Originally published in MediaPost.

 

Imagine this: you hear of a brand for the first time and immediately want to learn more. What’s the first thing you do? Everybody say it with me now: “Google it!”

Sure, the brand’s website may appear as the top search ranking (thanks to its digital performance marketing team), but what about the other nine slots? Google displays 10 on its coveted first page for a reason, as people tend to browse results to gather more information. So, what are the other options?

As digital marketers, it’s our job to ensure brands land at the top of Google search results, and subsequently have positive content fill up the other nine rankings. But instead of crossing our fingers and hoping a customer with a great brand experience posts about it, what should we do?

The answer is simple (yet polarizing in today’s pay-for-play world): Use earned media to enhance digital marketing.

Why? The reasons are simple:

1. Google likes earned media. So should you.  When ranking pages, Google’s algorithm favors content that is new, fresh, informative, and includes quality backlinks from established news sites. That said, if your brand has a mention in The Washington Post and a variety of industry-leading trade publications, all of which link back to the brand’s website, its ranking will improve. Google deems this content a-OK and gives the brand’s site greater search visibility.

Help Google find your brand by proactively pitching story ideas to trusted news sources to increase both the number of backlinks and mentions. The more quality content out there, the more likely you’ll be rewarded with positive SEO rankings. Articles, interviews, bylines and more — that’s where to start.

2. Got online street cred?  As individuals, it’s natural for us to want validation from others. If a number of respected people say how good your homemade mac and cheese is, others will begin to form the same opinion — whether they’ve tried your recipe or not — and consider you a credible cook.

The same applies to brands in marketing. If your company’s face cream receives positive mentions from third-party news outlets and blogs through earned media, people are more likely to build a sense of trust and believe your brand to be a sincere source.

Earned media, when done correctly, influences the consumer decision-making process and ultimately enhances your online credibility.

3. More qualified leads!  Customers rely on online research to inform purchasing decisions, so your brand needs quality content filling up their search results. While marketing and ads are certainly an important part of the landscape, complementing those efforts with earned coverage fuels a powerful experience. Build new leads by informing, engaging and connecting with customers (or prospects).

For success, integrate earned media into existing paid and owned media strategies. You’ll make Google’s — and your CMO’s — jobs easier.