How to secure links & coverage without running flashy campaigns

By Emma Robinson
4th July 2022

When you think about approaching link-building, you might think that huge, flashy creative campaigns which take weeks to plan and need a whole variety of resources and specialisms to pull off is the way to go to see success, but that’s actually not always necessary.

There are so many efficient, yet effective, tactical approaches that we can take to secure links and coverage in some of the biggest and most relevant titles. I’m going to take you through a few here:

1. Non-linked brand mentions

Non-linked brand mentions (NLBM) are where your brand has been mentioned within an online article or feature, but there’s no link back to your website – it’s just plain text and no hyperlink, so when this happens you might think you’ve failed to succeed in securing a link, right?

Wrong. Non-linked brand mentions not only act as a fantastic result from an audience reach and brand awareness perspective (and could even bump up brand searches), but the inclusion of a brand mention also demonstrates that a journalist believes your brand is useful or relevant to the article they’ve written and the audience they’re writing for. It’s for this reason that such a mention could be relatively easy to turn from a mention into linking coverage.

So, once you’ve spotted a brand mention, how do you go about looking to turn it into a link?

Contact the journalist and let them know how useful and beneficial the inclusion of a link would be both for the purpose of the article and for the benefit of their audience, to allow them to click-through to your site, and you could gain a powerful link on top of the coverage already secured.

You can use off-site tools such as Ahrefs to make sure you’re tracking NLBMs, these tools work by trawling the internet for relevant brand mentions over a set period of time, and then you can simply export them for reporting and reaching out.

Remember to always study each individual case to check that:

  1. They are relevant
  2. They are recent (many journalists won’t update older articles as they’ve already moved on – so be quick!)
  3. They have SEO benefit (and so is worth your time looking to update them to a link)

Once you have your list of NLBMs, you can begin to source the relevant journalists and politely ask them to include a specific link back to your page – for the best chances at success try to lead with any unique data, reports, studies, or quotes from your spokespeople that you may have which are likely to solidify your argument for the inclusion of a link.

2. Lost and broken links

Lost links are links that have been shed from the backlink profile.

There are many different reasons that links could be shed and it’s a completely natural part of any backlink profile – but it’s important to keep a close eye on such links as sometimes the links that are shed are valuable and therefore require reinstating.

Sometimes links can be removed by a journalist; this could be due to the journalist refreshing their content, either by updating the piece to include a new URL or they could be changing the link to an affiliate after joining a programme.

In some instances, it may well be that the content has simply been removed as it’s no longer of interest.

Broken links are links that are still live but now link to a page that has been removed or no longer exists, so the link is now ‘broken’.

Neither lost nor broken links hold any SEO value.

It’s so important to monitor lost and broken links because they act as a ‘vote of confidence’ for search engines, letting them know that your site is both valuable and trustworthy.

Once links are broken or lost, any value and confidence gained from those links is now lost.

It is important to note, however, that relevancy is just as crucial as quantity when it comes to confidence-building, so if the broken or lost link comes from an irrelevant or ‘bad’ site, then the loss of such a link likely won’t have a negative effect.

It’s also worth noting that if you’re working hard on a digital PR strategy to build SEO beneficial links, maintaining the strength of those links is key – you don’t want to be working hard just for all that work to be falling back out of the site.

Once you have identified which links need to be updated using tools like Ahrefs or SEMRush, you will need to craft your strategy for re-acquiring a link based on why the link was lost in the first place.

If the link was lost because the article was updated and your brand mention was removed, then merely offering a new link won’t be the best approach.

If it’s clear that your brand is no longer relevant to the old piece, it would be much better to suggest a way you can work with the publication on an entirely new piece in order to regain the link.

If the link is broken, then simply offering a fixed link is an easy solution – after all, journalists don’t want their readers clicking on broken links as that’s less than ideal from a UX perspective.

Similarly to NLBMs, it’s also important to bear in mind the age of the article.

Journalists are unlikely to be able to, or want to, update historic articles. This is doubly the case for national publications who publish hundreds of articles a day.

It can still be worth contacting journalists about historic articles but be aware that the success rate may not be as high as those that are more recent.

3. Bespoke targeted outreach

Bespoke targeted outreach is characterised by focusing extensively on identifying highly relevant, small, niche groups of journalists who you know have recently covered a topic or angle relevant to your brand.

The outreach approach would then see you propose exclusive or unique, timely and topical angles to individual journalists of interest.

This is a much more personalised strategy that can and should be used alongside larger campaign outreach to secure unique online features.

The approach taken here will look different to the larger, creative campaigns you may be working on as the niche, bespoke approach means that there will be a lot less physical outreach than you might be used to.

With this strategy the campaigns also shouldn’t be pre-written and instead you will be outreaching angle suggestions and then creating bespoke pieces for each specific journalist who is interested in covering said angle.

4. Expert comments

Expert comments are exclusive comments that utilise your team’s expertise and add authority or insight to an article.

These will often be used reactively, as you outreach to journalists on an ad-hoc basis, when either a journalist has requested a comment, or you’ve noticed something trending in the media that your team has expertise in and could add authority to.

When outreaching expert commentary, make sure that when you send over the comment you also send a link for the journalist to include for accreditation purposes.

It is important to bear in mind that expert and reactive outreach like this is very fast paced, with articles being published within just a few hours of comments being required.

This means it’s a good idea to have a bank of reactive expert comments prepared and updated regularly, so that you’re able to outreach immediately when relevant opportunities arise.

Some opportunities or topics, however, simply can’t be predicted, and in these instances it’s useful to have already established who your brand’s talking heads are and how quickly they can turn around or approve a comment you have drafted on their behalf.

Timing is everything with this approach.

Only choose topics where your client is relevant and can be a real authority figure on the topic – outreaching to a journalist with someone who really isn’t qualified to comment won’t achieve you coverage, and could even damage your relationship with the journalist, so it’s important to be selective and really think what value your brand can add to any given topic.

Finally, don’t send a comment that is just empty words or rephrasing what the journalist has already said as they likely won’t include this, instead make sure the comment adds something new, whether through insights or significant data/stats.

If you need any further support improving your backlink profile or increasing brand awareness, chat to us and see how we can help.

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