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Author: Oliver Sissons last updated:
Jun 19th 2019
Real SEO nerd - can be found checking rankings and talking about SEO at parties
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Case Study: Negative Press as an Effective SEO Strategy

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As the saying goes ‘any press is good press’ and when it comes to the search engine optimisation of your site, this could still ring true. There is currently a lot of discussion and speculation in the SEO industry about the ability of Google to detect sentiment in an article and accordingly adjust the juice it passes if any links are included in the article. We believe that this case study clearly demonstrates that Google algorithms are not quite there yet.

Do you think just one link could have that much effect on your rankings? How about if that link came from some negative online publicity? One of our recent client case studies suggest that the sentiment of the linking article may not play such a huge role in the amount of power and trust sent your way after all.

We observed how one link from the BBC, a powerful and authoritative domain, saw our client Ticket Gum experience a 25% increase in keywords ranking in positions 1 – 5 from just one link generated from some bad press. The link had an immediate and large effect despite the overall sentiment of the article being negative. In short, this negative press resulted in some huge ranking movements for the client site, debunking the myth that bad publicity will always have no, or even negative, effects on a website's ranking.

Before the link

Before Ticket Gum secured the BBC link, they were ranking well for several competitive keywords because of the other SEO work which had been carried out up to this point. Our digital PR campaigns had secured a huge amount of high quality, powerful links from the likes of Talk Sport, the Daily Mail and The Sun to name just a few and the technical SEO and content marketing work ensured that these links could have great effect.

Despite the many high quality and powerful links pointing to the site, organic growth had been good but not as dramatic as we knew it could be. They ranked in the top 20 results for many of their target keywords (and on page one for many also!) but struggled to reach the first page without extensive resources focused on individual keywords.

The link which made all the difference

As the site was ranking on the first page for many keywords, they were generating a good amount of organic traffic. This also meant that any journalists carrying out research into the ticket reselling industry came across them. We believe this was the case when a journalist from the BBC began looking for the most expensive tickets being resold for upcoming Arsenal games.

Whilst searching for this they landed on the Ticket Gum site and found one ticket being sold for upwards of £5,000. This led them to feature the site in an article criticising the extortionate prices of some tickets being re-sold online. The sentiment of the article was largely negative which would lead us to consider this bad publicity.

Despite the article being largely negative and the link being easily interpreted as bad press, it had some great effects on Ticket Gum’s rankings. Many SEOs have considered the effect that sentiment expressed through online reviews, brand mentions, link anchor text and the linking article's topic can have. However, in this case the negative sentiment of the referring page did not seem to placate the positive effects of the link.

Key Points

Positive or negative, the journalist found the site because of the prior SEO campaign carried out which resulted in a dofollow link from a relevant article on the BBC.co.uk site.

By observing the changes in organic performance in the weeks and days immediately following the article being published, it became clear just how powerful this one link was.

This highlights two very important things:

Whilst we would never encourage website owners to intentionally damage their reputations to generate negative publicity (especially when our Digital PR services prove that you can secure just as high-quality or even more powerful links without risking your reputation!), the results speak for themselves. Despite having a largely negative sentiment, this BBC article resulted in some great increases in rankings for the client.

This case study does not however prove that large amounts of negative sentiment surrounding your brand online will never hurt your rankings. Other factors could come in to play such as review profiles, anchor text used and even the number of negative articles published online about your business.

Why did it work?

The BBC is perhaps one of the leading authorities when it comes to sports reporting in the UK. They are a trusted organisation with a huge domain authority. This makes them perhaps one of the most perfect link targets for any site in the sports industry. This topical relevancy partnered with the power and authority of the site is what made this such an effective backlink.

Finally, the link was a dofollow one. With more and more publications making the decision to make all external links in articles nofollow, links which pass link juice from such domains can become that much more powerful and effective (as it is less likely your competitors will have ones of a similar quality).

We believe that it was this combination of power, topical relevancy and link juice being passed to the client site which resulted in such exceptional increases in organic traffic. So, when done correctly and from the right sources, negative press really can be good press.

If you are interested in securing some of the highest quality links for your site without risking your reputation, please get in touch and find out more about our digital PR services.

  1. It offers a clear example of how high-quality SEO work can lead to powerful backlinks from some of the most sought-after referring domains. This is one of the huge advantages over other forms of marketing – unexpected results and returns can often be realised weeks, months or even years after an SEO campaign has ended.
  2. It demonstrates that negative press has the potential to lead to incredible SEO gains.

Whilst we would never encourage website owners to intentionally damage their reputations to generate negative publicity (especially when our digital PR services prove that you can secure just as high-quality or even more powerful links without risking your reputation!), the results speak for themselves. Despite having a largely negative sentiment, this BBC article resulted in some great increases in rankings for the client.

This case study does not however prove that large amounts of negative sentiment surrounding your brand online will never hurt your rankings. Other factors could come in to play such as review profiles, anchor text used and even the number of negative articles published online about your business.

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