Online PR should be an essential activity for any marketing campaign today. But what's involved in Online PR and what will make your campaign successful? I pose these questions to specialist Ruth Brecher of Underwired PR.
It's refreshing to see Ruth debunking many of the myths of SEO such as reciprocal links are 100% bad.
Given my interest (and my readers') interest in SEO, in this interview we focus on best practices in Online PR for Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) through generating backlinks to a site focusing on a specific theme.
Online PR campaign essentials
Q1. What would you say are the key ingredients for an online PR campaign where the main aim is to increase the number of quality links for SEO purposes?
[Answer: Ruth Brecher "€“ Managing Director Underwired PR] It is of course desirable to have as many links as possible going to a site in order to boost rankings within those search resources where one of the ranking algorithms is "€˜link popularity"€™.
However, since we started doing online PR at the end of 1994, we have found that it is perfectly possible to obtain excellent rankings for client pages where link popularity is not a primary issue "€“ i.e. new sites and sites where no online PR has taken place and so where few links exist.
In actual fact, I cannot think of a single occasion in 14 or so years where the primary motivation for running a reciprocal links campaign has been to boost search rankings! I"€™ve referred to "€˜reciprocal"€™ links rather than simply "€˜backlinks"€™ here as when we run these sorts of campaigns, we generally advise that clients offer a "€˜thank you"€™ to fellow webmasters by way of a reciprocal link.
This is because we are firm believers in "€˜first principles"€™ in terms of online behaviour; the web was necessarily based upon people co-operating and providing links from their site to other resources and visa versa.
Our own stats and others have illustrated that including links such as these on a site has no detrimental effects in terms of "€˜syphoning off"€™ traffic from the host site and has the added benefit of offering site users good and useful sources of other information which can only add to their online experience.
Dave Chaffey Thanks Ruth, it"€™s good to see you debunking that classic myth of SEO that reciprocal links are 100% bad"€¦
Identifying suitable link partners
Q2. How do you go about identifying suitable link partners? Can you give any tips?
[Answer: Ruth Brecher "€“ Managing Director Underwired PR] The type of link partners that are deemed desirable is decided on after receiving an audience and objective briefing from the client. After we have looked at what it is the client is trying to achieve and who their target market is, we then start the process of researching potential target sites.
This will include looking at sites which do similar things or are in a related field to the clients"€™ own (although are not in direct competition) "€“ the search tends to begin with inputting appropriate keywords into a search engine and then taking a look at what exists.
Additionally our research will also take into account who the competition is, what they link to and along the way the research then evolves into taking a look at which sites are regarded well by peers, which are positively reviewed in various resources and how current their information is. I"€™d say that it"€™s useful to take the following into account when identifying potential target sites:
- Look at sites which are complimentary to, but do not compete with, the client site
- Look at what the competition links to
- Assess which sites are well-regarded in a particular field
- Ensure that any site targeted does not contain a lot of outdated material "€“ i.e. that the content looks to be refreshed relatively frequently, thus making it more likely to be attracting interested traffic
Measuring results from online PR campaigns
Q3. How do you measure the effectiveness of an online PR campaign? Can you give some examples including the type of metrics you feedback to clients?
[Answer: Ruth Brecher "€“ Managing Director Underwired PR]
An online PR campaign can consist of SEO, reciprocal link-building, specialist directory entry, competition promotion, viral seeding etc.
Ultimately success is measured against the performance criteria set out in the brief "€“ for example, at one end of the scale it might be clicks, at the other it might be return on monetary investment.
For example, for Virgin we"€™ve managed campaigns that have achieved a monetary return of £26 for every £1 spent; for Logitech we promoted a video with a call to action to visit a unique URL which resulted in over 250,000 Quickcams being sold).
We"€™ve recently created a PR campaign for New Media Age that in its second week has had over 2,000 people entering the Digerati-n00b League Challenge "€“ though it remains to be seen how many subscriptions (the final metric) will be sold as a result.
Using video and podcasts for online PR
Q4. How effective do you see rich media like online videos and podcasts for link-building. It seems these may get links to YouTube or iTunes or wherever they are hosted, but few links back to the company site, even if they are embedded in a page.
They are generally a hygiene element for the sake of completeness, but blogs like this one certainly play an important part in for example promoting the New Media Age Challenge
Benefits of using a full-service agency
5. Today, many SEO agencies have staff or teams specialising in online PR. What benefits can a full-service digital agency like yours bring?
It"€™s really simple: by having a team of people, all of whom are specialists, working for a single commercial goal, you get a lot of people in a room deciding on a strategy that isn"€™t limited to one of each promotional element.
We often decide not to do x but concentrate more on y "€“ and we often switch emphasis mid-way along a campaign in order to optimise the results. After all, our goal is to get the best possible end result, not get the best result possible using specific technique #4, which gives a full-service agency the latitude to deliver results using the most effective means, not just the one or two they are most expert in!
Dave Chaffey Thanks for the interview Ruth - englightening! On this last point, there"€™s a great discussion on E-consultancy around where responsibility for Online PR campaigns should lie