When it comes to brand coverage, PR and SEO tactics go hand in hand.
Where were you when the U.S. crossed this major media milestone? In 2017, digital media overtook traditional media in consumption hours. The shift came, went, and nobody looked up to stop scrolling.
The transition to digital media consumption over traditional is old news, but the skills that PR professionals have had to gain in response to a digital-first landscape are evolving in real time. An emphasis on real-time, meaningful data insights to prove impact is always front-of-mind, and a new set of digitally enhanced relationship-building skills are a must-have to cut through the noise of guest post requests and the cloud of “just-okay” content bombarding publishers each day.
While digital media trends are pressuring PR teams to evolve, a newer communication field has seen organic growth—Search Engine Optimization (SEO). As brands try to tap into the current of democratized digital content, the search visibility generated by SEO campaigns promises ongoing exposure and visibility. This trend has played a major role in shaping how the internet is written, coded, and formatted, all with the goal of gaining coveted rankings on Google.
So, why do SEO and PR need to work together? While a day in the life of an SEO Strategist and PR Manager may be very different, they share at least two common objectives:
- Brand visibility
- Relevant coverage
How their strategies go about generating both are complex and unique, but as digital content’s reach continues to grow around the globe, every PR professional needs SEO knowledge, and SEOs can use a PR perspective to craft a competitive edge in their strategies.
Here are three specific ways they can work together:
Identify the Right Link-Building Partners
PR managers will often cite brand authority as a key foundation to successful strategic messages. In everyday life, people measure authority in snap judgments based on strong associations with feelings of trust, reverence, or even safety. PR often works to nurture those associations by facilitating third-party validation—industry awards, soliciting positive testimonials, joining in on community conversations or news coverage that either links a brand to an authority that already exists or demonstrates social proof of authority within the brand itself.
The principle of social proof—associating authority with the actions of others—that PR professionals hone strategically is also a core component of how Google understands websites. The search engine’s algorithm ranks pages from a website largely based on how external websites are signaling proof of authority in terms of:
- Quantity of links pointing to your site (following the crowd).
- Establishing credibility of “pointers” in terms of quantity of links they have.
This link pointing and counting method is at the heart of Google’s original algorithm, and it has only become more complex over time, weighing dimensions like relevancy and search intent.
Since both disciplines work within the same foundation, how can PR and SEO work together on link building?
Perhaps the most important is the PR expert’s perspective on link publisher issues. Where SEO tends to focus on programmatic and efficient ways to build a quantity of backlinks, PR managers understand negative human associations SEOs may miss, especially in terms of social issues and politics.
Having a PR expert review target domains in a backlinking campaign for incompatible publishers can help ensure that your backlinking campaign doesn’t create a PR nightmare and can even boost the impact of those campaigns by filtering out poor-quality domains an SEO may miss.
In addition to improving the quality of backlinking campaigns, PR professionals typically have connections with gatekeepers of credible news websites, blogs, and more. Leveraging these connections can help ensure successful content pitches with valuable partners.
Finally, SEOs can help PR professionals ensure the stories they source pack the biggest punch by identifying the most relevant web pages to share and keyword-rich anchor text to link from in the press releases and pitches they produce. A quick round of “on-page optimization” can transform a press release designed to generate positive media coverage into an authority-building tool, too.
Align Branded Terms
Even without direct links to a website, brand mentions in the media and across the web can be read and understood by Google’s algorithm. However, discrepancy in the way a brand name or branded product is spelled, spaced, or even hyphenated can create a missed opportunity if a website and brand mentions are not a perfect semantic match.
Alignment in exact brand keyword matches is key to ensuring your PR communications have a positive SEO impact. Even small semantic differences in related keywords could be a missed opportunity when a brand whose website is optimized for a term like “chiropractic massage” has press coverage and awards that only talk about their super-comfy “massage tables.”
Being transparent and deliberate about sharing your SEO goals and target keywords with a PR professional can help ensure keyword opportunities aren’t missed before media outreach and coverage go live—after all, most PR managers have a working knowledge of SEO. Also, making time for quick on-page keyword checks between teams can add a layer of quality assurance and goal alignment.
It’s not just on PR to adjust their approaches to comply with their SEO counterparts’ strategies, though.
SEOs should be open to adjusting their branded keyword strategies and website content to match how PR chooses to strategically position a brand. Just like SEOs, PR managers choose their words carefully for impact. Sacrificing some existing search volume to capitalize on the new search volume generated by a PR campaign is sometimes necessary.
Converge Offline and Online Perspectives
Understanding how offline media and real-world events shape Google search activity is critical for SEOs to get ahead of trends. Impacting and shaping real-world behaviors and perceptions towards action is a PR professional’s specialty—strategic comms through PR channels inspire new Google searches all the time.
Likewise, real-world tactics can be informed by web analytics and search trends. Timing a PR message to match seasonality in search trends is one of many ways SEO analytics can shape how a PR professional delivers a message or schedules their campaigns.
Ultimately, aligning SEO and PR teams helps both professional communicators reach their strategic goals. As the hard line between the two roles continues to soften, the possibilities for creative applications of these strategies can only enhance your brand’s positive coverage and organic visibility.