Links are important, but don’t panic if you don’t always secure them.
By Nick Sadler, Reachology PR Strategy Director
PR has changed significantly in the past 15 to 20 years. The rise of the internet and the change in the ways consumers digest news, media, purchase products and pretty much everything has changed the game. Gone are the days of securing a front-page print article in the national press and sitting back, pouring a drink and taking the rest of the month easy. PR is now so reliant on digital acumen that agencies have to fully earn their crust in the pursuit of client coverage and the perceived holy grail – links.
Yes, links are seen as the aim of the game, but what happens when you secure coverage and there isn’t a link? The journalist or publisher has missed it or won’t budge in spite of great content on your site — is all lost? A complicated question to answer, with many variables, but in essence, no, and I’m going to explain why brand mentions hold a place in coverage for your digital PR campaigns.
Are brand mentions treated the same as links?
This question is not tricky – they’re not. Over the last decade or so, the digital community has posed questions around whether brand mentions hold a similar weight to links, and even whether they were also considered a ranking factor for Google. But amongst all the chatter and conjecture, the fact remains that they don’t hold the same weight as links. A link is the only way of signalling to the search engine algorithms that a website deserves the flow of traffic that it will receive from the referring site or source. They are tangible and quantifiable when assessing campaign success and the impact on traffic; and are, quite simply, the reason why link building agencies exist and why PR has changed.
So why are brand mentions still useful?
Let’s deconstruct what the digital PR industry is, or even means, for a second – this is digital public relations. Naturally, there’s an emphasis on digital and all that digital entails, but we’re also still committed to connecting brands to the public. We do this through the quality content we create, the stories we help to tell and the statistics we reveal. It’s consumers/the public, who buy products and services, who book holidays, who talk to their friends about companies they endorse and who build connections to brands – not the search engines. It means that having a brand mentioned within a piece of coverage or article still holds value, by connecting the reader to the brand.
The beauty is, brand mentions can happen in a lot of different ways; they’re not just a byproduct of a digital PR campaign. They all help to create an organic buzz about a brand, product or service and can occur almost anywhere: on a social media platform, a blog or website article that has an interest in a certain field, or an influencer may be using a product or service and mention them. If your piece of coverage gets picked up by an influencer or shared on social media through a third party, but doesn’t have a link, you’re still increasing the reach of your brand. These mentions all hold value to people who use the platforms they feature on. Even if the mention isn’t that explicit, it can still play into the subconscious of the audience.
Consider the fact that companies still spend significant sums of their marketing budgets solely on brand awareness campaigns across offline platforms. Radio, TV, billboards and door drops (leaflets), are all focussed on driving awareness of a brand into the psyche of the public, without any guarantees of ROI. But what they might do is to prompt consumers to search for the brand or service, and this is where mentions and awareness join forces with the power of the links, by increasing visibility in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPS).
So yes, for us digital PRs, we are looking for links from the coverage we secure and we want those “votes” from the referring source and to share the traffic. But don’t forget, if you secure a nice selection of coverage and some of it doesn’t include a link, all is not lost. You’re still creating awareness of your brand and potentially enticing a searcher to learn more. And it’s important to acknowledge that this isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy – there will be different goals for all brands or clients, so it’s important to discuss this with your digital PR agency at the outset.
If you want guidance on links, brand mentions or the best ways to execute your own digital PR strategy, book a free initial consultation with the experts at Reachology now. We have decades of experience in digital, traditional and creative PR campaigns to maximise your online presence.