Is online PR the ultimate link building technique?

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Ken McGaffin's picture

Getting coverage for your business in mainstream media can be hugely beneficial in bringing a swathe of new visitors to your site, and building inbound links from the media and from all the other people who comment on it. In this article, I want to give you guidelines on how you can use publicity in your own business.

Of course, getting publicity for small businesses is a technique that has been around for years. Here’s a quote from a famous American businessman (can you guess whom?):

"Public relations are a key component of any operation in this day of instant communications and rightly inquisitive citizens."

Hmm? “instant communications” sounds familiar, but the phrase “rightly inquisitive citizens” sounds rather odd and rather gives the game away.

The quote is from Alvin Adams who was born more than two hundred years ago.

Go to today and you’ll find a huge number of books on public relations and publicity for small business. The public relations techniques they describe have a long history in the offline world but they still hold good for online business – albeit with significant adaptation.

The internet makes the process of getting yourself in front of journalists so much easier – if you approach them in the right way. You can use the web to find journalists in the first place and second to spread your message widely and almost instantly in a way that was never possible before.

The first step is to understand what journalists are writing about in your industry.

I often spend a Saturday morning browsing the New York Times, CNN and other big media to look at how they cover small businesses. Here’s a great story Your Photos, Off the Shelf at Last about a company set up by Mitch Goldstone. As you can see Goldstone is rightly proud of the coverage he’s received:

This coverage brings real business benefits and if you work hard at it, you too could be one of hundreds of small businesses that get such coverage.

So what benefit does such publicity bring?

1. You’ll get lots of direct traffic as a result of media coverage in mainstream media. Get your website mentioned in the paper edition and people who are interested will enter your URL into your browser or if the story doesn’t give your URL will search for your company or brand name.

Even better, get yourself a link in the story online and people will click on it to go direct to your site.

The business you get from such coverage can be substantial.

2. Bloggers who comment on your industry scan the news to find good stories to comment on or direct their readers to. So if you do get featured, then you can be sure bloggers will pick the story up and either link to the article or your website when they write. In my experience, just one good piece of online coverage can result in scores, even hundreds of further mentions.

For example the unclutterer blog picked up the story from the New York Times, and provided a link to the company website as well:

This additional coverage, often accompanied by a link is a great way to get links without having to ask for them.

3. It’s not only journalists and bloggers who can spread your story. It can also be spread by the army of people who use bookmarking and recommendation sites such as

Get enough traction on your stories and you could end up on the front page of Digg and other social media sites. This can bring a huge number of visitors to your site.

4. Other journalists are more likely to write about you if you’ve already been featured. Journalists are always a little wary of writing about a small business for the first time. Can they be sure that what they read in your press release is true? But if you’ve already been covered in the New York Times, they’ll trust you more and will be more likely to write about you.

No journalist looking at could doubt their pedigree:

And remember that journalists who are considering writing about you will check you out on Google or Google News.

Have a look at how well ScanMyPhotos appear – 80 mentions on Google News:

And over 1,300 references on Google Blog Search:

5. Any links that you get as a result of media coverage will help your search engine rankings.

Google is likely to consider such links ‘authority links’, because they’re likely to be checked out by the journalist or by an editor. Again this adds to your credibility.

6. The final benefit for the moment, is that you’ll get bragging rights. For a small business, it’s great to be able to put, “as featured in the New York Times” on the front page of your website.

How can you get big media coverage?

The easiest way is to hire a public relations professional. Their expertise and range of contacts can be invaluable but make sure to check out their experience of online campaigns.

However, using an expert might be outside your budget so you’ll have to do put the work in yourself. It’s entirely possible to learn how to do your own PR effectively. use to distribute their news releases. Here’s a recent example:

Over the next few weeks I’ll be looking at doing your own online PR in some detail, but in the meantime here are my top five tips.

Top Five Tips For Getting Media Coverage

1. Be newsworthy. That’s not as difficult as it might sound. Hundreds if not thousands of small business stories are published every week in the media. Look out for these stories and try and analyze how they happened. Read them carefully and pick out what made the journalist write about the business.

Now can you imagine your business in a similar story?

2. Write a great press release and distribute it to a targeted group of journalists.
A good press release should have as a minimum:
• A headline that says exactly what the story is about
• A great summary paragraph
• Quotes from people
• A link to more information on your site
• Contact details
• Editor notes

3. Find and approach journalists who write about your industry, make yourself available. Here’s how:
• Search Google News using some of your industry’s popular keywords to find which journalists are writing about your industry.
• Take a great story in the past and look how it has been covered.
• Browse your industry trade press and see who’s writing what
• Buy contact lists of journalists – one inexpensive service is

4. Time your news story carefully. What’s the best time to publish your story? Can you tie in with a national event? The biggest secret is to coordinate everything. Good stories in mainstream media sometimes do happen by accident, but if you plan and follow a clear strategy then your chances of success are so much higher.

5. Get to know your social media – that means actively participating. Twitter, for example is becoming hugely important for spreading news stories.

In the coming weeks in this series, we’re going to go through each of these crucial aspects and tell you what is important and what you’ve got to do.


Top Image from Ajax Union


Vivalatina's picture

Thanks Ken for this great piece of content. I sure have the ideas clearer now. I clearly see now that this is an affordable goal with no place for luck.


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