• SEO

Effective digital PR strategies in hard-to-market industries

By clariondevelop

Digital PR strategist Will Hobson from Branded3 provides some advice on how to gain high-authority links from multiple domains in hard-to-market areas such as betting. 

I think its safe to say it’s getting harder to build links in any industry; however, it’s becoming even more difficult in hard-to-market areas such as betting.

I am going to be exploring the different strategies we should employ in these markets, to gain high authority links from multiple domains. I will also be touching on a few campaigns we have worked on.

The first rule of thumb in these industries is to stop spamming; there’s no need to use these tactics. These may have short-term gains, but in the end, you will be penalised.

What do I mean by spamming?

Well, it can mean multiple things, but in this instance, it can be broken down into using low-quality sites or sponsored posts. People often use the excuse that this is the only way to build links in the industry, but I think that’s a lazy excuse.

What should we be talking about?

When we start to look at our digital PR strategies, we often make sure we don’t mention the products our clients may offer.

This is relevant across most industries – anything too product focused does not tend to be received too well by a journalist, and can be seen as advertorial. So how do we combat this and remain relevant to the brand? The solution to this is to take a step outside your brand ideologies and look at what can be part of the wider picture in your campaigns.

A perfect example of this would be a betting client, as they offer odds on anything from sports to the latest reality TV competitions. We can focus on these subject areas.

This allows us to create a strategy on these subjects without focusing on any of our product bases. If we focus on the wider conversations around our brands, we are more likely to be able to engage with target audience as well as the media publications we seek for SEO gain.

Audience research

To fully inform our campaigns, we like to understand our target audience to ensure we have the right people seeing and engaging with our work. We use a variety of social listening tools and software to discover what people are talking about what type of content will be best for us to target them with.

Below, you can find just a few tools I use when creating my strategies and how I use them:

Social listening

Crimson Hexagon and other well-known tools are great for us to understand what a brand’s target audience is talking about, and how we can tap into those conversations online with our campaigns.

It’s also useful for discovering what our brand’s audience may be also interested in, so we can target these conversations too. This tool then allows us to create strategies that look at the wider conversation.

YouGov Profiler

Another great tool is the YouGov profiler, which is a media planning and audience segmentation tool.

Data is collected from 190,000 UK YouGov members, and it’s really useful for finding out who your audience is, what your customers are interested in, and the locations and conversations you need to be tapping into online.

This gives you a really good idea of the kinds of publications to target, how to gain more relevant traffic to the site.


Another tool I often use is BuzzSumo. This allows you to find the most shared content for any topic or domain, as well as social influencers.

You’re also able to see the social channels that are more relevant to you and your competitors. This can help form our strategies in terms of what content output we have for our campaigns.

Once we have defined our audience through research, we can start to see what form our campaign should take in order to target them effectively.

Link trends

Interestingly, over 2017, we have spent some time looking into link trends in hard-to-market areas. This is mainly based on the links that we have been building for our clients in the past. This is extremely useful as it allows us to spot opportunities within certain publications and help us to decided who we will be targeting for our campaign in line with our audience research.

As you can see from Figure 1, the biggest opportunity would be with regional media. Having said this, when creating your strategy for your client, I would suggest adding a regional element that would appeal to cities around the UK.

Example campaigns

Below, there are a few examples of campaigns we have worked on in hard-to-market areas, which have used creative techniques to gain links and raise brand awareness.

Ladbrokes: How well do you know your team?

After speaking to many sports journalists, we realised that most of them only covered sports player news. Taking this onboard, we realised we needed to create our own sports-related news by creating a quiz that would yield unique data.

The “How well do you know your team?” quiz tests football fans’ knowledge of their teams to see how well they really know them, and ranks them in a league table according to the average score of each club’s fans.

This achieved strong results, with over 47,000 plays, 60 links and coverage, and over 2,000 social shares. As the quiz outputted unique data, this provided us with great PR hooks to outreach with, and was extremely shareable across social media.

Ladbrokes: Wimbledon blogger event

Another technique that we can use to gain links is an event for fashion and lifestyle bloggers.

A great example of where we have done this for Ladbrokes is during the 2015 Wimbledon Tennis tournament. Near the end of the championship, we decided to hold a Wimbledon-themed event, where we held a series of games and served Instagram-worthy catering and drinks.

The event received high levels of engagement on social media, and afterwards the bloggers wrote posts about their experiences, linking back to our campaign page. This was a great way of diversifying the back-link profile for the brand and achieving great social media engagement too.

Other PR techniques

We’ve spoken about quizzes, surveys/ data visualisations, and events; however, there are many other techniques we could incorporate in our strategies, such as newsjacking, infographics, expert commentary/insights, client PR/marketing activity, competitions, and freedom of information acts.

Evaluation: How do we measure digital PR?

After our campaign is complete, it’s great to look back and see what we have achieved. One way we can look at this is by using Google Analytics to see what our links have achieved in terms of traffic and conversions.

We may have hit our KPI, but I always think it’s worth looking a little bit deeper to find out what our links have actually done.

Once we’ve looked in Google Analytics to see how much traffic and how many conversions our links have driven, as well as the visits we’ve achieved to our campaign page, we can also see if we have affected brand awareness and reputation.

We can use social listening tools to see if we have improved sentiment, but also see if the conversation around the brand has increased or improved at all.

To conclude, I think it’s safe to say there are many ways that we can engage with our target audience in hard to market industries. However, we need to make sure we are creating campaigns that target wider conversations surrounding our brand, so we can gain traction within today’s crowded media landscape.

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