How to boost brand awareness and links with PR
You might not realise it but PR and SEO go together like jam and scones.
While some people like to keep their digital communications in neat little pots, the truth is that the lines are very much blurred these days.
If you can write a press release that generates real media coverage, it will boost your SEO efforts with traffic, awareness and those all-important links.
So how can small businesses and DIYers use PR to boost their SEO?
In this episode of the podcast I’m talking with Mez about how his agency uses press coverage and PR to build Google juice for their clients, and how you can too.
Tune in to learn:
- What PR is
- What influence outreach is
- Why PR helps SEO
- Mez’s tips for building media awareness
- Mez’s tips for influence outreach
- How Mez measures PR and SEO success
CO-Founder of Online Marketing Gurus, Australia’s Fastest Growing Search Agency for the past 3 years. Previous CEO and now head of Partnerships.
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And a big thanks to Gemma Hawdon for her lovely review.
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Useful links from this pod
- Press release template
- SEM Rush Ranking factors and signals
- Brian Dean Analysed 1 million URLS
- Mez’s article on Pr and SEO
- Google Trends
You might not realise it, by PR and SEO go together like jam and scones.
While people like to keep their dishes of communications in neat little pots, the truth is that the lines are very much blurred these days.
If you can write a press release that generates real media coverage, it will boost your SEO efforts with traffic, awareness, and those all important links.
|How can small businesses and DIYers to boost their SEO?
|In today’s episode, I’m talking with Mez Homayunfard about how his agency uses press coverage and PR to build Google juice for their clients and how you can, too.
|Hello, my name is Kate Toon. I’m the head chef here at The Recipe for SEO Success, an online learning hub for all things related to search engine optimization, and I love SEO.
Today I’m talking with Mez Homayunfard, who’s the co founder of Online Marketing Gurus, Australia’s fastest growing search agency for the past three years. Previously the CEO, now he’s the head of partnerships, and he’s an old pal of mine, so welcome to the show, Mez.
|Mez Homayunfard:||Hi, Kate. Lovely to speak to you again.
|Kate Toon:||I’ve known you since the early days when you were starting out in the world of SEO, and these days, doing a lot of good work for a lot of big clients.
A lot of it is focused around building these amazing media opportunities.
That’s what we’re gonna get stuck into today.
Before we do, as you know from listening to previous episodes, we usually start with some interesting SEO or digital marketing related news that you’ve read this week. What have you been reading about?
|Mez Homayunfard:||First of all, thank you, again, for having me on the podcast.
It’s lovely to speak to you and share my thoughts. As of late, I’ve really been encapsulating myself on the convergence between PR and SEO.
The two, really, the big articles I’ve been looking at recently, one is the SEMrush ranking factors and signals 2.0, which you can download off the semrush.com website.
|The second is actually a slightly older article, but one of the best articles I’ve seen written on this particular topic in some time, which was by Brian Dean.
If you Google Brian Dean, one million URLs analysed, it actually looks at a statistical study. Both of these articles, in fact, look at two statistical studies that look at more than 2.7 million websites, in combination, to look for relationships between different SEO activities and ranking results.
|Interestingly, URL authority and your PR actually has a very strong relationship with these things. I’ve really been reading a lot about those two, and picking out different pieces and data sets that really help draw the link between these two things that we’re discussing today.
I’ll include links to both of those articles in the show notes so people can check them out.
We’re gonna cover some of the things that those articles talk about today.
Let’s get stuck in and start talking about PR.
Before we do, let me explain what PR is for our listeners who don’t know. You’ve probably heard of press releases.
They’re articles written by companies, small businesses, to announce an event or a win, or something that they deem newsworthy, although, in truth, often they’re not newsworthy at all.
They’re then distributed to media companies in the hope that they’ll get picked up by media outlets and published, either in their print publication or their digital publication.
So, you write a press release about how you’ve got a new car parking space and the Sydney Morning Herald thinks it’s so interesting that they publish it on their front page. That’s the dream.
|Another component of PR or media is influencer outreach.
Rather than reaching out to big media corporations, you reach out to prominent personalities who have a similar audience to you, and hope that those influential people online will share your content, often, in return for cold, hard cash.
|How’s that definition fit with you, Mez?
|Mez Homayunfard:||I think it ticks off most of the major aspects of PR, and really, I think the only other caveat I’d put in there is really looking at PR as a way, as well, to promote content and content promotion. I think that ticks off most of it, and yeah, definitely a really good definition.
|Kate Toon:||I think that’s a really good point because it doesn’t just have to be newsworthy stories. I think, often that’s where I even fall down.
