Forget SEO 'link building' - three metrics PR people should obsess over instead

We've hit peak "link building". There's no bigger proof than seeing the PR industry damaging its most valuable currency in search of them: their relationships with journalists.

Stop obsessing about link building, argues Alex Judd, there are more important aspects to SEO
Stop obsessing about link building, argues Alex Judd, there are more important aspects to SEO

The tweets are getting more frequent and the journos more irritated as link "requests" (read: begging) come through after every brand mention - my personal favourite being a link request for a mention of "William Hill" in a store burglary piece...

This fixation on links has to stop, not just to maintain our healthy media relationships, but also because they’re not as valuable as you think.

'Journos don't appreciate being used as a marketing tool' - PR pros urge caution against SEO link requests

To explain why, let's think about why links are used by search engines to help them rank content.

A search engine's ultimate goal is to show the best quality content to their users, and links are one of the thousands of different ways that quality is judged.

They're used because if a website of quality links to another website, then you can assume that the website being linked to is also of a good quality. This used to be very important, but that's changed.

Who are the websites that are seen as high quality?

Mostly, it’s media, thanks to their popularity, authority and engagement. And do they tend to link to branded websites? Not any more (as we've seen above).

Search engines are smart, they know this is happening and they are tweaking their algorithms accordingly to focus elsewhere.

This isn't just opinion, it's fact. Recent studies from people like Tom Capper and Malcolm Slade prove this.

So what's left for PR? Well, it just got a lot simpler.

Branded search volume (i.e. the number of people searching specifically for a brand) has grown to be absolutely key.

Citations will also play an increasingly bigger role, since algorithms are better able to determine the media narrative around your brand, so it'll only get more important.

Engaging on-site content hasn't gone away either.

So all that brand awareness you're raising? Those media placements? The content you’re producing? It all still has a huge role to play.

Good, honest PR work will win out.

Measure links, sure, but obsess over brand search volume, media mentions and narrative and your on-site contents engagement - then connect your success with search engine rankings.

It’s the only way to futureproof your strategy.

Alex Judd is GCore Business Director at Grayling

Thumbnail image ©GettyImages

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Already registered?
Sign in