- PR and SEO are separate entities but they should work seamlessly together for the best marketing results.
- The two forms of marketing share similar purposes such as brand awareness, reputation management, social sharing, social proof, brand consistency, trust and authority, and lead generation.
- PR can benefit from SEO analytics for strategy development, just as SEO can make use of PR connections for relationship-driven link building.
- When PR and SEO work together, a brand can gain additional visibility and traffic from events, byline articles, guest posting, interviews, creative campaigns, newsjacking, content amplification, and more.
PR (Public Relations) and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) used to operate in separate marketing silos. SEO tackled the technical side of digital marketing while PR acted as the source of relationship-building with third parties. Today, though, you’re far more likely to encounter the opposite: SEO and public relations teams that overlap so much that responsibilities, tasks, and logistics become blurred across the two teams.
The reality is that you can use this overlap to generate better results for your marketing strategy. To that end, here’s an overview of how to achieve significant ROI by encouraging collaboration between your PR professionals and SEO teams.
PR and SEO: why you need both
The business goals of enterprise SEO and PR are often aligned. So by excelling at both you achieve greater impact for your brand. This alignment includes:
Imagine walking into the drink aisle of the grocery store. Do you choose the generic brand of soda or the Coke? There’s a good chance you’ll pick the Coke. When faced with a choice between a known and an unknown, most people go with what they already know.
This has been proven through studies of the “mere exposure effect,” where people demonstrate a preference for what’s familiar. The more familiar people are with something, such as a brand, the more they tend to like it. This is true regardless of the messaging.
Online PR and SEO both help in building brand awareness. PR effectively gets your name mentioned by the media. It’s also helpful in gaining exposure for your brand at events and experiential campaigns. SEO is effective in capturing Google SERP features. With SEO, you aim to get in front of your target audience at the precise time they are searching for information or a solution that you can deliver.
Brand reputation management
Public relations professionals spend time crafting communications and messaging that influence people’s perception of the company. If your branded SERPs are negative, you can use both PR campaigns and SEO strategies to add authentically positive information to the SERPs. This strategy (also known as online reputation management) balances the information available and helps to move negative content down the page.
The PR team is typically expert at brand messaging. The SEO team, on the other hand, ensures your customers see these brand messages online.
Well crafted messaging won’t make a dent if the wrong messages about your company dominate the search results.
Both SEO and public relations increase the odds that the right people will read/view and share your content. They also play a pivotal role in determining what that content is and how it will be disseminated.
PR campaigns often focus on grabbing people’s attention in unique ways. Therefore, they’re exceptionally effective at getting people to share content with others.
An effective SEO program includes content gap analysis and fills the gaps with engaging content that’s often quite shareable.
Social proof is extremely important to consumers. They heavily lean on trust signals to help them make purchase decisions and declare brand allegiances. The more they see a brand in reputable locations, the stronger those trust signals become.
Trust building through PR may take the form of a brand sponsoring a charity event. Or a brand mention by a reporter, a product review in a blog, a joint marketing campaign with another well-trusted brand, a celebrity endorsement, a byline article, or positive social conversation. All of this PR activity is great for the brand.
Social proof is just as important on the SEO side of things, as well. Off-page SEO signals like mentions, backlinks, and shares help Google understand that your brand is a trusted authority.
In these ways, both public relations and SEO activities can have a massive impact on social proof and its signals.
Brand consistency across every channel and platform is a major underpinning of a well-developed omnichannel strategy. It’s important that SEO and PR work together to ensure brand consistency by getting key messages to the right platforms and people, at the right time. So, if you see a brand at an event, then notice them featured by a magazine, and then come across them in the SERPs and correspondingly on their website, you’re seeing similar positioning and messaging over and over. This reinforces your brand identity and the impact on your audience.
Trust and authority
Let’s go back to the “Coke vs generic soda” scenario. Why did people really choose Coke? Because they trust it.
Why do they trust it? Because they have a background of information and experiences about the brand that can help guide their decision. They also know that this expectation can be applied to every Coke until Coke updates their recipe or process. So that brand consistency we just talked about isn’t just good for the brand; it’s also a way to establish trust in the product at large.
Trust and authority are part of critical feedback cycles in both digital PR and SEO. They’re not only intertwined with Google’s search ranking factors, but they’re also a reason businesses fail or succeed.
