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PR Backlinks How to get Press Links From Journalists

Corey Batt

Which backlink would you rather have: one from a virtually unknown business directory or a link from a major news publication like The Wall Street Journal (WSJ)?

The choice is obvious, as WSJ’s domain will have far more ranking power and influence than an obscure directory. 

Links coming from news publications, online magazines, and journalists are known as press release backlinks or PR backlinks for short. 

These links are especially valuable because they tend to have higher domain authority than links coming from other sources (like small business directories and blogs). 

Backlinks coming from major publications like The New York Times are considered the holy grail of link-building due to their sky-high domain authority (95 in the case of the NYT) and the massive amount of traffic they generate. 

Snagging links like this will significantly boost your search engine rankings and provide tons of referral traffic, so you should definitely include PR backlinks in your overall link-building strategy. 

In this article, we’ll explore A) why PR backlinks are so important and B) how you can start building them today – so stay tuned. 

What are PR Backlinks, and Why are They So Valuable?

A PR backlink is a link on any type of media outlet that points back to your website. It could be from a news publication or online magazine, and acquiring them involves conducting outreach to prominent journalists in your field. 

Why do link-builders hold PR backlinks in such high regard?

There are several reasons why, but the primary one has to do with the way Google ranks its search results. 

If you want to appear in the #1-ranked organic position, Google has to trust you and view your content as accurate, credible, and valuable to its users. 

Backlinks act as ‘credibility votes’ for your content, so if you have lots of links coming from established newspapers, Google will see your content as especially valuable and high-quality. 

Not all backlinks have the same ranking power, as links coming from lesser-known websites will carry less clout. 

However, if you can land backlinks from major news sites like The New York Times, you’ll see a significant increase in your ranking power. That’s why high-value PR backlinks are enough to make any link-builder’s mouth start to water. 

Here’s a look at the benefits you’ll enjoy from acquiring top-tier PR backlinks.

Improve your website’s E-E-A-T (experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness) 

Google’s E-E-A-T acronym embodies the traits the company wants to see in the websites populating its search results. 

Experience and expertise are two factors you should include in every piece of content you create, but authoritativeness is a bit different. 

To build your authority on Google, you need valuable backlinks more than anything else, and as we’ve gone over, PR backlinks are the cream of the crop. Therefore, lots of PR backlinks will boost your E-E-A-T, making it easier for your website to rank in the #1 spot for your most important keywords. 

Enjoy more organic traffic and referral traffic 

By boosting your backlink profile with press links, you’ll rank higher on Google and generate more traffic as a result. 

Besides that, you’ll see a spike in referral traffic from getting your website featured on popular media outlets in your industry. 

Referral traffic is valuable because:

  • The traffic isn’t affected by SEO or algorithm updates (meaning competitors can’t steal it, and it won’t disappear due to a Google update). 
  • It can introduce your products and services to new audiences. 
  • Referral boosts your brand awareness online, expanding your reach and influence. 

PR links provide lots of link juice for your backlink profile

Lastly, press links coming from reputable sources will pass lots of link juice onto your site, which will improve your ranking power on search engines. 

The more authoritative a media outlet is (which is notated by its domain authority score), the more link juice it has. 

If you’re able to secure multiple backlinks from major news sources, your website will overflow with link juice, and you’ll enjoy more traffic and better rankings. 

Where PR Backlinks Get Tricky: Dofollow vs. Nofollow Links: What’s the Difference?

Okay, here’s where the waters get a bit murky for some, as they confuse dofollow with nofollow PR links. 

Put simply, dofollow and nofollow are HTML attributes that control the flow of link juice from your backlinks. 

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s take a closer look. 

Dofollow PR backlinks 

If a backlink has a rel=”dofollow” attribute in its HTML code, it means that the backlink WILL pass link juice to your website and boost your ranking power on search engines like Google.

In other words, if you want a backlink to positively affect your SEO, it has to be a dofollow backlink. 

How do you acquire dofollow links from reputable sources?

The most common way is by creating shareable content that provides valuable insights. 

