Articles: Blogs

Linkbuilding: Why backlinks can elevate your SEO to the next level

Digital marketing - 13th May 2022
Linkbuilding: Why backlinks can elevate your SEO to the next level
  • Focus on backlinks that add genuine value to your content

  • Build relationships with the journalist before requesting/including backlinks

  • The odd nofollow link isn’t the end of the world, but don’t let it become your status quo

  • Don’t chase backlinks – instead focus on adding genuine value to your content, and more backlinks should naturally occur


One question we’re often asked by clients at 8020 is whether linkbuilding is a worthwhile SEO tactic in the digital PR and marketing game.

It’s a murky area, and the convergence between social media, SEO, marketing, comms, and PR have only served to add to the confusion.

It’s no secret that the majority of SEO best practice is highly technical and data-driven. Yet linkbuilding is more reliant on building personal relationships between two parties.

Surely then, doesn’t that make linkbuilding the perfect playground for digital PR?

Quality over quantity: Why backlink value matters

The key to building SEO clout through linkbuilding in digital PR is to ensure the quality of your link is high.

Google wants links to be ‘editorially placed’. In other words, they like links that add additional value to the reader or user. As Google explains

“The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.”

Google is a crafty search engine overlord. It will punish brands who try to exploit loopholes through use of ‘unnatural links’ – such as low-quality directory or bookmark site links (more info on that here).

How to encourage journalists to use more backlinks

Possessing a good relationship with the journalist or publication in questions is always a good start, but that’s only half the story.

Even should a journalist add a backlink to a piece of content, if Google doesn’t deem the content worthy of said link, then you needn’t have even bothered.

Good examples of quality backlinks could be a thought leadership article that references an owned piece of research. Or an ‘everything you need to know about X’ piece that links to other relevant content on your site.

“That’s why it’s so important to build a connection with your key journos and publications, before requesting any backlinks.”

Journalists often receive emails from PR folk, requesting they add backlinks to a piece of content, because there’s a vague connection between the article in question, and a report or thought leadership piece the PR agency wrote for a client.

All I’ll say here is, don’t do this – it’s lazy and tone deaf. Journalists will, at best, banish your message directly into their spam folder. Or worse, you’ll get an angry response and ruin a potential future relationship.

Of course, you may argue that your backlink request is adding genuine value to the article. However, without a prior relationship, the journalist (quite rightly) won’t give you the time of day. That’s why it’s so important to build a connection with your key journalists before requesting any backlinks.

What is a nofollow link? Should I be worried about it?

A nofollow link happens when the journalist/publication you’ve placed content with adds a “nofollow” tag to the HTML. This unfortunately means your hard-earned link will not be used by search engines for page ranking calculations.

Journalists will often use this tag on sponsored content pages. This is to avoid falling foul of Google’s rules themselves, but also to remain fair and balanced in their content coverage. You can’t simply buy links, it doesn’t work like that.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t explore avenues like paid content, but just make sure it’s not forming part of your linkbuilding strategy.

Build top-quality content, and backlinks will follow

One of the biggest mistakes is obsessing over backlinks and chasing links for the sake of it. As soon as you fall into this trap, you’re prioritising the quantity of your backlinks over the quality of your content.

You’ll have to make some changes to how you produce content in order to accommodate backlinks. But if you position it ahead of the content itself, you’re doing it wrong.

The key to a solid linkbuilding strategy in PR is two-fold. Relationship building with your key journalists, and using backlinks that add genuine value to the content. In that order. Only use backlinks where they organically make sense and with publications you have connections with.

The value of a mention

Many publications, both trade and consumer, have a ‘no link’ policy when it comes to editorial coverage. However, this does not mean that the mention holds no value.

If your company name regularly appears online within relevant media, alongside associated themes and keywords, it provides a signal to Google that your organisation holds authority. Plus, potential customers will be reading those articles. The resulting name recognition and website traffic will provide plenty of ROI.

Chiara Balachandran