If you were to pay a visit to Yeti HQ on a typical working day, then you could pretty much bet your life savings it wouldn’t be long until a member of the PR team responded ‘does it have a follow link?’ to someone announcing a piece of client coverage had been published online.
Now, for those of you with little to no experience of working in a digital agency with heavy SEO focus, the term ‘follow link’ might mean diddly squat to you. Let me therefore expand on what I’m talking about when it comes to focus of any modern-day PR’s coverage goal, alongside explanations of some of the other kinds of links a company might encounter.
Before we get to the lowdown on links, I must take this brief opportunity to point out that by no means does the number of links secured for a PR campaign or client justify whether something should be considered a success or a failure. Here at 10 Yetis we’ve had many a client approach us with briefs that aim to take a more pre-internet approach in securing coverage across print, broadcast and radio (and we’ve done a bloody good job!), but as it’s very hard to measure tangible results in a solely traditional PR campaign, and seeing as around 90% of businesses we communicate with are looking for SEO driven results,links and SEO are the focus here.
Working to build online links through the publications, journalists and bloggers we’ve built up relationships with over the past 11 years is the bread and butter of our daily PR activity. We are looking to ensure that a link directing readers back to our clients website is added into every online write-up that we secure on their behalf, be it in the form of a news article, feature, interview or expert comment etc, to help them rank as high as possible for key search words and terms on Google.
In terms of the online sites we approach, the domain authority (DA) number attached to the site is vital. The higher the DA score, the greater the chance of its ability to rank. For example, the DA of the BBC News website is 96, so securing a link would have a significantly positive impact on your clients search engine visibility. That being said, as PR’s we always strive to generate links in sites with a DA of 30 that fit accordingly with the clients industry, as Google could treat a website heavy on high DA links as suspicious and unauthentic and potentially lead to a site being penalised.
So, you secure a link on a publication that directs back to your clients website, job done right?
Here’s the confusing bit…
- Follow Links
As mentioned earlier, follow links are the holy grail of online coverage for any client, because these little babies basically help the company look more legit and credible to Google as the ‘authority’ from the site they’ve been feature on has been passed over and will ultimately help them overtake competitors and rise up the rankings of searches.
It’s strictly against Google’s guidelines to pay a publication or journalist for a follow link, which is why us clever PR people need to be able to work our own special magic and come up with the kinds of ideas that will generate those lovely organic and trustworthy pieces of content.
- Affiliate Links
I wish I had a pound for every time I’ve checked the link status of a piece of client coverage, been excited that I’ve secured a follow link, and then realised the link doesn’t have any SEO benefit as it’s an affiliate link. These links have been added by a blogger or journalist in a bid to earn potential commission after a brand has signed up to an online affiliate program.
As mentioned above, Google will perceive this link as having no value, and should therefore be treated as neither a positive or a negative.
- No-Follow Links
The issues surrounding the potential benefits (if any) of no-follow links has been hotly debated amongst SEO practitioners for several years now, and it doesn’t show signs of being resolved any time soon unfortunately.
Those adamant that no-follow links offer no value to a brand argue that they essentially make your clients link invisible to Google, and none of the authority from the website is passed on. Those in the no-follow link corner claim that any link back to a client’s site is better than nothing at all, and that strong brand awareness is ultimately achieved through relevant audiences and stakeholders, not through search engines. The believers also use the term ‘implied links’ as a positive. There is a growing belief that Google values ‘implied links’ in its ranking factors, but this is yet to be proven.
As someone whose job would, let’s face it, be MUCH easier if no-follow links had anywhere near the same kudos as follow links, I’d obviously love to agree with the latter points. It’s not difficult to see why no-follow links have a place in conveying a genuine order of balance to a brands visibility, and one could even argue that an abundance of no-follow links from a mixture of sites that lead a high volume of natural traffic could lead to follow links later down the line.
Unfortunately, until there is clear supporting evidence or research to indicate that brands witness anywhere near as much benefit from no-follow links as the do-follows, I am going to keep fighting to focus on those golden follow links!