Does Going Viral Help With SEO? Not Really

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I wanted to find out how going viral impacts SEO for different businesses. I thought that with all the news coverage and links these sites received that their businesses would be booming and they’d be ranking for everything.

Spoiler alert: I was wrong. 

There has to be some merit to it though, right? Even Google’s John Mueller seems to be on board with digital PR.

Next up is Gravity Payments. You may not know this name, but I bet you know the story of the CEO who cut his own salary so he could pay every employee $70K.

The CEO was also involved with some scandals, which led to even more links. However, these links may have some negative signals attached to them.

You can see at a glance that it got tons of links over the years. But that hasn’t really helped its traffic. 

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The links are from a lot of major sites, and they look great. Again, drool-worthy links for anyone doing link building or digital PR. 

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But the impact on its rankings is minimal. Once again, most of the traffic is branded. It gets very little traffic for its main terms or its informational content. All of those links don’t seem to have helped. 

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An idea that took off

Layoffs.fyi started during COVID to connect “laid off” people with hiring managers. It got another boost during the recent tech layoffs. At a glance, the results look great.

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Once again, we can see great links from great domains.

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Diving in further, we can also tell almost all of the traffic is to the homepage.

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A lot of the growth is to branded terms, but one unbranded term sticks out: “layoff.” If you look at the SERP a year ago vs. now, it seems the intent of the query has changed from “what is a layoff” to news about layoffs.

It’s possible that the popularity of this site changed the intent, or it could just be the changing environment with more layoffs happening that changed the intent. Still, this is the most plausible example I can find of viral links possibly helping—and even then it’s not so cut and dry.

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What does it mean for SEO?

I think SEOs may overvalue links from media sites. They really don’t seem to have much impact. 

But is digital PR dead? Are HARO links a waste of time? I doubt it. They impact awareness, branding, and leads.

Final thoughts

From what I’ve seen, many SEOs want to skip niche and local links, which can be tedious and boring to obtain. They want to jump right into working on more interesting and creative digital PR campaigns. 

I don’t blame them; digital PR campaigns are more fun and interesting. I just question the effectiveness of doing this after looking at dozens of example sites.

If you have examples where digital PR links have made an impact on the business, I’ll love it if you share them with me on Twitter. I really want to find an example of these working well for a company.

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