Well, I haven’t got any news, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be something that just happened. It could be an opinion or maybe you’re giving your tips on what’s gonna happen in SEO in 2018. Even things like that, the media will pick up those stories.
They’ll credit you, and then obviously you get the benefit of that credit.
|Let’s explain the basics. Let’s explain why media coverage and influencer outreach helps SEO. A while back, Google started to place more importance on the quality of content and whether relevant quality sites were linking back to you.
We just discussed this on the episode with Ross Tavendale about domain authority. If you want a refresher on domain authority and domain trust, and how that’s passed from site to site, go and have a listen to that episode.
|Many SEOs believe that to appear in the Google results, you have to get links from great sites. We’re often taught we need to earn links rather than build links.
Google doesn’t want us to have unnatural link profiles or go out and pay someone on Fiver to build links for us. The truth is, that for a big business, and small business, building and earning links is hard. Once as a small business, you’ve ticked off the directories. You’ve got a link from your mom’s cooking blog and your cousin’s site about hedgehogs, you’ve run out of opportunities, right, Mez?
It can be really tough to find backlinking opportunities.
|Mez Homayunfard:||Definitely, Kate, the small businesses scaling link earning, I really don’t like calling it link building, but link earning can be difficult, but there’s some really cool things you can do and tools you can get to help with that process.
One of my favourite tools is Ahrefs, which I’m sure you know very, very well.
For those that don’t, by the way, it’s spelled A-H-R-E-F-S .com, a bit of a geeky name, because it’s a reference to having a link. What this tool actually allows you to do is look at the backlinks of different websites, and what I always suggest for small businesses who can’t afford an agency to do it and are wanting to learn fundamentally how to do it and apply it themselves at the earlier stages, is look at the guys who are ranking in the top three spots of Google, four spots of Google. Put them in Ahrefs and see where are these guys getting their links from.
A lot of the time, by doing that you can find cool and easy ways, and easy backlinks that you can get.
|An example of that, that we did recently, was we were working with a client in the camping industry, and a phenomenal small business that went from about three thousand dollars a month in sales to close to 40 or 50, so pretty significant growth. What we found was that a lot of their competitors were actually engaging in community discussions on forums about these camping products. That was a really cool way that that business could actually build up their profile by engaging with their community and also get really cool, awesome, natural backlinks from relevant sites, and it didn’t cost them anything except time, which obviously, there’s value of time, of course, but without significant amounts of time.
|Kate Toon:||That’s a great tip, and another tool that you can obviously use to do that with is SEMrush. There’s lots of different tools, and I think that is the starting point that I recommend to all my students, to look at your competitors, your real competitors, the ones who are actually ranking, see where they’re getting their links from, and see if you can get a link from there, too.
|I love the idea of getting involved in the forums, because it’s not just about links, it’s also about brand awareness and interacting with your customers. When you’re starting out, you might not 100% know where your customers are, and these odd little forums that pop up that are dedicated towards cheese or something, that could be a great place for you to get involved in the conversation in a natural and helpful way, and not just build links, but build brand trust and all that good stuff.
|Mez Homayunfard:||Exactly right there.
I think this is one of the mindsets that I like to get our clients out of, is that everyone has these preconceived notions, and they say, “Well, no follow links are not good for SEO,” or “Forum links are not good for SEO.”
It really underplays just how smart Google’s algorithm is, and Google’s algorithm understands that the different industries and different websites, what may be natural for one website to have a backlink may not be for another. And what we’re finding more and more is that online is becoming a place where communities are being built. Forums for different niches, there are gonna be these really cool opportunities to target these sites, which traditionally somebody would say, “You shouldn’t put links on a forum.”
Where it’s like, well, actually, this is a real natural way that people are engaging with the brand, and it’s actually a very good place to get links, for instance, for a site within that niche, if that makes sense.
|Kate Toon:||Yes, it does, and I think even I believe, I have many no follow links from big websites, and I do believe that there is some relevance of trust that’s passed along there.
And also, we talked a little bit, touched on citations, and just getting a mention on other sites.
Yes, it’s not direct link, but if you are constantly being mentioned in a particular area, whether you get a link or not, that’s just associating you with what you do, associating your brand within your area of expertise.
I do think that that just builds up a profile of who you are on the internet and it all helps boost your traffic, awareness, conversions, the whole kit and caboodle.
|Let’s move on to media specifically.
