32 | Tasty Digital PR with Rob Hilborn


Rob is the SEO & content manager at Hotel Chocolat. He has been 6 years in the digital world but mostly SEO and affiliate industry, and for the past year in the chocolate industry. He’d day he is an all-rounder.

He used to work for a broadband comparison website but now working for a big and well-known brands and it’s somewhat different although they’re both client side. It makes PR and link building easier as people love chocolate and the brand.

Digital PR Budgets in 2019
I can relate to this, when I was at Debenhams, I had over 200k on link building, which many years ago. It’s a big budget but the landscape changed quite a bit. I used to put on events, offer gifting and vouchers.

Hotel Chocolat’s approach to link building is where they don’t have a budget as such. The industry is changing and it’s about any activity that generates interest in a brand. Guest posting, etc. It comes from natural PR which is a big change when before it was manual and you used to try and take control of where to place links. Now it’s more organic and give sites more control after offering a suggested angle.

There are new guidance for advertisements and working with brands by the ASA. So, without links, the web wouldn’t exist as it’s a web of links. These are usually useful to help Google understand associations and pass authority. We shouldn’t be manipulating these on purpose and don’t pay your way to the top. Big brand means you can let things run and people will naturally talk about you. The PR team will work with online publications and press as business as usual..

Links Should Drive More
Create links that offer traffic and conversions, not just for authority of the link but also other metrics. There are people who still buy links. Gambling for example or insurance, still need to do it to compete but if not, futureproof your brand. Sometimes it need to be done to compete and not just to be better.

Majestic SEO is a great too to check links and their topical trust flow. See what competitors are doing and what works in your sector. Links via PR usually means authoritative publications and successful results.

If you want to get more high quality links, this means do digital PR. You may lose control because you’re offering a journalist a piece of content, idea or research but you will get high quality links if you have a successful strategy.

Rob started by looking at what competitors were doing (BBC links etc) to see successes. It could be as simple as offering a comment about an article and he started sending out comments when stories were breaking and build relationships because you get to know them more. SEO and PR are merging a lot.

Journalists are now aware of what companies are trying to do when creating research pieces and campaigns. They understand you want a link from these and so there is an expectation that businesses want a reference and a link. It’s good practice to include a link back to the site in case readers want to find out more as links mean votes of trust.

Some big publications have a blanket strategy of no-follow, perhaps because they got burnt in the past or due to a misunderstanding internally of SEO. It’s not necessarily a bad thing though because even a nofollow link help localisation. A small local business can get good rankings from this anyway. It shows credibility even though it’s a nofollow link. Referral traffic is good too, especially if it’s about your product so there are non-SEO benefits.

Digital PR Campaign Tips
Identify your area, look at what you can add value to in terms of conversation. Have a brainstorming session and get everyone involved. Look for news stories or relevant areas to your business. Come with 3 or 4 sites that you can cover so that you know the target audience and to prove there’s an interest in that topic and research you’re proposing.

Getting feedback from the journalists is great. Find those who cover a topic a lot and get honest feedback. Sometimes journalists may even wait for your research to push a piece if they think it’s worth it. Rob provides an example on the podcast and says they found it via Response Source (paid) a tool where journalists ask for help around topic to gain information.

Have high standards of what you’ll put out and add value to conversation. Another good source is HARO, Help a Reporter Out (free) based more in US though.

These are also good listening devices so you know what people are talking about and what’s trending at that moment. Other tools you can check out are: Gorkana, Cision, Buzzstream. These are all journalist databases in one way or another.

Lots of journalists add details on their websites anyway, so if you’re getting started and need to see some early results this could be a good, free option.

Hotel Chocolat, as a retail business have traditional relationships with press. They get coverage daily in national media and links to product pages as well as content pages. Rob isn’t needing to touch it so he’s just monitoring for now. Only offers slight suggestions so in a lucky position.

PR/SEO competition has already been going around and people stepping on each others toes. The key to that is good communication. Also understanding the benefits of doing it a particular way to get the same goal is important as is educating teams internally.

Top Tips for Digital PR in 2019
It’s good to deep-link to a category page than a product page that may go out of stock.
When you create a PR piece, always have a page that offers this information, giving press a place to link back to. Publish those results, even if it’s via a blog post. Include this in the press release and you’ll find more people linking back to you as it’s offering a background as well as more information about the research. You’ll see a much better response when asking for a link to your site as well. It also continues that engagement with the person reading that content on another site, offering them to come and engage with your brand to find out more information and learn more.
Make sure when you present it that there are no mistakes in there either. Data collection is done in a reliable way and you’ll see a much better response by doing this. I offer an example on the podcast about evergreen pieces and how you can have that same page that gets re-published every year which press come back to you for and therefore link to you annually.
When you know when pieces are going to land, you can prepare for those. Once you’ve done it a few times you can know what to expect.
Make sure you have an expert on the team. When you create pieces of content and you’re commenting on a subject, a journalist will come back and ask questions so answering those confidently will help your success rate. This builds trust. If you don’t have an expert, get someone who can learn the business quickly.
We mention data a lot so it’s interesting that press link to research and data so you’re helping them out. It’s a matter of finding what is relevant for your brand but what is also newsworthy. It can be seen as an ‘easy’ way to add value into a conversation. Finding out answers to questions that haven’t been answered.

Hotel Chocolat has great product and is easy to PR but it gets harder when it’s broadband comparison because not many unique products. When competing with sites with similar experience it’s hard to add value so that’s why data and research really works.

Find Rob Hilborn on Linkedin.

Related Episodes

SEO Campaigns with Marie Turner

History of Digital PR with Dave Clough

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.


Comments are closed.