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How to Use Earned Media to Boost Your SEO


If you haven’t been responsible for media relations, earned media may seem most scary or out of reach, but it really isn’t.

Earned media is one of the most cost-effective ways to raise brand awareness and — if it’s done well — increase sales. Today, though, given that word of mouth is more effective than paid media, earned media is even more crucial to gaining authority for your content efforts and improving your SEO.

Earned media is crucial to gaining authority for your #content efforts & improving #SEO. @ginidietrich Share on X

Of course, this can’t be done overnight. A strategic earned media program requires consistent efforts to build awareness and relationships with industry bloggers, journalists, and other influencers who may share your content — after they learn who you are and what value you might bring to their readers or followers.

How to get started

It used to be that communications professionals would spend our entire careers developing relationships with reporters, journalists, editors, and producers to have them assign or create stories that helped the companies with which we worked.

But during the past few years, many traditional media outlets have closed, and many of the people we built relationships with are out of jobs.

That’s why, although it is important to continue with traditional media relations, it’s increasingly important to build relationships with bloggers and social media influencers.

It’s important to build relationships w/ bloggers & #socialmedia influencers to earn media. @ginidietrich Share on X

The cool thing? This change makes it much easier to measure your earned media efforts.

Here are a few easy ways to start building those important relationships:

  • Build a list of relevant books and podcasts and review them. Every author and podcaster needs reviews and ratings to gain more traction. Publishing your review gives you a great conversation starter and reason to reach out.
  • Create a list of tags. On LinkedIn, create tags for your connections, such as influencer, blogger, journalist, or super cool kid, so you can easily follow what they post and then comment on and share it.
  • Share your bloggers’ content. Save your must-follow list with Feedly so you can know any time they publish new content and you can distribute it to your own networks.

You also should consider creating a unique URL for each communication with media, bloggers, and influencers to track which ones visit your content, how they get there, how long they stay, what else they view, and whether they download the content. Based on that information, you can refine your information and messages.

Now you have earned media from these influencers who share your content, include it in their own content, or interview you for a piece they’re producing.

TIP: When you need a quote for a piece of content you are creating, these folks should be at the top of your outreach list.

3 steps to amplify with earned media

As you build your journalist and influencer relationships, pitch the same content topics you’re covering in your owned media outlet — either as coverage you can be a part of or as contributed content.

This is how you get on the fast track to owning page one for your topic in search engines. Whether you have one epically crafted piece of content or 200 pieces on the topic, in the eyes of Google, the quantity doesn’t matter.

What does matter is how useful people find your content. Most importantly, do people link to your content? But not all links are created equal. The earned media (i.e., links) you should covet (and pitch) are high-authority domains that publish about (and rank on page one of Google for) your most important topics.

Covet earned media (links) from high-authority domains that publish your most important topics. @ginidietrich Share on X

Although it takes time, the process is simple:

1. Define your primary keywords

Define the top 10 topics you want to rank for. Do a Google search using the free Moz SEO toolbar to see which high-authority sites — both blogs and media outlets — are ranking on pages one or two for each topic. This becomes your preliminary target pitch list.

2. Identify your target media

Determine which of the sites on your pitch list regularly accept contributed content and have published content on a topic related to yours. This shows they have an interest in the subject matter and are more likely to accept a content pitch from you.

3. Watch and wait

Create your first blog post or other piece of content (owned media) for one of your primary keyword phrases or subtopics. Wait 30 days before publishing your second piece of content on that topic. After you have those two pieces of content live on your site, you are ready to pitch on that topic to blogs and media outlets on your target media list.

TIP: It’s important to wait before pitching your content to third-party sites to give Google enough time to crawl your site and see, “Oh, these guys are experts on (topic), so we are going to start indexing them with that in mind.”


After Google recognizes your owned media has a base of content on your topic, you strengthen on that base by obtaining earned media — authoritative links back to your site from high-authority domains.

If you publish a piece of content on your site and then pitch a contributed post on that same topic the next day, you just will not see the same results from a Google search standpoint.

Although earned media may not be the first thing that comes to mind when planning your SEO strategy, its inclusion is what propels good content reach to great results.

Please note: All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute