Build a Better Backlink Strategy: 9 Ways to Improve Your SEO Rankings through Content and PR

By Kathryn Hawkins. Content Strategy PR SEO Newsletter
   Credit:  lightsource via depositphotos  License: Depositphotos

Learn why HARO, PR campaigns, guest blogging, research reports, expert round-ups, and infographics are some of our favorite strategies for building backlinks—and why “pay to play” backlink strategies often backfire.

When you’re focusing on building a digital presence for your brand without relying heavily on advertising, a strong organic presence in search engine results pages (SERPs) s key.

But to come up near the top of the search rankings for key terms related to your brand, you need to do more than just pump out content. Google’s algorithm favors content that’s been shown to be relevant to others—by way of quality backlinks from sites that it deems to be “high authority.”

To achieve strong search performance, it's important to build a backlink strategy to help you boost your site's domain authority. Your linkbuilding strategies can include a variety of link building campaign types, including outreach, PR, guest blogging, and more. By finding link building strategies that work, paired with strong on-site search engine optimization, you'll be able to get your website to the top of the SERPs for relevant keywords, helping you drive traffic to your site sustainably.

What is domain authority?

There are a number of software tools that determine their own “domain authority” scores for websites, based on how likely they are to come up in prime positions in search rankings for a particular search term, including Moz and SEMRush. The domain authority (or DA) score is based on a number of factors, which include the age of the domain; the number of backlinks; and, most importantly, the relevance and authority of those backlinks.

For instance, let’s say you have a blog that’s all about organic gardening in Florida. If you get a link from another small organic gardening blog, that’s a nice accomplishment, but it may not boost your search rankings.

But if you get a backlink from a blog post in Better Homes and Gardens, that will likely drive both some referral traffic, and help to boost your domain authority by at least a point or two: Moz ranks at 80, which is a premium backlink opportunity.

Domain authority rankings can change frequently, and are subject to changes in Google’s algorithms and other outside factors, so it’s not an exact science—but as a general rule, the more high quality backlinks your content has from other sites, the higher your own site will rank in Google search and other search engines.

Top link building strategies

So, of course, that begs the question: How do you get these high quality backlinks?

Let’s discuss some of the best link building strategies to help you boost your search visibility.

Responding to journalist inquiries

We’ve written before about HARO as a great strategy for getting backlinks, and it still rings true today. With HARO, and similar services like Qwoted, Prowly, and JournoRequest, the journalists come to you—they’re looking for a specific type of expert for a quote, and if you fit the bill and provide them with good content, you may get quality backlinks out of it for a minimum of work. (For example, a couple of years ago, I responded to a HARO inquiry and shared my thoughts on the scourge that is MLM marketing with Huffington Post, and got a great backlink both from Huffington Post itself and from other publications that quoted that article.)

In many cases, you’ll just need to respond with a paragraph or so in response to the journalist’s question, although some may prefer to do a phone interview. In all cases, time is of the essence: Once they get a few good responses, they may not continue reviewing. If you don’t have time to do this yourself, that’s where an agency can come in handy. We work with some of our clients to monitor for relevant opportunities and then respond on their behalf, helping them get quotes from top-tier publications like Entrepreneur and Forbes.

PR campaigns

A traditional PR campaign can also yield results—if, that is, you have actual news to report. Just closed a Series A round? That’s press-worthy, and likely to get you attention and high quality backlinks from many reputable media sources. Launching a crowdfunding campaign? If your product is unique and innovative, that may yield results, too. But make sure you’re not publicizing news that may only be noteworthy to your own friends and family, or you’re likely to see your press efforts fizzle out.

In order to see success from a PR campaign, you need to go beyond putting out a press release. In fact, it’s not even necessary in most cases, though it may not hurt to cover your bases.

But the bulk of the PR work is done in developing a highly targeted media list that’s relevant to your story and audience, and then sending out customized messages to journalists, bloggers, podcasters, or whoever you’re trying to reach, through the medium they’re most comfortable with. For some, that may be email, for others, X, or even SMS if they’re already in your network.

In any case, the goal is to come up with a message that’s going to be relevant to each journalist, so that you can pique their interest—generic PR blasts won’t do that, but personalized content that shows you know each writer or editor’s beat well.

