How to get newspaper sites to link to you

Getting your business in the news is tough enough. But, when you're trying to get a link included in a story on a major news outlet, the challenge - along with the potential reward - is far higher.

Getting a link back to your site makes a news mention even more valuable

Here's why you need to think carefully about how to get links back from news sites, plus some strategies that work.

The power of inbound links

Inbound links have been a central part of building an online presence since Google’s Larry Page invented PageRank in the late 1990s.

As web link authority Moz explains in 'The Beginner's Guide to Link Building': "Links as a ranking factor are what allowed Google to start to dominate the search engine market back in the late 1990s... it was so effective because it was based upon the idea that a link could be seen as a vote of confidence about a page."

While Google's algorithm has changed hugely since the '90s, the number and quality of inbound links to a site are still used as some of the main factors that determine how well that site ranks in the search engine results pages.

Meanwhile, some of the best quality inbound links are those from news sites. If you can gain regular, inbound links from authoritative news sites, this will help your own site to rank well. And because most news sites have a lot of readers, those links will also bring direct traffic to your site.

News sites

There is no single rule for gaining links from news sites, but one of them is surely 'editorial justification'. For a journalist to include a link, they will need to be able to justify it from the perspective of their typical reader.

So provide something on the site they will be linking to that's both relevant to the story and genuinely useful to the reader. It could be further information on the topic of the story, perhaps a video or gallery of images.  But it could also be something a reader can register for, which they will value, or a competition they can enter.

News sites have different policies on links, but there is a surprising amount of autonomy granted to journalists in this respect.

It's always worth thinking about the perspective of a journalist. Journalists are not just writing stories, but also publishing, promoting and distributing them. They want to create good stories, that are well shared across social media. By being a good source, and also by promoting their work via your network, you can help them do their job better and more easily.

It is worthwhile highlighting the strength of your network. Perhaps you have a huge Twitter following, or a newsletter which the story will be added to. Offer a quid pro quo - "if you can add a link, we will definitely share it right across our network" (see step 4 for more on this).

Successful strategies for gaining links from news sites:

  1. Set up a photo competition and let local news sites know when someone in their area is shortlisted, with a story about the entrant as well as their photo included in the email. But do this while the competition is still open for entries, as then the news site has a reason to link back – so that readers can enter the competition, too.
  2. Host a downloadable set of results from a survey you've conducted. Provide relevant news sites with a headline statistic, followed by information and quotes about the study. Then link back to the full set of data on your site.
  3. Describe an upcoming event that readers of a news publication will have a reason to be interested in. There will need to be something surprising or newsworthy event, in order for it to gain press attention. Then, provide a place to register for the event on your site, and link through to that from your article.
  4. Be a useful contact and source for journalists and then use this relationship as leverage. Try to create ways that make both parties happy. Build a strong network and allow them to benefit from it. Journalists want their stories to be well read and shared, they also want access and exclusive content. Offer them a deal.