Is Link Building a PR Function?

Link Building is a discipline that has a ton in common with basic PR. While there are many important differences as well, both are focused on getting the word out about a business, and getting other people to embrace it. Once you understand how closely tied these are you begin to see why these important functions must work together.

Both disciplines apply direct and indirect means of promoting the business. Examples of indirect means that a PR department might use are: press releases, trade shows, and advertising. Examples of indirect means that a link builder might use are: press releases, social news site campaigns (e.g. Digg and Reddit), and a link bait campaign.

All of these things are targeted at broadcasting a message and hoping for good results. While my phrasing of that statement may not seem like a stunning endorsement, history shows that indirect link building does in fact work well for many, many businesses, and it is the best way to build a volume of links quickly, but you need to have the right message that you are broadcasting.

Direct means that a PR department generally uses is getting in touch with members of the media (which can and should include the blogosphere). While a link builder may also choose to get in touch with the media, hopefully your PR department has direct contacts they can leverage and that is almost always the best route to use. Direct means that a link builder might use can be a bit broader. Identifying influencers in media is fair game, as is identifying authoritative web sites, and contacting them.

These targeted techniques are generally oriented around developing relationships with major players and getting them to endorse your organization in one manner of another. Of course, the link builder wants to inspire the person on the other end of the relationship to give their web site a link. This requires a lot of patience and determination, but it is often the best way to get that link from an authoritative site.

Note that there are a couple of key differences between PR and link building:

  • PR is not just about the web site. Of course, you could argue this one with me too. If your web site is bringing in lots of visitors who then go to a physical store to buy the product, is link building only about the web site? Maybe not.
  • As a consequence, PR is not specifically focused on links to the web site. As a result it does not naturally think about link quality, and where authoritative links can be found, and make that the focus of their efforts.

Personally, I believe that all of SEO is a marketing function. While some may debate with me whether or not technical SEO should be in the marketing department, I do not believe that there should be any debate that the link building team should be in marketing. In the future, you may see companies begin to incorporate the link building function directly into the PR department. As long as it is not seen as a tertiary function, this is probably an OK thing.


  1. says

    Hey Eric,

    Great seeing you at SMX. It sure has been a while. Great post here and something i’ve been working on all weekend. I completely agree that the best form of link development makes use of what you are calling direct and indirect methods. So a question for you. Are you guys doing any of the old fashion link devleopment anymore? Meaning, building a list of good to high value target sites and going after them? Or do you focus purely on creating valuable content for your clients?

    I’ve been focusing on a a 2 phase approach that goes after low hanging fruit (if any) that involves just good old fashion link development and focusing on coming up with great content that will attract links organically.

    Just seems like more and more people I talk to are moving away from the good old fashion link development and are focusing almost all their time on content creation.

    What are your thoughts on this? What is your approach?

  2. says

    Hey Scott – good seeing you as well. Actually, old fashioned link building still works, if you do it in the right places. Nonetheless, it is driven by content, so it does not work unless the content merits getting the link. So it sounds like we are pretty similar in our approach.

  3. Nicole says

    Gotta have great content to generate great links. Our small team probably spends 40% of the time writing/posting new content and 60% link building. And 60% of the time, we have to write an article/paragraph etc. in order to get a link – so content is king around our office, for sure.

  4. says

    You hit the nail on the head. I would say that we move to more of a 20% link development and 80% content development split after about 4 to 5 months. I think this naturally happens as you work through all the low hanging fruit early on.

    We always try and focus most of our time on content development/link bait and work to grow links as organically as possible.

    Great stuff : )

  5. says

    The best approach in my opinion is a well diversified approach of all aspects, profiles, articles, PR anything and everything done the right usually yields positive results.

  6. says

    That’s nice topic to discuss that Is Link building a PR function?
    I think Link building doesn’t affect directly on PR but indirectly it affects boldly.

  7. says

    Great post Eric. I believe that in writing great content for a Press Release that is centered around a topic of your business, opportunities for relevant, keyword-rich links will happen naturally. In this digital age, Link Building should definitely be a part of PR and should go hand-in-hand with your SEO efforts.

  8. says

    Great post Eric. I believe that in writing great content for a Press Release that is centered around a topic of your business, opportunities for relevant, keyword-rich links will happen naturally.

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