measure backlinks for PR measurementThere are many possible metrics for measuring PR. Some think it’s time to include backlinks as a key metric to evaluate PR success. Incoming links to a company’s domain are among the most important metrics for PR and search engine marketing, these advocates contend. Most PR and SEO experts recognize the value of link-building as a PR strategy.

Traditionally, PR endeavored to place original content in earned media, including print publications, online news, broadcast news and social media. PR pros now also strive to obtain links to those placements and the client’s owned media. Sometimes journalists might decide to place a link to your company website without mentioning the company by name. Those links without brand mentions still serve as a form of a mention.

A Better Metric than Brand Mentions

Some experts argue that backlinks are superior to brand mentions as a PR metric. Links serve two purposes. They increase incoming website traffic and increase your website’s ranking on search engines, especially if obtained from high-quality, authoritative sites. In fact, backlinks are one of the most important, if not the most important, factors in obtaining high search engine ranking.

When more websites link to a news article that links to your website, website traffic will likely increase, boosting your PR campaign’s effectiveness. Because Google assigns high value to backlinks from media outlets, media placements that contain links to your website are especially helpful in boosting search results in addition to increasing referral traffic.

“If The New York Times runs an article mentioning your company, understanding what sites subsequently link to it (the Times article) is a metric that shows how your campaign is permeating the web,” points out Mel Carson, founder of Delightful Communications. “Even if the subsequent stories don’t mention your brand, they will still send traffic to the NYT story where your brand does appear!”

“More and more traditional PR agencies are getting into digital. They need to up their game in reporting and metrics,” Carson argues. “Smart reporting of backlink data is a way of telling the complete story about a campaign and a crucial part of proving worth and return on investment.”

Google Algorithm Updates Empower PR

Google’s updates to its search engine algorithm in recent years sought to end black-hat SEO techniques and place a premium on legitimate backlinks from authoritative sources. The algorithm changes largely succeeded. With the updated algorithm, PR has greater opportunity to create benefit from its traditional strengths of content creation and relationship building that produce backlinks.

“More and more brands understand the importance of maintaining and managing public reputation through a well-trained PR department,” states ubermetrics. “They can reach niches of consumers even paid campaigns can’t.”

How to Benefit from Link Building

To benefit from link-building and demonstrate those benefits to clients or corporate executives, experts recommend that PR:

Learn about SEO. Both agencies and corporate public relations departments can improve their standing with clients and their corporate superiors by learning about researching keywords, URL-tracking and other digital strategies. Seasoned PR and media relations pros who gain command of SEO techniques can achieve greater influence in building natural backlinks.

Integrate PR and SEO. The lines between PR and SEO are blurring as they become more integrated. The two disciplines are more alike than many realize. Synchronized publishing of calendars, aligning goals, combining research, coordinating content can help integrate PR and SEO.

Get social. Social shares can lead to more incoming links. Social signals are also now more important for raising domain authority and page authority.

Gain influence through influencers. Backlinks from social media influencers can increase your web traffic and page authority. The key is to work with influencers in your niche who have authority and hold real influence over followers’ purchase decisions, not just large numbers of followers. A social media monitoring tool can save you substantial time by reporting post frequency and engagement of influencers across multiple social networks.

Employ PR measurement. PR measurement services can track incoming links and other metrics and demonstrate the value of PR to the corporate bottom line.

Bottom Line: Backlinks are a powerful tool for increasing website traffic and boosting search engine rankings. Backlinks can also serve as a valuable PR metric for demonstrating PR’s business value.