12 | History of Digital PR with Dave Clough

Alina Ghost

Link building has evolved dramatically in the past decade so Dave Clough, ex-Argos SEO manager and industry pro, and I talk about what link building started out as, who was made an example of, and lots of tips for doing great Digital PR in 2018.

Dave Clough’s SEO background:

When Interflora Wasn’t Showing up on Google Organically

Interflora were seen to be doing link building that was unnatural and which manipulated the search results. They were paying for links, giving mummy bloggers flowers for dofollow links and using the same anchor text over and over again. I believe I said the Interflora penalty happened in the run up to Valentine’s Day but I believe it was actually Mother’s Day and in 2013. The brand did not show up in organic search results even when customers were searching for their brand name directly. Here’s a good article if you want to know more – The Interflora SEO Penalty. It’s still unclear whether this was the doing of an SEO agency or perhaps a PR team or agency who had little knowledge about SEO and link building. It could easily have been press activity where flowers were given away to improve brand awareness but due to lack of knowledge in SEO this may have caused an unnatural increase in spammy backlinks to the website.

I have also heard of a conspiracy theory where somebody suggested that Google may have worked alongside of Interflora to use them as an example but perhaps offered them free PPC Ads for not appearing in organic for that time – is this even possible or legal? Who knows! Like all conspiracy theories though, it seems a little far-fetched to me…

The History of Link Building

First search engine, Archie, used to use other resources and check how many times a particular document is noted in order to determine it’s popularity and as a result rank it highly if there are many mentions and links to it. Documentation on this was published which offered a good indication to SEOers of how a search engine works, especially as it heavily influenced Google’s way of working. PageRank further emphasised the importance of links.

Forms of link building that manipulated the search results and thus known as ‘black hat’ SEO strategies could be things like link farms, directories, paying for links, PBNs, forum commenting and more. These see a finite window of working in the search results so it’s definitely not a long-term strategy and it may see you get penalised like Interflora also so that you don’t show up at all, for anything!

How to Get a Future-proof Backlink Profile

It’s good to know the bad (or black hat) link building tactics in order to steer away from those and to use strategies that have longevity to create a future-proof backlink profile.

Content has been a great way to build those natural links in a while and that’s why we see a lot of infographics and great video content.

Social link building can amplify this content and get you lots for traffic that you may need for journalists to take note of what you’re creating. As mentioned in Episode 11 with Daniel Rowles, it may also be a ‘clickable’ snippet if it’s also a shareable one, which as a result increases your rankings.

Blogger relationships used to be a popular method of building links to a site and although this continues, perhaps it’s more complex as these have to be nofollow links and the bloggers you use must offer good traffic and engagement with your content. Another reason would be for amplification and brand awareness via their social media following so you tend to work with those that have more influence online.

Science VS Interiors Links with Amara.com

Receptional as standard check the backlink profile of a brand when they on-board. Links that are harmful are removed straight away however those that are not, may be fine to leave. For example, I’m SEO manager for Amara and we have a lot of science links because amara.com used to be owned by an Astronomer called Amara Graps. She had links from Wikipedia, university sites and NASA due to her niche and talented work. Although we did remove a lot of these links by contacting the site owners directly, some links we still have but they’re not topically relevant. As they’re not harming our link profile we’ve not touched them but we are removing the irrelevant ones slowly, from the bottom upwards, we’re starting with those that have a low trust flow. We have in the past contacted the site owners who were happy to remove the link but were also interested in our product, so it’s a win win situation!

Dave suggested that if it’s not broken then don’t fix it. So perhaps having a science link to a interior transactional site may not be too bad, especially if we were able to harness that link equity to a relevant and science-interior related content page which then linked out to a money-making page. This is a very interesting thought, so if any further suggestions, let me know in the comments below.

Digital PR is not a “Rebrand” of Link Building

Digital PR is PR conducted online and may be more related to traditional PR rather than link building. So it would be unfair to say that link building is a rebrand of Digital PR but more of an evolution. Press are great at thinking up of ideas, thinking up stories and great titles for topics. They’re also strong at relationship building with journalists and influencers, bloggers etc. When it comes to traditional link builders that’s where the customers data, great tracking tools and automation comes in. It’s the understanding of how to optimise campaigns online that makes Digital PR so strong by merging those two together. It’s about knowing SEO best practices and having a robust analytics platform to track performance.

Create one campaign to leverage across multiple channels and that is when the sweet spot if found and Digital PR fits in as it’s about showing value for the branding, content and links that is being created.

Top 3 Tips for a Good Digital PR Campaign

  1. Start with your KPIs. A campaign works effectively when the brand knows what metrics are important to them and what the agency and the client understand what everyone is trying to achieve.
  2. Campaign. What is your message and story, who should care and why. Digital PR is that campaign message and understanding how that relates to the brand. Evolving this story and cutting up data to amplify the message using other content is Dave’s suggestion. Have a single narrative for how the brand wants to be perceived. Links are a by-product from a great campaign!
  3. Links as call to actions. Linking to campaigns as a natural call to action and to do that is by creating a useful asset for your campaign that offers more information, detail or data. The link you’re gaining should deserve to be there so this is a great way to increase your chances and to be useful and relevant to potential readers and customers.

Listen to episode 12 now below or via iTunes

Music credit: I Dunno (Grapes of Wrath Mix) by spinningmerkaba (c) copyright 2017 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/jlbrock44/56346 Ft: Jlang, 4nsic, grapes.

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