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In a lot of cases, earned media forms the backbone of offsite content marketing and in this post, we’re going to focus specifically on earned editorial content, and why it’s essential to a complete SEO strategy.

How can earned editorial content support your SEO efforts?

For those who aren’t aware, broadly speaking, there are three different types of online media… owned, paid and earned:

  • Owned media belongs to you, and typically sits on your own site or social channels. For example, your own blog content or downloadable resources.
  • Paid media is anything you’ve specifically paid someone else for such as sponsorship, advertising, advertorial, PPC, Paid Social etc.
  • Earned media is that which is about you but hasn’t been paid for or written by yourselves. Typically, this will be come as a result of your marketing or PR efforts, but it generally is either traditional mentions (such as news or blogs), product or service reviews, or organic social media posts.

In this blog post, we’re interested in the value that earned media can contribute to your overall SEO efforts. In a lot of cases, earned media forms the backbone of offsite content marketing and in this post, we’re going to focus specifically on earned editorial content, and why it’s essential to a complete SEO strategy.

Why is earned editorial content important?

While Google constantly evolves and changes, the algorithm is still quite reliant on backlinks and mentions.

Search engines need a way to determine how well they should rank a certain web page and while there is a myriad of ranking factors*, one of the most important from an offsite perspective is still links.

**Note: what follows is a necessarily simplistic explanation, for more detail, read something like this.

Originally, Google came up with PageRank which essentially counted to the number of links to a page and then gave it a score to estimate how ‘important’ the website is and rank it accordingly.

A link from a high-quality site to your website acted as a sort of ‘recommendation’ to the search engine that this new site is also worthy of indexing.

The better quality the link, the more important it was.

However, links from big sites were and still are much harder to acquire.

Death, Taxes, and SEOs eventually ruining everything…

Unfortunately, the SEO industry worked out that instead of producing high quality content campaigns that attracted these great links or mentions (which took a lot of time, effort and money) organically, they could simply buy or create thousands, or even millions of automated, low quality links to your site and the algorithm would view quantity the same as quality.

To combat this, Google has since changed its approach significantly in the last decade or so. It now discounts or actively punishes sites with lots of low-quality links and rewards those who earn their links and mentions the ‘proper’ and ‘natural’ way.

Where does earned media sit now?

The result of Google’s changes in their algorithm put the emphasis back on doing things the old-fashioned way; creating content or campaigns that genuinely resonate, generate engagement and ultimately, have a positive impact on your organic performance.

The fact that these are hard to come by hasn’t changed, and probably never will, but the flipside of this is that the organisations that get it right can see genuinely, tangible results… and that makes it worthwhile.

Ultimately, search engines pay attention to two key things:

  • Quality: This is the same as it always has been; the higher quality the site the better. Major news outlets, blogs, industry publications, government departments, academic institutions, charities and the like are all considered to be some of the best sites for earned media.
  • Relevance: The kicker. Relevance can be just as important as the overall ‘quality’ to the site that’s linking to or mentioning you. Search engines may give more weight to those sites that operate within the same industry as you as the relative ‘authority’ is higher.

While a link or mention from a huge website will very rarely be a bad thing (you should still always go for the most authoritative sites you can), it may be harder to achieve, especially if you’re in a niche industry or perhaps don’t have huge budgets.

In which case highly relevant but apparently ‘lesser quality’ coverage can be highly beneficial to your SEO efforts.

To put these two aspects in context and using the concept of a link being a ‘recommendation’, consider the following example:

Imagine you need some legal advice regarding a property purchase, do you pay more attention to what a smaller profile, but dedicated property solicitor tells you? Or would you put more weight behind what a TV expert might tell you? While the TV personality may have more brand recognition, a bigger audience and carry more prestige, the local solicitor is more beneficial to your needs at that specific moment.

To translate that into earned media, whilst a mention on the BBC might be the holy grail, if you’re a company that sells business insurance, coverage in your own trade publication is likely to be more beneficial.

Your customers can see that, and equally as importantly, so can search engines.

How can you attract earned media?

Earned media is not an overnight task. It takes time, money, dedication, good ideas, and sometimes a nice little bit of luck too.

However, to start the process you can consider some of the following:

  • Where do your audience spend time online? Thinking about the places your audience spend time online allows you to start thinking of ways of getting in front of them. It will also allow you to create media that you already know your target publication likes.
  • Can I solve a problem of theirs? Consider what their pain points may be and think of ways you can help solve them.
  • Do I have an opinion on this? Perhaps you have an opinion or some insight on something in your industry? If so, consider how you can add value to a conversation and position yourselves as experts.
  • Do I have a story of my own to tell? Consider stories, research pieces, guides, reviews etc. that may be interesting or engaging to your audience, and then create them

If you’re not sure where to start, or need assistance writing compelling copy and placing it on authoritative, relevant sites, call the experts at Midnight for a no-obligation chat on 01273 666 200 or email

*if you fancy some light bedtime reading, Moz has a truly epic Onsite SEO Learning Centre that’s ideal for beginners.

About Dave Gregory
Dave is Content Marketing Manager for Brighton-based digital marketing agency, SiteVisibility. With 10 years of experience working in digital, Dave has created content marketing campaigns for clients ranging from local businesses to multi-national corporations.