We’ve talked about forums and directories, and other sites. I’m a small business and I want to get in the media. Where the hell do I start?
|Mez Homayunfard:||I have a few key areas that I look at, Kate, before engaging in any type of project or building up media presence. Let me just put one caveat there, to say that for me, media doesn’t just mean news websites. Media can be a mention on a really specific and high traffic blog. It could be a news website like Forbes. Let’s say that any desirable high authority site that has a lot of good impact on both SEO and traffic for our business. I always start with the idea in mind of creating content that there’s a hungry audience for. I know that sounds very salesy, but literally, we want to create content that adds value, first and foremost.
|There are fantastic tools you can use for doing that. Where I start tools like BuzzSumo allows you to look at content that is trending within specific niches and it collates that data point, so a fantastic tool. $50 a month to really identify, from a data driven perspective, what’s hot and what’s trending.
|Google Trends is another great tool, as well, that allows you to look at certain topics once you have an idea of, okay, cool, recently Donald Trump has been really popular because he said something funny, or whatever it may be. Within that, you can look at Google Trends and look for specific subtrends of what it may that have been said or over a specific time, and start building a really good idea for a piece of content. That would be my absolute first place to look at and first thing to do.
|The second is really to be fast and execute quickly on that content. One of the big problems I see is you come up with a great idea for a piece of content. I’m sure you’ve been there, too, Kate, where you have a fantastic idea, pops into mind and you have that creative light bulb turn on, but if you take too long to actually execute and write the content, you miss the opportunity. The second part for me is always about executing quickly and producing that you need to get that particular mention.
|The third is actually using technology. What I find is these older your generic way that you can do your outreach to get mentions, but it really becomes a numbers game when you start looking at HARO and those types of platforms. Whereas there are cool, new platforms now. And the one that I’d like to talk about is Webfluential, which is actually a platform that connects people that have content with influencers. This helps to scale that process where you can put out a specific idea and a specific budget for a content piece, and different influencers who meet your criteria can actually pick up that piece of content or idea, and promote it. It’s pretty much like an Uber, but call influencers. I’ve found that that’s been a fantastic way to scale this process, and it’s done an amazing thing in that it’s made it accessible for even small businesses. Typically, these platforms were aimed at the bigger end of town, whereas things like Webfluential allow you to very quickly come up with a cool idea, find out how agreeable it is it is, write the content, and find people who can provide it.
|Kate Toon:||Fantastic. We’ll include a link to all of those in the show notes. You mentioned briefly, you skimmed over that HARO. For those who don’t know what that means, it’s help a reporter out. In Australia, we have one called SourceBottle but again, they put out call outs for somebody to feature an article about chips, and about 50,000 people put their names forward.
This Webfluential platform seems like a much better one, almost like a marketplace for ideas and influencers. Sound fantastic.
|That brings me nicely onto my next topic, because influencer outreach is pretty icky. Even I, who I’m nobody, get hundreds of emails, which mostly go straight to my delete box, saying, “Will you feature this article? Will you link to this? Will you talk about this?”
They’re obviously written by utter muppets, and I wonder why they don’t hire a decent copywriter. It is hard, though, isn’t it? What are your suggestions for actually making an influencer take notice of your content?
|Mez Homayunfard:||This is where, for me, Kate, the model of Webfluential really flips that equation on its head. Let’s take the example, and again, apologies for using acronyms, but help a reporter out, SourceBottle, you’re pretty much sitting there hoping and waiting that a relevant request will come out for a media piece, and then you would design a piece of content that fits the media piece, rather than a content piece which fits your brand.
|Kate Toon:||It’s kind of reactive rather than proactive, isn’t it?
|Mez Homayunfard:||That’s exactly right. The advantage of using platforms like Webfluential is you actually start with your brand first, and put that piece of content out, and then it’s the job of the publishers to figure out whether or not that fits with their brand, and how they can actually promote that piece of content that you want with their particular audience.
For me, I really believe that these new platforms, and they’re sort of working off an Uber-like model of connecting customers and service providers together, unlocks significant value, and really help you to avoid the normal strength in numbers approach to PR, which is just to email as many people as you can, because you’re right, it is annoying. People don’t want to be spammed 100 times a week, asking you to promote their stuff when there’s no real incentive, and they haven’t seeked you out.
|Kate Toon:||Exactly. I think that’s it. You make it stand out. You leverage different platforms. I think for me the only time that it’s actually really worked is when I’ve worked really hard to build a relationship. I actually think that’s why small businesses have an advantage over big brands.
What I mean by that is, if I interact with famous person one on their blog, and I read it, and I’m the first to comment, and I share their content, by the time I turn around and say, “I wrote this, you might be interested.” They’re much more likely to be interested, whereas with brands, I think it can be a bit harder to build those relationships. It’s more about, often, influencers are paid to produce the content. What are your thoughts on that?