Content like videos, infographics, and how-to blogs are great for naturally generating backlinks and social shares, which is a plus. 

You can also obtain dofollow links from:

  • Bloggers
  • Journalists
  • Media outlets
  • Online magazines

Nofollow PR backlinks 

The rel=”nofollow” HTML attribute does the opposite of the dofollow tag, meaning it blocks the flow of link juice to your website

Therefore, nofollow backlinks won’t have much of an effect on your SEO profile. 

Notice that we said much instead of none, as contrary to popular belief, nofollow links will still improve your ranking power, just not as much as dofollow links

That means you shouldn’t refuse a backlink if it’s nofollow, as it can still help you rank higher on Google (and other search engines). 

In the earlier days of SEO, link-builders would heavily abuse PR directories to artificially boost their rankings. This was the impetus that led Google to dictate that all PR backlinks had to contain a nofollow tag. 

Besides the tiny amount of ranking power they provide, nofollow links will also:

  • Drive organic traffic to your website
  • Build brand awareness 
  • Encourage other journalists and bloggers to pick up your story 

How to Secure Valuable PR Backlinks for Your Business Step-by-Step 

When done correctly, press links will introduce your brand to new audiences, generate referral traffic, and positively affect your search engine rankings. 

Sounds great, right?

Well, there’s a lot you need to know before you start reaching out to journalists and bloggers, which is why we put together this step-by-step guide for securing PR backlinks. 

Step #1: Research your target audience 

As with any marketing campaign, PR links are only successful when you have an intimate understanding of your target audience. 

Otherwise, you may wind up creating the wrong type of content or even offend your audience by not using the right tone of voice. 

Before you do anything else, do a deep dive into your audience’s:

  • Demographics. What is the primary age group that your products and services appeal to? 
  • Popular media outlets. What do the magazines and publications in your industry typically look like? Do they publish the same types of stories?
  • Editorial style. Does your audience prefer a certain tone of voice or aesthetic (i.e., colors, fonts, images, etc.)?

Once you have a solid grip of these factors, do your best to cater your content to the needs of your audience and the media outlets they frequent. 

For example, if you notice that your audience’s preferred publications use lots of terms popular with a younger crowd, your content and press releases should follow suit. 

Step #2: Write about a relevant topic 

Next, it’s time to start drafting a press release to distribute online. However, you’ll need a topic to cover first, which is where Google Trends comes in handy. 

It will help you identify currently trending topics that you can work into your press releases. 

This step ensures that your press release covers something that’s genuinely interesting to your target audience, heightening the chances that they’ll click on it (or share it with others). 

As an example, let’s say your company sells a variety of healthy snacks. Here’s what happens when we search for ‘healthy snacks’ on Google Trends:

You get to see the amount of interest in the topic over a set period of time, which will let you know if the topic is ‘trending’ or not. 

Moreover, you can see interest by subregion, and Wyoming has the highest amount of interest in healthy snacks. 

Lastly, we have some related keywords and topics that you can use to brainstorm content and press release ideas. 

For your reference, the most common topics press releases cover include the following:

  • Company announcements. Is something big happening at your company (i.e., hiring a new CEO, adding a new department, etc.)? If so, you should let the world know with a press release. 
  • Data-driven research. Has your company discovered something newsworthy or groundbreaking through its research?
    • Events. While some companies use press releases to notify the public of time-sensitive events, these aren’t the best for link-building purposes (since they’ll have to be removed once the event takes place).  
  • Product launches. A press release will help you get the word out about new products launching at your company. 
  • Awards. If you’ve recently received an award or another type of recognition, don’t keep it to yourself. Tell the world with a press release (which will boost brand awareness and improve your reputation at the same time). 
  • Crisis management. One of the main purposes of PR is to recover from a crisis, and press releases are a great way to do that. 

In the case of your fictional ‘healthy snacks’ company, you could write a press release centered around a product release for a new healthy snack and try to distribute it on some local Wyoming news outlets. 

Step #3: Write a compelling press release 

Now that you have a topic to write about, it’s time to put pen to paper, so to speak. Your goal should be to write a compelling, easy-to-read press release that catches the attention of A) your target audience and B) relevant journalists and bloggers in your field. 

Also, don’t try to reinvent the wheel, as there’s a tried and true formula for formatting a press release that’s excellent for getting the attention of media professionals. 

Here are the components you should include in your press release:

  • Logo: Include your brand’s logo in the top-right corner of the press release.
  • Headline: Write an eye-grabbing headline that encompasses the topic of the release without giving away too much. 
  • Release date: Your press release should begin with a mention of the exact date on which your release debuts. 
  • Contact info: Don’t forget to include your (or whoever will be fielding media inquiries) email address and phone number so that journalists can get in touch to share your story. 
  • Intro paragraph: This is the main hook of your press release, so make it as concise and compelling as possible (one sentence works). 
  • Body paragraphs: Use these to further elaborate on the topic of the press release without repeating yourself or going off topic. 
  • Boilerplate: This small section exists to provide some background information about your company for journalists. 
  • Sign-off: Include a concise summary of the release, and then include ‘-end-’ to let journalists know that the message is complete. 

Here are a few examples of press releases that we think are especially effective (and that embody the format listed above to the letter):

This release from ModCloth has it all: a catchy title, a succinct intro, and simple copy that cuts straight to the point. 

This offering from eBay is a great example of a press release covering a company announcement. In this case, they appointed a new CEO. 

Step #4: Don’t over-optimize your press release 

While you’re creating press releases for PR and SEO purposes, that doesn’t mean you should go crazy with optimization tactics. 

Here’s a list of spammy SEO tactics you should avoid in your press releases:

  • Keyword stuffing. Don’t go nuts with your targeted keywords, as you should only use them where they make sense. 
  • Using the dofollow tag for PR links. Remember that you must mark your PR links with nofollow tags; otherwise, you could get in trouble with Google. 
  • Over-optimized anchor text. You’ll have control over the anchor text for any backlinks you include in your release, but you shouldn’t include exact-match keywords. Instead, opt for more natural-looking anchors (partial matches and naked URLs). 

Step #5: Select your distribution channels 

By now, you should have a high-quality press release ready for distribution. The only thing left to do is decide where you’ll distribute it online. 

Many PR distribution channels charge fees for uploading press releases, so you should make sure they’re worth your while. 

Factors to consider include:

  • Your budget compared to the fee they charge
  • The channel’s demographics and geographic distribution 
  • Their credibility (good reviews, high DA score, etc.)
  • Their relevance (do they cater to your industry?)

Step #6: ‘Nofollow’ your PR links 

Next, hit each PR backlink you acquire with a ‘nofollow’ HTML tag to ensure compliance with Google. 

Remember, nofollow tags won’t completely negate the ranking power of a backlink, so you shouldn’t be hesitant to do it. 

Your nofollow PR links are strictly to share news, but the journalists who choose to pick up your story will provide valuable dofollow links – which are what you want. 

By nofollowing all your PR backlinks, you won’t have to worry about receiving a manual penalty from Google, which could wreck your search rankings. 

Step #7: Monitor your progress 

Lastly, you need to monitor the impact of your press releases to determine your success rate. 

If your press releases aren’t generating the kind of links you want to see, it’s a clear sign you need to go back to the drawing board and try something new. 

How can you tell when you get new PR links?

A great way is to use Alerts by Ahrefs, which will send you an email notification every time you pick up a new backlink or someone mentions your brand online. 

Start Using PR Backlinks to Boost Your Online Visibility 

That’s what it takes to build high-value PR backlinks for your business. By reaching out to relevant news publications and media outlets in your field, you’ll boost your brand awareness and online visibility by significant margins. 

Now that we’ve provided the framework, what are you waiting for? Don’t wait to start building PR backlinks to your website today. 

Do you need help securing top-tier PR backlinks for your business so you can focus on more important things?

Then, don’t wait to check out our advanced PR link-building services from Authority Builders, including Link Outreach, Content Creation, and Guest Posts.    


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