for websites with less authority (and let’s face, it most websites will not be able to compete with the above brands), the numbers are far apart from each other.

Interestingly, YouTube – the Google product, scored the highest possible with Moz, but not in Ahrefs and Majestic. For the Guardian and the BBC, the numbers are similar in Moz and Ahrefs, but noticeably different in Majestic. The UK government website forms the exception in our comparison by scoring higher in TF than in DR; for all other websites, TF is generally the lowest figure.

If you are looking at those numbers, do not try to compare them to each other, but rather choose one of those metrics that seems logical to you and compare that metric across different websites to decide which domain makes a good target for link building.

1024 682 Jane Hunt

How to spot a PBN

The moment you get involved in link building, you hear about a thing called PBN. For quite some time, it was a buzzword in SEO and a common and popular strategy. But what is a PBN?

PBN is the acronym for Private Blog Network. There is already a lot of information: It is a network of blogs or websites that are owned by the same person or organisation, hence private because they are in one hand.

The purpose of such a network was to build links to one website. Creators of PBNs would often buy expired domains that have an existing backlink profile and some authority in their niche. They then added content and links to a commercial website to pass on authority and boost rankings. That technique used to work until Google became aware of this way to manipulate rankings. Not only is it no longer valuable to use PBNs for link building, it also is a risk as most PBNs get quickly penalised by Google.

Why does it still matter?

If Google already has penalised most PBNs a few years ago, why would we still care about this as an SEO agency?

The answer is easy: Even if a website has been penalised, the site is still on the web and especially people that get involved in paid link building are still using those sites to try and sell you “valuable” links. It might also be the case that Google’s algorithm hasn’t spotted the PBN yet, but you never know what could trigger it.

There also used to be so-called SEO agencies that were specialised in building PBNs and sold that as a valid link building strategy. Some of them are still around and they are still selling those services to those who don’t know better.

That is why it is important for you to recognise the red flags.

Multiple websites, one owner

Nowadays, also PBNs have evolved and some of them are done in a professional way that would not easily give it away. But there are still old PBNs around and you will always find lazy link builders taking a short cut.

Those PBNs are easy to spot because they might not have hidden their WHOIS domain information, they host all domains on the same server or IP and even use the same design or themes. If that is the case, it is worth checking their content. You can copy and paste paragraphs into Google and see if more than one result shows up. If those websites are hosted on the same servers, use the same design and even publish the same content, you can be sure that you have encountered a PBN. But it isn’t always that easy and creators of PBNs know how easy it is to recognise such patterns. They take precautions.

Another good indicator are keyword rankings and traffic. Tools like SEMrush or Ahrefs can provide estimates for those figures. The lower those numbers are, the more likely it is that the website does not have much value.

There is one thing they cannot hide: their backlink profile. After all, it is the one thing they want Google to see. That means that you can see it too.

What to look out for in a backlink profile

A PBN is meant to be a network of websites linking to each other, those websites are often not topically related. Those are two hints what to look out for. For this analysis we can use Majestic to check the topical TrustFlow and the referring domains. The ratio of follow and nofollow links can also be a good indicator.

We will look at three different websites, two in German and one in Italian:

Coinkurier.de Spielregeln.de Correre.org
Topic: News about crypocurrencies Topic: Game rules Topic: Running
Majestic screenshot for topical Trustflow Majestic screenshot for topical Trustflow Majestic screenshot for topical Trustflow
Nofollow and follow link ratio in Majestic Nofollow and follow link ratio in Majestic Nofollow and follow link ratio in Majestic

If we look at those figures, the first thing we notice is that none of those domains has a particulary high topical TrustFlow within the actual topic. For the cryptocurrency domain, to be about computers and security still seems acceptable, but game rules associated with arts and literature already becomes questionable and the domain about running doesn’t seem to have many backlinks that are related to that sport. The domain is in Italian, but it is not about the Italian language, nor is it about pets.

In a recent post about nofollow links, we could establish that the biggest news sites have between 10 and 20% nofollow links in the backlink profile. That seems to be a natural ratio of an authoritative website. In the above examples, we see a domain with only 1% nofollow links – it does not take an algorithm and machine learning to get the idea that something might be manipulated there. The 67% of nofollow links too should certainly make suspicious and make you investigate further.

One other thing that is noticeable for the Italian domain is the ratio between English and Italian that Majestic flags as well:

Ratio of site language and incoming links language in Majestic

In the next step, we look at the referring domains. The first thing we notice is that there are a few domains that link to the domain in question multiple, up to thousands of times:

Number of backlinks from one referring domain in Majestic

That in itself doesn’t mean that we have a PBN, but it makes suspicious, especially if two of them are very similar domains for the same market and the third one suddenly targets a completely different market, in that case Peru.

In the next step, we look at the referring domains of each of those domains that link to the one in question.

An obvious example is the cryptocurrency domain:

Referring domains in Majestic

We then take that first domain in the list and check the referring domains:

Referring domains in Majestic

There are in total only 7 referring domains. That in itself is a red flag (not a sure sign though as it could just be a young website). We go a bit further down the list and we see this:

Referring domains in Majestic

That domain that links to the original domain 1500 times only has 4 referring domains. Still, it is not a proof for a PBN, but the red flags keep on piling up as we repeat this check.

The backlink profile of the Italian domain is even more interesting:

Referring domains in Majestic

The first domain claims to be a medical website that has a topical TrustFlow in the business niche. It is followed by an English website about animal pictures and another Italian website about funny pictures. We also see here domains related to art and paintings and there’s also the firefighters linking to the website about running. It is a field of red flags.

If we now put those domains one by one into majestic, we will see some of them linking to each other, domains that only have one referring domain and a very colourful mix of topical TrustFlow.

PBNs vs. digital PR

All these are indicators for a PBN and as an SEO agency we would advise to not reach out to them for a link. If you have been hit by a Google penalty, those are the types of links to watch out for in your backlink profile.

Recognise the red flags. In any case, even if you are doing link building through relationship building and digital PR, every once in a while, you will be asked to pay for the link placement. That might be tempting in certain cases, but it is always worth digging a bit deeper.

You also might have noticed how we only mentioned the domain name once in this post and did not link to it. Even without a link a mention can send a positive signal and as an agency that believes in digital PR as a link building strategy, we would not want to point too much to websites that follow black hat techniques but we want you to know about red flags.