Actionable Tactics to Get Great Links with PR

Good PR tactics in the hands of SEOs can get big links from major sites with little or no budget spent. In this post, we walk through 5 PR-inspired tactics that you can start using today.

Table of Contents:

Get Big Links by Tracing Stories to Their Source

Coverage from a major news site like Yahoo! or TODAY can be great for business but hard to achieve. Since they employ so few writers, pitching these sites directly is often a waste of time. A much better tactic is to spend five minutes looking to see who is writing for the site and which blogs are syndicating to it.

Live Examples

Yahoo! News regularly gets its tech stories from sites like BGR News. BGR News, in turn, puts its writers’ email addresses on every story. While not all BGR News stories end up on Yahoo!, a lot of the good ones do (and BGR is a much easier pitch). Alternately, if you have an infographic that you want to end up on Yahoo!, consider posting it to first. The Business Insider team uses as a regular source, and many of those BI posts feed up to Yahoo! News, as well.

The Today Show’s website is written mostly by freelancers. Lesley Kennedy, for example, is a regular contributor. Unfortunately, TODAY doesn’t list any contact info. A quick Google search for her name, however, shows that she also writes for The Huffington Post, iVillage, and ParentDish (all great press targets) and that she can be reached via her Denver Post email address.

Where to Start

Here’s a quick walkthrough of how to figure out where stories are coming from:

This tactic also works on a more macro level. Once you start paying attention, you’ll begin to see how stories spread from small, niche sites to major news outlets.

Skip The Press Release: Publish News and Data on Your Own Site

When you have news or data to share, post it on your own site (either to your blog or a virtual newsroom) and do outreach, instead of distributing it via a wire service.

“No one in the media reads press releases. Not a single person, I promise you…. The only time I ever, ever hear a media person mention a press release is to mock it.”

Amy Westervelt, Freelance Journalist & Contributor to Forbes, The Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Slate, & More

Posting information to your own site gives you maximum control over its look and feel. You can structure your story for easy reading, using subheadings and lists. You can include as many high-res images, video embeds, and product page links as you like. You can showcase related content. Most importantly, you can provide a branded experience to bloggers and journalists, instead of being yet-another-standard-release.

It’s also better for link building, for two reasons. First, some news sites avoid linking to commercial pages. This provides them with an alternate, non-ecommerce option (your blog). Second, many sites post quick blurbs and then throw a “for more information” link over to the actual press release. When your press release is on a site like PRWeb, then PRWeb gets the link instead of you.

Live Example

Buffer is a company that’s doing this right. Check out Buffer’s press page for layout ideas and all of the inbound links to its blog for proof that it works.

Where to Start

If you need inspiration on how to visualize and share data on your site, check out The New York Times’ 2013 year-in-review post on interactive storytelling, Wil Reynolds’ diigo page, or this guide that Ross Hudgens shared.

Earn Fresh Audiences via Partnerships

Bloggers and journalists are hesitant to trust (and write about) brands they don’t know. Instead of pleading your case, just get somebody they love to vouch for you. In B2B, this is where you see testimonials, case studies, and sponsorships. In B2C, it can be a lot more fun.

Live Examples

YouTube is a great place to start. Games that get featured on Wil Wheaton’s YouTube show, TableTop, usually sell out at game stores within a few days. Felicia Day’s The Guild  got a limited edition Jones Soda set and Jones was written about on geek sites across the web. More recently, YouTube vloggers Grace Helbig and Hannah Hart made a movie called Camp Takota that’s been written about everywhere from BuzzFeed to Glamour to The Washington Post, and it’s earned a ton of coverage for Camp Takota distributor, VHX.

The trick with these sponsorships is creative freedom. The more strict you are about brand guidelines, the more unnatural your sponsorship will seem. Content creators have huge communities for a reason. Let them do their thing, and their followers will love you for it. Plus, being nice usually means more brand mentions when creators are talking to the press and to fellow creators.

Where to Start

Not sure where to find opportunities? Ask employees (or better yet, customers) about who they’re reading, watching, and following.

Control Anchor Text by Choosing Words Carefully in Outreach

You can’t tell people what to think, but you can tell them what to think about. In mass communication theory, we call this “framing.” (It’s part of the second-order effects of McCombs and Shaw’s Agenda-Setting Theory.) It means that, while you can’t just force opinions on people, you can influence the factors that help them form opinions, as demonstrated in this classic research study and this Jimmy Kimmel video.