When most marketers talk about all the ways to generate leads, they often leave public relations out of the discussion. However, that’s an outdated approach to PR. Today, direct response and lead generation tactics are common at events, in content campaigns, and throughout many other kinds of PR efforts.
Think of LinkedIn opening a series of Linked Inns, where the company opened pop-up pubs and hosted networking events. The underlying push of the campaign was to encourage people to think harder about how they could be using LinkedIn for a variety of career purposes, signing up, and using the site more.
SEO also has a significant flywheel effect. When you become stronger in organic search, Google views your brand as a trustworthy authority. As a result, it becomes easier to achieve better organic search rankings. This cycle translates into a sustainably robust lead gen funnel.
SEO insights strengthen PR initiatives
PR strategists are relationship-driven. However, they still need a fast, reliable method of determining which relationships, ideas, and campaigns are worth pursuing in the first place.
That’s where SEO can step in as a slingshot for the entire PR strategy, providing momentum and a sense of direction. Keyword research, trends data, competitive analysis, backlink research, and quality-scoring SEO tools like Moz and Semrush all provide critical data for PR to develop an effective strategy.
PR connections amplify SEO value
The SEO team, on the other hand, needs to leverage PR’s connections and relationship-building prowess before they can build high-quality backlinks for the site. Within the SEO world, PR tactics often fall under the “link building” category, and SEO link building historically hasn’t been as relationship-driven as it is today. The PR team is much more likely to have a huge network of high-authority connections. And working together with PR to leverage these connections will make the link building job a whole lot easier.
Integrate PR and SEO to increase marketing ROI
So that’s why public relations and SEO work so well together. But what does that look like in practice? How should the two teams integrate and collaborate for maximum results?
First, both teams should collaborate on opportunity identification, ideation, and strategy, meeting regularly to discuss and refine the approach. Look for ways to inform one another and collaborate while executing campaigns. What initiatives and messages are you pushing for the quarter/month/day? How about product releases, holidays and promotions in the pipeline? Will you need to generate tons of new content ideas? In what formats? Where will it live? Who will you target with your outreach?
Also, be opportunistic outside of the established marketing calendar. What’s trending or going viral? Are there any new issues that could impact the company’s reputation? What’s in the news, and what should your response be? How can you creatively insert your brand into the conversation?
The division of labor varies from company to company. But it’s important that responsibilities are clear between both teams. At some companies, the SEO team might produce a list of blogger outreach targets, while the PR team handles the outreach.
In another scenario, PR might identify certain promotional opportunities and lean on the search team for insights. For example, the SEO team could provide search behavior data to optimize campaign assets for greater visibility.
With this in mind, here are ways to integrate your PR and SEO efforts for greater marketing ROI, and for compound results over time.
Events are a natural way to generate buzz and build quality links. From formal conferences to tongue-in-cheek cookoff contests, companies can participate in or throw any number of events that reflect their brand.
For example, video game company EA Games hosts EA Play every year. It’s a free event that lets participants preview games in advance, play exclusive games, and meet other people who are passionate about gaming. This is a perfect way for EA Games to engage their audience while establishing authority in the industry.
From an SEO perspective, events represent an opportunity to produce new assets that are helpful for visibility in organic search. Also, events are excellent opportunities to expand your backlinks. The EA Play website has generated links from more than 450 third-party websites. Magento’s Imagine conference boasts over 740 referring domains. And to really prove our point, Salesforce’s Dreamforce event has generated backlinks from more than 4,400 external domains. It’s clearly an understatement to write that events are powerful for both SEO and public relations.
The press release isn’t dead. The mass-submitted-press-release-about-nothing is dead, though. Today’s press releases are much more targeted and personalized. They also focus on the publications and media outlets where there’s a strong fit for the story.
For a good example, read this press release from Apple. Notice the story leads with the most interesting tidbit – a recycling robot! – and uses Earth Day and growing environmental concerns as a frame for the story. They then connect that theme to Apple’s Giveback Program (now called Apple Trade In). By situating their initiative as the response to a broader issue that concerns everyone, they’ve implicitly addressed the “Why should I care?” part of the press release process, while driving readers to the Apple Trade In website.
The original press release earned backlinks from more than 500 websites. But more strategically, the Apple Trade In website has earned backlinks from more than 3,000 websites.
Google ignores links in press releases themselves. However, smart marketers know that customized press releases are incredible assets. They not only generate media mentions, but also increase web traffic and backlinks to branded digital properties.
