For Link Building, Is All Publicity Good Publicity?

Traditional PR methods can be fantastically powerful ways to build links
It’s obvious how public relations – attracting the attention of the media and online publishers, being talked and written about – can turn into an effective way to build links.
You attract a blogger’s attention by being interesting, remarkable or newsworthy. She writes about what you’re up to, and probably links to your site in the process.
The powerful thing about PR is that, done right, the link building workload is massively reduced.
Instead of hours spent contacting 500 webmasters and often ending up with only a handful of new links, one good publicity campaign can result in hundreds of websites linking to you. They’re looking for you, instead of the other way around. (Remember this old classic about Mark Attwood… :))

Powerful link building via public relations
Link building after a good PR campaign

Compare that to the common way of link building on a “micro” level:

•    You look at your competitors’ backlinks, see who’s linking to them, and then manually contact those sites in turn to try and get a link too
•    You get content published on other websites and make sure the content contains links back to your site. By blogging as an expert “guest” on other sites (“guest blogging”), for example, or by “article marketing” – distributing written articles and making them available for syndication on other websites.
•    Etc, etc – the many micro level link building tactics go on…
Contrasting again with a “macro” PR approach: if you are publicity worthy, then PR can result in backlinks from a range of really powerful high authority domains. Domains that you would have a cat in hell’s chance of getting links from any other way.
And lastly, public relations tactics stay nicely within Google’s webmaster guidelines for link building: don’t try and manipulate your backlinks. Just run a good website, be link worthy, and let the links flow naturally.
We’ll look in more detail at specific PR-oriented link building strategies in future.
The Easiest Way To Attract Mass Attention: Be An A$$hole!
Let’s first be clear – this is not a strategy we advocate!
One of the most effective ways to get people to start writing about you is to excite strong emotion. And as with many things, it’s often far easier to excite strong emotions in people by pi$$ing them off rather than impressing them.
The Wall Street Journal, and, among others, recently covered somebody that allegedly took this example to extremes. A U.S. online retailer of eyewear,, was reported by to have systematically delivered outrageously offensive and shocking customer service, just to get written about and achieve backlinks!
“Offensive” might be understating it. The company’s owner, Stanley Borker, is reported to have violently threatened one customer, for example:
“Listen bit*h, I know your address.”
He then, wrote the Wall Street Journal, “threatened to find her and commit an act of sexual violence too graphic to describe in a newspaper”, before continuing with a sequence of increasingly scary behaviour you can read about in a fascinating article here.
Customer service
Customer service?

Maybe one to avoid then, if you’re shopping for eyewear any time soon. Especially as the site’s owner has apparently now been arrested.
But the tactics did indeed work, and the site ended up as one of the top ranked sites for the massive online eyewear market – thanks to huge amounts of (negative) online publicity!
Until Google read about what was going on and now claims to have closed the loop… Doh!

The Power of PR and Being Remarkable

What Stanley Borker’s alleged crazy behaviour highlighted was the importance of being remarkable, and the power of PR for magnifying that and turning it into links.
Threatening your customers and delivering terrible service might be a quick way to do it. Google can’t yet always tell the difference between links made to a site because it is good, and links made to a site because it is dangerous – but semantic analysis tools they’re developing may change that in the future.
But for a long term strategy that most of us can live with, the point is that by being as special as you can be (in a good way!), and harnessing traditional PR methods, the impact on backlinks and ranking can be huge.
So what makes you so special?
Horse in a tutu
Worth sharing 🙂

The founder of Attwood Digital, Mark is a digital marketing veteran having been working online since before the dotcom boom. He created the world's first online skip hire service in 2003, has created multiple online courses, lectured on digital marketing and even written a book on the subject. He is also an ICO advisor and crypto-enthusiast.
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