If you’re doing outreach, you’ve seen this effect firsthand. It’s the difference between asking for a guest post and offering to contribute. If you’re writing for PR, you already know that the features you write about in your news release will be the features that journalists call out in their stories.

Take it to the next level by thinking about social media. Keeping your headline or description under 100 characters makes it easy to tweet. People can copy, paste, add a link, and call it good, without having to think too much. (It means your getting rid of prohibiting factors, too.)

Where to Start

You can use this theory to affect (or not affect) anchor text. If you do outreach with an anchor text link to a certain page, people are will link to that page using your anchor text. If you instead do something like, “We want to feature this page:[URL]” people will usually link naturally.

Maintain Relationships with Quick Email Blasts

Building relationships is one of those things that we talk about but rarely accomplish (unless you’re community-building rockstar Jen Lopez). It’s understandable: success is inversely related to time available for cultivating relationships. Little email blasts are a pretty simple solution.

Once you do something successful with a blogger who you’d like to work with again, add them to a list. Categorize this list however it makes sense to do so (mom blogger, women’s fashion, shoes, geek trends, etc.). Do it in Buzzstream or make a spreadsheet. Then, the next time you do something awesome that’s related to what they write about, ping them.


Your email template can be really simple:

Hey Cori,

Wanted to let you know that the headphones you reviewed a few months ago are on sale 20% off. If you want to share with your readers, they can also use this code for free shipping: FREESHIP10. Hope everything is going well!

Cheers, Stephanie

or maybe something like:

Hi Cori,

You worked with me on the headphone review a few months ago. It seemed to go over pretty well, and I’d love to work with you again. Would you be up for reviewing something else? I’m promoting our DJ equipment right now and laptop speakers next month.

Cheers, Stephanie

The trick is to spend at least 2 or 3 minutes personalizing your email. Be specific about how you worked together in the past. Provide a special code for readers if you can do so. Call out something from the post they wrote last time. BuzzStream comes in handy here. Use it to make good notes about your contact, view the last time they linked to you, and update your template before sending.

Where to Start

Once you’ve worked with someone more than once, send a little thank you gift and hand-written note in the mail. Go out of your way to tweet something of theirs if you can. If you’re going to keep reaping the benefits of this relationship, you should put back into it as much as you can.

More Thoughts on PR Tactics for SEO

Here are a few more ways to use PR tactics to improve your link building:

  • Read the news. Follow influencers. Read niche sites. Watch videos. Consume the same information that your customers consume.
  • Keep detailed notes (on both people and websites) about how you worked with someone, what they’re like, and whether or not you should work with them again. You can use BuzzStream’s relationship status, a tag, or a custom category to do this at scale (and for easy filtering), then add details in the “notes” section.
  • When you’re pitching major news stories, offer bloggers and journalists the opportunity to interview important people.
  • Treat bloggers/journalists as the gatekeepers to your audience. Give them something that they can easily pass along to their readers. Make assets shareable. Make headlines tweetable. Most importantly, be interesting.

Have more ideas about how SEO and PR can work together?  Add them in the comments below.


  • This is a great example of how to bring public relations marketing into a virtual community and combine it with SEO techniques.

  • Thanks, Darren! I agree 100% on both points. 🙂

  • Hey Steph,

    Love the idea of pitching people and not sites. These days, you HAVE to read a lot of content in order to make a pitch effective. You shouldnt pitch people if you have not read a few of their articles.

    Regarding the press release, I have never been a huge fan of wire services. Sure, it should be a part of the mix, but I think it is better to do “manual” outreach first, then hit the wires.

  • Thanks, Justin! I agree about the ego part, too. Plus, they may find opportunities (sites) for your news that you hadn’t considered.

  • These are great insights Stephanie. What a great tip on finding journalists and pitching them instead of the site itself. I would think this also plays into their ego a little more as well.

  • Andy Cooney

    Have to disagree with your point regarding press releases. We have recently got links from several large media outlets (including Yahoo Lifestyle) from sending an initial press release. Obviously a lot of thought and effort went into the content within the release, but it was the release getting picked up that led to the initial links.

  • Interesting. Was the Yahoo Lifestyle an editorial pickup, or the syndicated release?
    Personally I, like Steph, am anti-press release, and have found direct pitching to be far more effective than wire services. But the world is big and there are lots of ways to be good at marketing.
    Thanks for reading and stopping by,