A robust backlink profile is imperative in SEO: without high-quality inbound links establishing authority in Google’s eyes, you won’t rank as highly in search. Not only that, but the quality of inbound links (backlinks) in your profile matter: the higher authority links, the better you rank.
But what does high authority mean? Publications that people trust tend to have extremely high domain authority. According to Moz’s Domain Authority metric, news sources like CNN and BBC have domains equal to those of internet titans like Amazon and Facebook.
But not every website with a high domain authority score is attainable for the everyday link builder. Some media outlets are the white whales of online PR, while other authoritative sites publish a surprising amount of content. It’s important to stress that despite every best effort, not every piece of content will capture media attention, and top-tier publications are never a guarantee. Be sure to meter your (and your client’s) expectations around what are realistic results per content campaign.
To make things simpler, we’ve broken down the most valuable, difficult, and attainable digital publishers for link-seeking content creators.
|1||BBC (UK)||Global News||96||5|
|2||CNN (US)||Global News||96||5|
|3||Reuters (UK)||Global News||95||5|
|4||The Washington Post (US)||Global News||95||4|
|5||The New York Times (US)||Global News||95||4|
|6||The Guardian (UK)||Global News||95||5|
|7||Forbes (US)||Business News||95||2|
|8||HuffPost (US)||US News||94||4|
|9||FOX News (US)||US News||94||3|
|10||The Sun (UK)||UK News||94||5|
|11||Financial Times (UK)||Global financial news||94||5|
|12||The Wall Street Journal (US)||Global financial news||94||4|
|13||The Telegraph (UK)||Global News||94||5|
|14||The Independent (UK)||Global News||94||4|
|15||El Pais (ES)||Global News||94||n/a|
|16||ABC News (US)||US News||94||4|
|17||Bloomberg (US)||Global Financial News||94||4|
|18||Time (US)||Global News||94||5|
|19||Wired (US)||Tech News||94||5|
|20||Business Insider (US)||Business News||94||3|
|21||The Daily Mail (UK)||Global News||94||4|
|22||The Los Angeles Times (US)||US News||94||4|
|23||CNET (US)||Tech + Product News||94||4|
|24||USA Today (US)||US News||94||4|
|25||Le Figaro (FR)||France News||94||n/a|
To begin, we identify the 25 most valuable online content publishers in the world, based on Domain Authority. We’ve also assigned each publication a difficulty rating, based on our experience pitching content and digital PR campaigns to their editors.
Publishers with a difficulty rating of “5” are extremely hard to earn links from because they are so high quality – most businesses have no chance, unless they are the subject of a genuinely newsworthy event. Publishers with a difficulty rating of “1” are known to frequently feature or cite original research from businesses, many doing so on a daily basis.
It’s important to note that in our approach to link building, there are no paid schemes and no special relationships. We earn media strictly on the merit of the research our clients produce.
Next, we analyzed the top 100 publishers by Domain Authority, to determine what media verticals are most powerful for link building. While it’s no surprise that general news occupies most of the top 100, we were very interested to find that tech and product news is the next most prominent when it comes to the most valuable publishers by domain authority.
Consider this: CNET, Gizmodo, The Verge and enGadget all measure equal to or greater in Domain Authority than Newsweek, National Geographic, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, The Economist and Fast Company. CNET in particular is equal in authority to USA Today and the Wall Street Journal, and more authoritative than NBC News and CBS News. Sometimes “top tier” publications don’t always mean corollary levels of equity: it pays to double-check DA!
Top 5 Publishers by Vertical
|The New York|
|The Wall Street|
Veteran link builders know that certain institutions outside media publishing – particularly those with .gov and .edu domains – deliver significant link equity. While most are extremely difficult to earn links from, we think it’s an important part of the picture as we as an industry seek to understand how and why links are valuable, and as we build link-building strategies for various organizations.
While news is still the main focus of outreach, it’s important to not leave other valuable opportunities out of your strategy!
Most Valuable .Gov and .Edu Websites
|National Institutes of |
|Centers for Disease |
|National Aeronautics & |
Space Admin. (NASA)
|National Oceanic & |
Atmospheric Assoc. (NOAA)
|The White House||93|
|Library of Congress||93|
|National Park Service (NPS)||92|
|Food and Drug |
|University of California – Berkeley||93|
|University of Michigan||93|
|University of Washington||93|
Finally, as an extension of our analysis looking at the difficulty rating for top publishers, we established the top five link building targets in each of six media verticals, based on our own experience pitching hundreds of campaigns to these publishers over the last five years. These rankings are based on a combination of Domain Authority and our placement rates (how frequently a pitch results in a link). These hit the sweet spot of achievable, quality backlinks for any campaign.
Also, we’ve included the three toughest targets in four major verticals, based on our experience. If you have a finite amount of time to spend pitching content, note that your chance of earning links from these publications is lower than comparable outlets in these verticals. As such, your outreach strategy and including a mixture of difficulties is important.
Best Link Building Targets by Vertical
|New York Post||91|
|The Motley Fool||91|
|Site Pro News||55|
|HR Daily Advisor||65|
Toughest Link Building Targets by Vertical
|Harvard Business Review||91|
The best outreach is targeted at scale, responsive, and finite. Instead of taking a “throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks” approach to pitching, which will annoy journalists more than earn you high-quality links, take a moment and devise your outreach strategy.
Are there particular publications that you’d really like to see links from? Do you notice any writers covering topics adjacent to your content at that publication? Are you able to write in a tone or vocabulary that matches the publication?
All of these are great questions to ask yourself when devising an outreach strategy. It’s also helpful to map out all of the angles your content captures and create a wishlist of journalists at multiple publications who cover stories similar to what you’re pitching.
The next step is writing the pitch.
When pitching a top-tier publication, it is important to keep in mind that thousands of other PRs and content creators across the country are all trying to earn coveted placements in top-tier publications. As such, understanding that a journalist’s inbox will be filled with thousands of pitches is paramount: if you want to get in, you must stand out.
Look at your subject line: is it short enough to fit in a phone preview? Most journalists look at pitches on their phones, so if you can’t say it in a few words, you might want to hone your angle. Stats are a great option to entice an open!
Next, think about your pitch: how can you stand out from thousands of pitches that are copied from email to email? For top-tier journalists, a little legwork can go a long way: personalize your pitch and reference past works or why you think a story could work for their audiences based on what you’ve seen so far.
Most importantly, keep it brief: showcase why this angle matters and how it advances the narrative of a story already in the news.
Whether it’s new statistics that add context to an already-identified trend – as in the case of a recent piece on side hustles we earned hundreds of links for – or a survey that identifies a previously unknown trend, journalists in top-tier publications don’t always have time to read multiple paragraphs of text. A few bullet points can go a long way when it comes to earning the best digital PR links.
While it’s impossible to fully customize every pitch you send, if you really want to earn coverage for your digital PR campaign in top-tier publications, going the extra mile can really help your pitch stand out in a crowded inbox.