Byline articles, guest blogging, and interviews
Guest blogging on trusted industry sources is an excellent way to establish thought leadership and ramp up brand awareness. With PR steering the strategy and SEO steering the tactical portion, the teams can work together to maximize the return on every guest post.
Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson are the co-founders of the project management software firm Basecamp. They publish editorial pieces or get interviewed in third-party websites seemingly non-stop. Fried has written more than 75 byline articles for Inc. Magazine, for example. Further, he and Hansson have appeared in a long list of interviews in high-profile publications such as the New York Times, CNBC, Vox, The Tim Ferriss Show, and Forbes. Basecamp now has more than three million client accounts and is worth more than $100 million.
The byline articles put Basecamp at the forefront of many topics and issues that the co-founders are passionate about. From an SEO perspective, the articles have contributed to a strong traffic funnel and backlink profile, including more than 34,000 referring websites.
When a campaign is creative enough, it becomes buzzworthy in its own right. That means it can generate a massive stream of media coverage, impressions, video views, conversations, social media activity, and backlinks.
If done right, this can resonate so strongly that they evolve into a brand cornerstone even years later.
Always’s #LikeAGirl campaign empowering young girls falls into that category. The original video racked up more than 67 million views (and 4.4 billion media impressions in the first three months). While follow-up videos such as the #LikeAGirl – Unstoppable video has more than 39 million. A #LikeAGirl feature of soccer star Alex Morgan achieved more than 6.2 million. Another video that showcased a junior high school basketball team in Oklahoma generated more than 4.8 million. In total, there are more than 25 videos in the series. The campaign also included influencer marketing, media outreach, infographics, a UGC push for girls to recommend more empowering female emojis, as well as a Confidence Summit for girls.
Google “#LikeAGirl” now, and you’ll be faced with more than 430 million search results. The moral of the story? Be creative and connect with your audience about their real feelings, and you may just hit public relations and SEO gold.
Newsjacking is a brilliant example of content marketing. It simply means, “Interact with the news in a meaningful way.” In short, when something happens in the news and your brand has a reason to care, you can leverage the popularity of the topic by providing your own take on it and inserting your brand into the conversation.
Obvious rules apply. For example, you should stay away from hot-button issues that would cause a rift between your brand and a good portion of its audience. (Unless, of course, you decide to go with a controversial campaign like Nike’s collab with Colin Kaepernick which gave Nike a 10% increase in sales.) Work with quality content and a tone that reflects your brand. MoonPie is a pro at this, newsjacking lighthearted stories and providing their own spin on them. They’ll even interrupt other brands’ newjacking attempts, with often entertaining results.
Content amplification is what turns a single piece of content into one that rebounds across the web. PR and SEO can work together to make sure that every piece of content is useful, shareable, brand-consistent, and discoverable. Without that crucial amplification, your return is unlikely to exceed the amount of effort you put into your content.
At Terakeet, we often develop content strategies and conduct wide-ranging content amplification while generating organic backlinks that strengthen a brands’ SEO profile.
For example, for one student loan refinancing provider, we achieved over 13.3 million unique brand impressions while driving more than 5,800 audience engagements through 470+ content placements. For a Greek yogurt brand, we similarly pitched influencers to generate 29 million unique brand impressions through 1,600 content placements.
Content production is effective for both SEO and public relations. But, content amplification translates into real ROI on marketing for your brand.
Public relations is more than link building
Sometimes, PR and off-page SEO are used interchangeably, but they’re fundamentally different. PR is strategically concerned with building relationships over the long term, developing a rapport with reporters, publications, and bloggers. Then they’ll leverage these connections any time something comes down the pipeline that their audience would care about. Link building, on the other hand, is more concerned with acquiring links from new sources.
SEO campaigns can provide the force, momentum, and access to new opportunities. While the PR team has put in the massive amount of time required to cultivate relationships with influential people and publications. It’s these relationships that will lead to the most organic links. A story from a single influential publication can lead to hundreds or thousands of shares, responses and opinions from other publications. PR is much more concerned with the who than the how many.
COLLABORATE, INTEGRATE AND EDUCATE
The real secret to helping your SEO and public relations teams collaborate and perform their best work? Education! For both teams, mutual respect and understanding will increase as each team learns more about what the other one does.
Where are the overlaps and key differences? Where can each team reinforce and help the other? In addition, it will lead to the development of new ideas and strategies as two different approaches converge.
At the end of the day, it’s not about having a PR team or an SEO team. It’s about having both and achieving compound returns as a result!