When we work with a client, we start this process by working out our goals and messaging strategy—we’ll have different target outlets based on each client’s industry and expertise, and some may focus more heavily on TV or podcasting v. written content. By taking the time to understand the different angles we can showcase based on each outlet, and understanding how to engage with each journalist on their own terms, we’ll be able to develop relevant pitches that journalists are likely to respond to positively.

When planning PR campaigns, keep in mind that success may not happen right away. But by making contact with relevant journalists, you'll be able to establish yourself as a go-to source when someone you've connected with has a relevant story to write -- helping you build credibility, brand trust, and high-quality backlinks.

Guest blogging

Offering your byline and expertise to other websites is also a great link building strategy to build brand credibility and help you connect with new audiences.

When we work on guest blog campaigns with our clients, we customize our guest posting strategy based on the client’s goals and expertise. Some may be more focused on industry-specific publications, which might have smaller, but more relevant audiences, whereas others may prefer to develop content for larger sites with a more general audience but a higher domain authority score that might make your SEO efforts go further. There’s no right answer—it’s all based on your preferences and desires.

In some cases, a client may already have connections with relevant websites, and simply needs support developing the content on their internal subject-matter expert’s behalf. In others, we might be involved in soup-to-nuts guest blogging strategy: Deciding which publications to target, conducting outreach, writing guest blogs, and tracking placements.

Without a prior relationship, keep in mind that it may take weeks for a guest post to go from draft to publication, and it may not be accepted by the first publication you target. Although some agencies will guarantee a certain number of monthly links, we prefer to aim high, helping you get the best possible content placements that will support your brand reputation and help you build quality backlinks. In some cases, it can take time, but it can yield far better results than going for low-hanging fruit or engaging in shady link-trading or “pay to play” strategies. That said, if you're more concerned with building backlinks fast, we also have a network of guest blog opportunities where we can publish content immediately.

Content collaborations

Taking part in a content collaboration is also a great link building strategy, in which you'll contribute a quote or section to a roundup blog post that will be published on a relevant site. You can often find brands seeking contributors for roundup posts on X and other social media platforms, as well as on Slack channels focused on marketing, HARO, and other journalist query sites. These blog posts can often get a lot of social media traffic, as every expert quoted is likely to share it with their respective audiences.

One point to keep in mind when putting work into a guest post campaign: Not all backlinks are high quality links. Getting associated with a spammy site can do your brand more harm than good, so make sure that you're not paying for or trading links for subpar sites.

Likewise, some high quality sites only offer "nofollow links", which will not support your domain authority, as opposed to "dofollow links." If the site offers a great audience and brand association, it may still be worth contributing, but nofollow links aren't as helpful if your end goal is ranking higher in the search engines.

Data-driven research reports

Journalists and bloggers are always hungry for new original data to use in their articles. If you can provide them with some fresh stats, you’re golden.

Creating original data is an incredible way to build backlinks quickly. When we’ve developed original research reports for clients and launched an associated PR campaign that includes press releases and targeted outreach, we’ve seen upwards of 50+ new links from a report within the space of a few months, including news websites and other authoritative backlinks.

To do this effectively, however, your data has to be reputable and well-sourced.

Sometimes, you may have data at your fingertips: Brands like Credit Karma, for instance, are able to draw from their millions of customer profiles to identify interesting data trends that they can anonymously share with an audience, as they did in their 2021 State of Credit and Debt Report.

Other times, you may not have data to draw from, but you may have access to a large audience through your customer list. In this case, you can send a survey to ask them questions that you can use to gather insights. Once you've compiled and analyzed them, you can create content including a longform report, a condensed summary, and an infographic spotlighting your data.

Keep in mind that to use this strategy, you’ll want to have a mailing list of at least several thousand to ensure you get a statistically significant number of results. If not, you may want to use a polling company to locate people within your target audience to take the survey.

We’ve worked with clients to develop survey questions through simple survey tools like Survey Monkey, which we can then develop into a detailed report to provide a new perspective for your industry that will be news-worthy to media outlets, and likely generate a lot of backlinks to the original report.

Expert round-up blog posts

Rather than contributing to external roundup posts, you can also create your own blog post on an internal page.

