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How PR Is the New Link Building #SEMrushchat

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How PR Is the New Link Building #SEMrushchat

Becky Shindell
How PR Is the New Link Building #SEMrushchat

Link building has been a big focus for a lot of brands for the past few years. It allows their sites to get a boost in the SERPs and provides a new way to get more traffic back to their site. While link building is still important, public relations (PR) is currently taking center stage in the outreach efforts that can help build brand awareness, drive relevant traffic to your site, and improve your search rankings.

This was the topic of discussion in last week’s #SEMrushchat, and we were joined by Gini Dietrich, the CEO of the PR firm, Arment Dietrich, who had a lot of great advice about how to create and utilize great PR content to improve your SEO. Check out our chat recap to see what Dietrich and our other chat participants had to say.

Q1. In your opinion, is it possible to replace link building with PR? Why or why not?

PR doesn’t necessarily swoop in to replace link building as an entirely unique strategy; instead, PR offers a new strategy to get links back to your site as a result of interesting, engaging content. Therefore, both PR and link building can and should be closely aligned instead of trying to replace each other. You still need the latter, after all, to effectively drive traffic to your site and see an increase in page rankings.

Your link building campaigns, after all, will be most successful when they are combined with an outreach effort. Content that is PR-driven often can help to build strong brand awareness, and it is also rooted deep in great storytelling, which increases the emotional investment readers are willing to make. This means they are more likely to click back to your site through that link and find out what else you have to say. Due to the nature of public relations campaigns, which are sometimes distributed on more credible sites, this may also help get you more reputable and high-quality links.

Similarly, PR campaigns can have the most impact if you are intentional about link building efforts. Knowing which links to place, and where, within your content will help you get the most traffic back to your site from your PR content. Link building skills are a must to maximize the opportunity you are getting from the PR exposure.


Q2. How do you find influencers in your niche to build a relationship with them so they will link to you?

Building relationships with influencers in your niche — which can include everyone from popular bloggers to keynote speakers — can be one of the most important parts of your PR and link building strategy. You will be a lot more likely to get your content shared and distributed on great sites if you have a good relationship with the individual running the site first.

There are a number of different and excellent ways to find influencers in your niche that you can reach out to. Social media, however, will provide you with the largest pool of different influencers in one place; you can find everyone from journalists to bloggers to speakers to industry experts and more. You can use Facebook Groups, LinkedIn, Twitter, and even sites like Quora to find industry leaders and influencers who are open to social engagement and relationship building. Search for hashtags or topics of discussion, and see who is involved in the online communities you are in.

And the key part is the relationship building. It is often much more effective to build an actual relationship with someone than to just ask for something up front (including just offering to pay them, as many influencers in the journalism and blogging fields may find that to be unethical). Help them and engage with them on social media; it doesn’t need to be an in-person friendship, a virtual relationship can work perfectly fine. Talk to them, instead of at them. Link to and share their content long before you ask for a favor in return.

If you have checked out social media and still haven’t found the influencers you are looking for, you can check out other tools like Buzzsumo, which makes it easy for you to find influencers, see what they share, and evaluate how well their content performs. Sometimes the most obvious answer will be right in front of you in the form of brand advocates.

In some industries, you may even have your best luck offline. Industry conferences, trade shows, or local networking communities can provide opportunities to connect with peers and influencers face-to-face. While virtual is easiest and has become commonplace, having an in-person interaction never hurts.


Q3. What are your top tips on using PR strategies for Link Building?

When we asked our chat participants about their top tips for using PR strategies to generate more link building opportunities, they had a lot of great (and diverse!) advice to share.

One of the most common tips was to do your research really, really well. Gini Dietrich said that she starts by doing a Google search for her keyword, and then recommends creating a list of the publications and blogs that come up. These are sites that you would want to share your content on, for your content to be published on or that you would want a link from. After all, you don’t just want your content to live on your site; you want it to be where most people in your target audience will see it. In many cases, that means having some content on other big-name sites, too.

With that in mind, you should make distribution part of your content planning from the beginning; you don’t want to wait until it is done and published before considering this. Ask yourself what publication would it best be suited for, who the audience is for the piece, and how you can best reach them. Sometimes, the answer will be on your blog, but when it comes to PR, there will be plenty of times when it won’t.

You will also want to optimize the actual content you are publishing. This means choosing unique, story-driven content that will resonate with influencers and your audience alike. You should choose your links well, linking back to valuable content but never to service or home pages. You can use your author bios to do this strategically instead. Preferably, use full links instead of URL shorteners.

Ultimately, it comes down to being human and building those valuable relationships. This takes time, and you should eliminate automation or avoid it as much as possible. Use tools like SEMrush, Buzzsumo, and HARO to track down everyone from journalists to bloggers and then build relationships with them. You can set up event interviews with influencers, or hire them to speak at your event, but remember that it should never be an “I did this so now you have to do this for me.” Instead, relationship building will be mutually beneficial over time.


