Organizations that have substantial brand equity, or are working to build it, will have a gold mine of untapped linking opportunities scattered on a blog, influencer, and news sites.
While good PR teams are great at getting their company and brand or product story published, they don’t always have the direction, or it’s out of their scope to align that work with SEO and link building efforts.
The reality is most organizations have not captured link building as a PR metric, but they should!
That said, as a rule of thumb, generating branded anchor text for unlinked brand mentions can generate a significant number of links with minimal effort.
Some people have reported 15–20% successful placement rates from outreach to secured links.
Data-driven link building is certainly a good option to secure a significant number of links.
However, the amount of time it takes to build this content increases the resources needed to generate a link.
4 Types of Unlinked Mentions to Find
There are four types of brand mentions to search for.
The route you choose will depend on your company structure and how you brand the company, the products, and its people.
1. Company Brand
Depending on the structure of your company, the corporate or company brand name may provide the most unlinked brand mentions.
The brands can certainly have a lot of mentions.
For example, B&H Photo Video and Audio has a lot of online references, as seen in the Moz report.
An example of a company brand:
2. Product Brand
If your company sells a product with a well-known brand name, then finding the product brand mentions is an effective approach to generate links.
A product brand example is the Allbird Wool Runners from Allbirds. This popular sneaker brand has 137,000 unique unlinked mentions.
Although most of these are not good prospects for links, this will certainly create some opportunities.
This could be a direct-to-consumer CPG or a digital product like a branded training course.
3. Ecommerce Retail Brands
This refers to a product that an ecommerce retailer sells from another company or CPG brand product.
You see that Farfetch sells Gucci Sneakers, but this product is produced by Gucci and Farfetch is a reseller of that product.
4. Executive or Company Influencers
Executive influencers have become an effective growth strategy, and some influencers have gone on to launch successful products or services.
It’s difficult to speak of executive influencers and not bring up Gary Vaynerchuk.
If I were handling SEO for VaynerMedia, I would have a full-time job claiming unlinked brand mentions for the term “gary vaynerchuk.”
If you want to determine if this process is the right fit for your brand, then here are two ways to identify if there is a significant volume of mentions.
Google Search Operators
The manual method involves using Google search operators to find all of a company’s brand mentions outside of their website and primary social media channels.
Using the “intext” operator to define the “company brand,” in conjunction with using the minus operator (e.g., “-intext:searchenginejournal.com” and -insite:facebook.com) to only return sites without links to the domain, you will be able to start finding all of the off-page results.
As the listings come up in Google, you may find it very difficult to sort through and make sense of the results without going page by page.
If you prefer more data on the prospective sites and content, then there are several tools that you can use.
Since I’ve already written a few times about how to use Ahrefs, I wanted to explore other great alternatives:
Moz’s Fresh Web Explorer
I like the simplicity of the tool, and if you use Moz data, but you still need to know your operators.
The main benefits are the tool’s “mention authority” score and the ability to build a campaign around it.
Make sure to use quotation operators around text for exact matches.
So if you’re searching for a product brand like “shure sm7b”, you’ll get results that only have that phrase.
Now that you have a prioritized target list of opportunities, it is time to figure out how to contact the authors to get consideration for backlinks.
Find the Right Contact
Here is where the PR team can start making your work even easier, starting with their list of journalists.
If the team has been in place for any amount of time, they should have relationships with journalists, bloggers, and influencers in their space.
Those relationships can help make your life easier in terms of the initial outreach and some quick wins getting backlinks set up.
Getting the in-house team involved:
- Helps manage the client and expectations.
- Creates buy-in to the process.
- Develops a sense of joint ownership of the results.
While the spreadsheet of journalist relationships is a helpful starting point, once a program begins to scale, you will need to automate.
If you are dealing with a medium-sized business or enterprise account, they will likely have tools already in place, such as Cision, Muck Rack, or Meltwater.
These traditional PR tools have press release distribution, journalist management, media intelligence, and PR reporting as their core DNA, and they can be helpful in aspects of the backlink outreach effort.
However, they are not specifically designed for this purpose.
BuzzStream is a useful tool to prospect and build relationships with lists of journalists, run PR campaigns, and, most importantly, conduct effective link building campaigns, all from one platform.
Create a Natural & Impactful Link
The last part of this equation is how you secure a link in the article and pitch the site.
I group these because the pitch will require an understanding of how much content, if any, you’ll need to provide the publisher.
How to Approach the Request & Content
Update the Brand Mention
This is a fast and straightforward method of securing a link, but it has a lower response rate typically.
With this, you will only get the link update for the exact mention of the brand name.
A paragraph that updates the content around a brand mention provides added value to the publication’s audience by appending a deeper understanding of the topic.
Thankfully, this method will not tax your resources.
Full Content Refresh
Many, if not most, of your unlinked brand mentions will be in articles older than six months, typically.
In this case, I recommend a full content refresh. This means, update the material for the site and then rewrite with recent resources and more in-depth content.
How to Perform Outreach
When you think about it, the easy part is gathering the link opportunities and establishing the list of appropriate contacts.
The question now is, how do you get them to take action on behalf of you and your client?
Here are some key considerations when building the outreach program.
To Scale, You Must Automate/Semi-Automate
Undertaking an extensive link building program with tens of thousands of link opportunities, you will need to automate and try to minimize the complexity of outreach.
Templated outreach scales effectively and is highly measurable in support of campaigns.
Keep in mind you are also building a relationship with bloggers and should take the time to personalize your one-to-one outreach appropriately.
Most email software, like MailChimp or BuzzStream, will offer some form of dynamic insertion into your email-based.
Automate the Follow Up
Writers are busy.
As a professional, you should follow up.
Instead of manually doing follow up, use automated drips and reminders to help stay on top of things.
I’ve been experimenting with AI email response automation with RoboResponse.
Analyze & Optimize Daily
Conduct periodic reviews to examine your progress while the campaigns are in process and adjust as necessary to optimize your results.
I like to roll out emails in small batches and A/B split test titles and copy.
Report on the Metrics
The final step to a link building campaign is the review of internal metrics.
You should review how team members contribute to the end results and report back to the client on the success and set a baseline plan for the next effort.
For a custom outreach campaign, monitor backlinks can allow you to find and monitor links and growth against historic link profiles.
A Final Note
A strong brand will create a lot of opportunities to build links.
Through creative analysis of your company’s brands or internal influencers, there can very well be a large volume of low-hanging fruit capable of a powerful impact on search engine rankings.
While getting backlinks is relatively simple in concept, it is not easy in reality.
Having the right tools to simplify the process and keep things organized is vital to scale the project and your offerings overall successfully.
As a final benefit, along with scale, automation will provide the simplification of reporting and the visualizations needed to determine and articulate program success.
Featured Image: Paulo Bobita
All screenshots taken by author