Obviously, with a small business, you still have that aspect of the director being the main person within the business who deals with the suppliers and that interpersonal aspect does break down one of those barriers, that when you start having bigger businesses, it becomes so much more complex, so much more bureaucracy, and people start demanding very, very large fees for any type of content promotion.
|It was only last week, actually, that we were looking at an influencer programme and speaking to one of my other confidants at another agency, and how that some of the Instagram stars are charging up to half a million dollars to take a photo with a product and post it. I think a lot of that doesn’t exist in the small business realm, and it is definitely a lot easier. You don’t necessarily have to pay half a million dollars for a feature on something.
|Kate Toon:||Wow. That’s insane, isn’t it? The thing I think must be hard with managing SEO in this respect, and it’s a topic that comes up a lot, how SEO companies charge. What are you actually getting for your money? I find that here’s another place were PR and SEO have similarities.
I’ve run PR campaigns where the PR person has helped write the media release, released it out into the world, chased up connections and relationships, but it just hasn’t happened.
The same, obviously, is true of SEO. There are no guarantees. You pay your money, but there’s no guarantee that you’re gonna get your link. What guarantees can you offer your clients, or do you even go outreach?
|Mez Homayunfard:||Kate, very, very good question. For me, guarantees are very much a thing of the past, and really, only an unscrupulous agency would offer a guarantee. It’s actually against Google guidelines.
What you can guarantee to your client, is obviously, that you agree to do the scope of work that you guys agree on initially, and you should keep your prospective supply honest, and ask them upfront, “What is your strategy? What are you going to do? How much time are you going to spend doing that?” And all of that should be properly and rigorously documented before you start. The guarantee that your vendor should give you is that they’re going to execute as per that particular scope, and that you’re actually going to get what you pay for.
|I find that that seems to be the missing thing a lot of the time, is not even having transparency over what these people are gonna do. For us, at OMG, we set a service level agreement and say that we guarantee, obviously, to meet that service level agreement, that we’re gonna do those specific items.
We will do that. But to guarantee an outcome or a media mention, that is a very, very big red flag that somebody’s doing something dodgy.
|Kate Toon:||Yeah, I agree. For anybody listening, if you haven’t yet taken the SEO nibbles course, on day three, I actually give you a questionnaire that you can use to approach your SEO agency and grill them a little bit and make sure that they are using an ethical approach. You’ve given us some great tools and amazing tips for finding opportunities for links, finding media opportunities. What final tips would you give to a small businessperson looking to use press or media as a way to boost their brand?
|Mez Homayunfard:||I think, Kate, to come back to your earlier question, the three key things I think are the most important a small business can do, which is really making sure that they are consistently putting out good content to get and build a brand around their business. Make content that you have a hungry audience for.
There are really easy tools you can use to find that at. Be fast and be consistent with your content production. Leverage technology where you can, and scalable technologies like Webfluential and other platforms. If you’re consistently consistent with these three or four things, you’ll get phenomenal growth out of your business. You’ll get great mentions on real websites, and you’ll really turbocharge your SEO efforts.
|Kate Toon:||Fantastic. Thank you so much, Mez, for coming on the pod to talk about this topic. I include links to all the tools that Mez has mentioned, as well as link to his website and those two articles he mentioned.
|Mez Homayunfard:||Always lovely to speak to you, Kate.
|Kate Toon:||Thank you, Mez. Always a pleasure.
|Mez Homayunfard:||Thank you again.
|Kate Toon:||As you know, at the end of each show, I like to finish up by giving a shout-out to one of our lovely listeners. This week’s review come from Gemma Horton. She says, “Kate interviews some extremely well-known, international, and local SEO, and content marketing gurus.
She asks the type of questions I need as copywriter to keep up to date with the latest practises, so that I can give the right advice to my clients and produce content that delivers results.” Thank you very much. That’s fantastic review. If you enjoy the show, please don’t forget to leave a five star rating and review on iTunes or Snapchat, or wherever you heard this pod. It will help others find this show and learn more about SEO. I’ll also give you a shout-out. Of course, you can check the show notes for this podcast at therecipeforseosuccess.com, where you can learn more about Mez, check out all those links, and leave a comment about the show.
|Finally, don’t forget to tune into my two other podcasts, The Confessions of a Misfit Entrepreneur, and The Hot Copy podcast. If you like this show, you’ll probably like those, too. Until next time, happy SEO-ing.