Q4. What are some examples of PR content that can be optimized?

PR content may not sound particularly interesting as a title, but the types of content you can create for PR purposes are very diverse.

You can, for example, write guest posts and submit them to publications. Not only will you get the valuable link building and relationship building, but you will also gain some credibility for being published on these sites. And if your content is well-written and valuable enough (and doesn’t resemble a thinly-veiled sales pitch), you shouldn’t have a problem landing any of those big publication guest spots. You can also be interviewed or conduct interviews for big publications. Even just giving or obtaining expert quotes can serve this purpose well.

Presenting original research or original data in the form of case studies can also be a great way to go. This is content that will be immensely valuable to your readers and industry peers, and since it is hard data and it is only yours, the odds of gaining backlinks is very high.

Written content isn’t the only option, either. Diversify what you are creating. Appear on or host podcasts, do live video events and don't forget webinars since you will likely reach a different audience with each. You can also create infographics or interactive data representations, both of which are engaging and easy to share. And you can never go wrong with custom images.

If your content doesn't seem to get enough traction, you can always check out pay per click options, like Facebook Ads or Google Adwords to help it get more visibility and engagement.


Q5. What are some metrics that you look at when measuring your PR and SEO efforts?

Your PR efforts will have a number of different goals, and SEO may only be one of them. That being said, it is still important to monitor how your public relations content is impacting your SEO and link building so you can decide if any changes need to be made.

Over time, you should start to see changes in both your SERPs and your domain authority. If your PR campaigns are truly having the effect they should on your SEO, you should see gradual increases in both of these factors, which should lead to a direct increase in web traffic from all sources — organic and referral included — as a result. This should translate into more backlinks being acquired, and more contact form submissions and conversions. Ultimately, after all, you want your marketing goals to be tied to concrete, financial business goals.

As the results from your PR content become more widespread, you will not only see more traffic, but you will see better quality in traffic. Users coming to your site will be more relevant to your brand, and you will see an increase in things like CTR and time spent on the page, while bounce rate may decrease. Eventually, this should lead to an increase in ROI.

You should also see an increase in brand mentions, which any social listening tool can help you identify. In terms of social media, you should start seeing more traction on your social content, including engagement in the form of retweets, likes, shares, and general conversation. Make sure you are monitoring the conversations about your brand to make sure that the sentiment is positive.


That is all for today! Make sure you join us this week on #SEMrushchat as we host a Content Writing Bootcamp with special guest, Brian Honigman

Like this post? Follow us on RSS and read more interesting posts:

Becky Shindell is the Communications Manager at SEMrush and host of the weekly #SEMrushchat. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter. You can find Becky at many of the US Digital Marketing Conferences, feel free to say hi!
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Gini Dietrich
Really great recap, Becky! I also loved that you did the quick response recaps during the chat. Very, very smart. Thanks, again, for having me!
Becky Shindell
Gini Dietrich
Thanks so much for joining in, Gini! This was a really great chat, I learned a lot too!
Saravanan Subramani
Thanks for sharing this great study. Really fantastic work here. It was a pleasure to work with you on this.The data visualization was fantastic. Definitely sharing this internally with my team. :)

Super good work Becky...!!
Becky Shindell
Saravanan Subramani
Happy to hear that, Saravanan! Let me know what they think :)
It was #EPIC !
Becky Shindell
It sure was, thanks for reading!
Calvin Roi
Such a Nice Post thanks for sharing it. For details please visit-
Becky Shindell
Calvin Roi
Thank you, Calvin!
Jennifer Bell
Link building is like diarrhea... painful and hard to handle.

A lot of SEOs don't even DO link building.
Melanie Nathan
Jennifer Bell
LOL. Good one.
Becky Shindell
Jennifer Bell
HAHA! I think you could say that about a lot of digital marketing tactics ;) Thanks for reading, Jennifer!
Melanie Nathan
Building relationships is a huge part of link building for sure. But sooner or later you need to be able to *leverage* your relationships for those links. This is an excellent guide on precisely how to do that. Thanks for putting in the hard work Becky to compile this info into a blog post every week. Sometimes people are just too busy to join the #SEMrushchat on twitter!

I've been a link builder for 14 years and have recently begun referring to is as "Digital PR". Mainly because it makes it sooo much easier explaining to people what exactly I do :)
Becky Shindell
Melanie Nathan
I completely agree, Melanie! I am just starting to learn more and more about PR and in my eyes, you really can't do one without the other! Looking forward to seeing how you can help SEMrush build our community, happy you enjoy my posts!

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