Andrew Bruce Smith

Aug 12, 2015

4 min read

Ranking by proxy: the hidden SEO value of great online press coverage

There is a latent assumption (certainly in the PR world) that SEO is all about getting your own content to rank well in Google.

And of course, in an ideal world, your own content would rank number one in Google for all of your prized keywords and deliver armies of relevant people to your own website who do what you want them to do.

But of course, we don’t live in an ideal world.

More often than not, the top slots for your target keywords are being occupied by pesky competitors. And their content might be heavily optimised for both on and off page factors. Your content by comparison may take some time to vault itself into these hallowed positions.

Do you quadruple your SEO budget? Or do you give up?

Or is there another way to occupy one of those lofty search positions? What if someone else might provide you with the search visibility you crave? Step forward ranking by proxy — or good old fashioned online press coverage.

It works something like this (for the purpose of this exercise, I’m assuming you’ve already carried out your audience research and have plotted their decision flightpath to best understand the optimal keywords to rank for at the appropriate point in the audience journey).

Let’s say you’ve identified some great keywords. They tick all the boxes in terms of volume and relevance to the audience at the right point in their decision making process. The only problem being that if anyone were to search for those terms in Google, your content won’t currently rank highly for it. Perhaps you might analyse those currently top ranking pages to understand why Google is giving them the highest visibility. And by comparison, your own content isn’t likely to oust them soon. This is where thinking about online press coverage with an SEO mindset can pay dividends.

Let’s imagine that instead of your own content ranking well, you think about high trust, high authority sites that would be a great venue for your story. Tools like Moz and Majestic can easily give you a quick sense of which sites have high domain authority or high trust flow for example. Majestic can also give you further insight into the topical relevance of the sites concerned. You might want to target sites for coverage that have a higher propensity to have topically relevant content.

You can then delve further and see what kind of individual articles gain the best kind of inbound links (for national media, a popular story can gain lots of links very quickly. For a normal website, Google might interpret this high link acquisition velocity as spammy. But for a high trust site, this may well be treated as a positive signal that this is content that should have higher search visibility).

So far so good. You know where you’d like the content to appear. The hard part starts now. Every PR knows that creating a great story pitch that a journalist will even give 2 seconds of attention to is tricky enough. Getting a journalist to then write and publish something positive and “on message” remains as tough as it ever was. Nevertheless, if you are doing it anyway, why not optimise your story pitch to not only get the coverage itself, but to gain further benefit above beyond the value of people immediately reading it (and hopefully being influenced positively by it).

Ideally, the journalist is going to use your target keyword as part of their headline (because very often this will constitute the page title of the article). Page title inclusion remains one of the key on page factors considered by Google. Of course, you can’t write the headline for the journalist, but your story pitch should hopefully make use of the target keyword in headline and body copy as compelling as possible.

Also, you can guarantee that the media site itself is probably going to promote its own content through social media. Exposure to a wider audience increases the chances that this content will get linked to by others. The combination of trusted site, on page relevance and off page link velocity should certainly contribute to generating the right kind of signals for search visibility.

In short, getting visibility for higher volume, high relevance generic keywords may some times be better achieved through a media site than attempting to get your own content to rank well. In addition, if you can get a journalist to include a followed link to your own content, it will also be helping your own site to eventually gain the inbound links to ultimately get the search visibility you need to convince your audience to choose you over the competition.

About Andrew Smith

Andrew Bruce Smith (@andismit) is the founder and Managing Director of Escherman. With a career spanning 30 years, Andrew has implemented many successful marketing communications programmes for brands such as IBM, MySQL, and Apple. He is co-author of two best-selling social media books — Share This: a practical handbook to the biggest changes taking place in the media and its professions (Wiley 2012). And Share This Too: More Social Media Solutions for PR Professionals (Wiley 2013). He is also a member of the CIPR Social Media panel and a guest lecturer at the University of Leeds Business School.

Originally published at

Making PR, Social Media, SEO and Analytics work together. CIPR and PRCA approved trainer. Co author of Share This: Social Media Handbook for PRs

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