More than ever, online marketing demands a new approach. Search engines—the primary drivers of website traffic for most businesses—require a more sophisticated, thoughtful approach in order to achieve visibility, traffic, and sales. In stark contrast from dangerous, spammy tactics still perpetuated by many marketing agencies for their clients, achieving SEO success requires strategic branding and authority building, and there’s one strategy rapidly growing in popularity that provides more consistent, powerful returns than any tactic that has come before: brand mentions.
The Benefits of Brand Mentions
Brand mentions are linked mentions of your brand name on major media publications like Mashable, TechCrunch, or The Wall Street Journal.
Brand mentions begin with great content. If you have fantastic content on your website, such as an infographic with unique insights, or an in-depth blog post written by an industry expert on your staff, journalists at major media publications may find it helpful to cite those resources to support claims within stories that they’re writing.
When a journalist publishes a story that cites or references your content within their story, you get credit in Google’s search ranking algorithm. Google’s algorithm has grown so sophisticated that the mere mention of your brand in an authoritative context (even if it’s not linked) is enough to pass trust and authority to your site. Google uses mentions and links as the primary ranking factors in its search algorithm; the more brand mentions you have from authoritative, trustworthy, quality publications, the more Google will trust your brand, and thus display it higher in search results.
But brand mentions are far more than just an SEO strategy. There are 4 main benefits:
1. Increased Referral Traffic
Mashable. TechCrunch. The Wall Street Journal. You recognize these names because they’re some of the most popular publishers in the world. Each article published on these sites attracts thousands of views during the course of its existence, and each reader will become aware of your brand if it’s present within the article. The end result is new, direct visits to your site from these referral sources. One of our clients has earned more than 10,000 referral visits from brand mentions, with new referrals still coming in daily—a result that would typically cost $100,000 or more through a traditional PPC campaign like Google AdWords. The same client has also seen an increase of 75,000 unique monthly visitors from search traffic, growing from 100,000 to 175,000 and beyond.
2. Increased Brand Visibility
The value of brand familiarity is incalculable. Each time a potential customer is exposed to your brand name, that customer grows more familiar with your business. Studies have shown that familiarity results in favorability, and thus higher conversion rates. Appearing more frequently than your competitors also makes it more likely your brand name will come to mind first when potential customers are ready to make a purchase. Making your name visible and available through brand mentions greatly increases your brand’s visibility, which results in greater conversion rates.
3. Improved Reputation and Trust
Once you’ve gotten published on a major publisher, you’ll earn the right to brag about it. An “As seen on” section on your homepage or “Contact Us” page that highlights logos of publishers on which your brand has been featured serves as extremely strong social proof, thereby increasing conversion rates.
4. Compounding Returns
Appearing in a published article through a brand mention isn’t a one-time tactic; it’s an investment with compounding returns. Articles published on major media publications almost always remain online and indexed in Google indefinitely. The more time that passes, the more views each article will receive, and the more referral traffic you’ll earn. The more articles you appear in, the more authority you’ll build, and the better reputation you’ll develop.
So, How do I Get My Content In Front of Journalists?
Earlier, I discussed how brand mentions begin with exceptional content. There’s just one problem; how do you get that content in front of journalists so they can reference it in their stories?
You have a few options for doing so. The DIY-approach is to identify publishers on which you’d like to acquire brand mentions, then identify journalists and editors at each publication, then contact them to make your pitch. Unfortunately, this approach tends to rarely yield any responses because of the high number of spam emails journalists and editors receive from eager business owners hungry for a chance to have their brand mentioned on these publications. Additionally, it’s often difficult to find contact information for journalists and editors, as many have hidden it as a result of growing tired of the bombardment of cold outreach.
The next alternative is to hire a PR agency. PR agencies build email lists of journalists and send them story “ideas” or “interview opportunities” via email. These emails often become annoying after a while; as a journalist myself, I receive up to a dozen of them per day. This is called the “spray and pray” approach. If they send enough emails, maybe a journalist will bite; it becomes a numbers game for the PR agency. Unfortunately, they generally have no idea how many journalists will respond, or from which publications.
At SEO.co, we take a different approach. We build relationships with journalists and then provide elite support for them, assisting with writing, editing, obligations, and quotas. If they need a story, or a source for a story, we work with them directly to write and edit the perfect story, or identify the perfect source. Within these stories, we identify opportunities to reference our clients’ content, in order to highlight our clients as experts or authority sources within each story. Using this approach, we bridge the gap between your content and journalists at major media publications, and we’re able to include our clients in the content writing and approval process.
This approach results in a much more clearly-defined deliverable than what PR agencies offer. Rather than guessing at the number of placements you’ll get, or on which publishers they’ll appear, we’re able to tell our clients exactly which publishers will be publishing each story, and allow our clients pre-approval of each story before publication.
In reality, brand mentions are nothing new; nor is content marketing, which is at the heart of the strategy. What’s new is the rise in popularity of the strategy, which is a direct result of recent Google algorithm changes that emphasize brand signals over other metrics. Google has evolved its algorithm to favor brands that show strong ties with trusted publishers, and specifically branded links and mentions on trustworthy sources.
These changes have resulted in an explosion of popularity in content marketing, which many have called “the new SEO” and blurred the lines between PR and SEO. Google has finally created an atmosphere where cheap, spammy gimmicks don’t work, while real, quality content publication and branding signals do work. Unfortunately, the majority of SEO and digital marketing agencies are still stuck performing tactics that no longer work for their clients, because they haven’t developed the resources, processes, or relationships to keep up with the evolution of the industry.
Timothy Carter is the CRO for SEO.co/. Since 1997 he's been helping businesses maximize their sales revenue from websites via content marketing, SEO and Internet Marketing strategies. Over the years he's written for publications like Marketing Land, Search Engine Journal, MarketingProfs and other highly respected online publications.