These articles can be very easy to put together, especially if you already have a website with relatively high monthly views. In this case, you’ll be able to post your query directly on HARO and other journalist query sites, and cherry-pick the responses that are relevant for your article, helping the respondents out by giving them a backlink to their own sites. If your site isn’t high-traffic enough to be considered by HARO, you can use Twitter, LinkedIn, or personal outreach to find experts to contribute to your article.

This type of content is ideal because it’s likely to be shared by many, if not all, of the experts quoted on their own social media channels, helping you generate additional traffic to the piece. It’s also likely to earn links either from their own sites or from other blogs that quote from your piece in the future.

For example, within 30 days of posting a “50 SEO Experts” roundup, MediaDigi got over 3500 visitors; 300 new Twitter followers; 500 social media shares; 20 email subscribers; and 14 new backlinks. Building expert roundup content for your site is a good way to generate unique content for your site, build relationships with industry experts, and increase your search and social visibility all at once.


Infographics and data visualizations are also a great way to build new backlinks, by incorporating either unique data (potentially repurposed from a research report) or aggregating different data sets together in a unique way.

When considering your infographic strategy, choose a concept that’s relevant to your industry, but interesting to a broader audience—you want to build an infographic that will be highly shareable on social media. For example, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) created an infographic that’s all about the electrical components of self-driving cars. The infographic spotlights ASME’s expertise, but makes it accessible and relevant to a general news audience by focusing on a topic that consumers care about.

A major benefit of infographics is that other site owners can embed the infographic directly on their own site, providing a backlink to your site when they do. You can even include an embed link that displays with the infographic, encouraging anyone who wants to use the infographic to share it on their own site.

Infographics can take more initial legwork than blog posts because of the design needs, but the payoff may be worth it. When designing your infographic, you can use a custom designer or use an infographic maker tool, such as Canva’s.

Resource pages

Building out in-depth, educational resource pages that are tied to your industry keywords is an effective strategy for building high quality backlinks, though it's not as immediate as some of the other methods we've addressed. By creating in-depth, cornerstone content that breaks down a concept thoroughly and helpfully, you'll naturally rise to the top of the search engines for related keyword terms, and other sites that are writing about the topic in passing will be likely to link to your resource page as an expert authority.

In order to maximize your chances of getting your resource pages to rank well, it's important to conduct keyword research in advance to identify topics that aren't already dominated by major players. Creating resource pages in around niche topics will help you quickly build your visibility, and increase the number of links pointing to your page.

Broken link building

For some low-hanging fruit, try broken link building. This involves using a link audit tool, like SEMRush, to identify sites that link to broken links on your site, giving 404 errors. You can reach out to these site owners to let them know about the broken link, and offer the correct URL. This strategy will help site owners improve their users' experience, while helping you easily boost your backlink profile with new link opportunities.

Finally, what not to do

These are all solid strategies that will help you gain backlinks and grow your audience through content marketing and PR.

However, you’ll find many agencies that focus on link building en masse—essentially, they’ll have a list of sites that have agreed to provide backlinks in exchange for payment. Sometimes, they’ll even have individual authors who have platforms on reputable sites who are willing to promote your company for a fee.

Although the links may appear faster in these cases than using content marketing or PR, they’re not good for your business. If Google recognizes that you’ve used “black-hat” SEO tactics for building links, they can impose a penalty on your site, so that you’ll appear lower in search rankings or even be de-indexed altogether.

It's also not worth pumping your site full of AI-generated SEO content in an attempt to generate higher search engine rankings. This content is not likely to generate links from reputable domains, and can cause more harm than good to your SEO strategy.


By developing a solid link building strategy that relies on producing high-quality content and delivering it effectively to your audience, you’ll be able to create a sustainable path that will help you generate backlinks from high-quality, trusted sites.

As a result, you’ll see your search engine rankings rise over time, and be able to build an audience of your own. Backlinks also represent trust in your brand, and by seeking out organic connections from sites that actually see the value in your content, you’ll be able to showcase your brand as a valuable and trustworthy voice in your industry and beyond.

Need support with your link building strategy? Get in touch for a free consultation.

Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins

Kathryn Hawkins is principal and chief content strategist of Eucalypt Media. She has worked as a freelance journalist for media publications and managed inbound marketing and content strategy for corporate and nonprofit clients for more than 16 years.

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