Batman and Robin, peanut butter and jelly . . . PR and SEO?
When it comes to dynamic duos, PR and SEO didn’t always match up so easily. For a long time, SEO teams were considered behind-the-scenes technical wizards helping brands climb the Google rankings ladder while PR teams were out in the real world doing the actual marketing.
But it’s not actually that simple — especially today when brands can’t just play the system by stuffing keywords or mass-producing press releases. It’s a nuanced and digital world out there when it comes to marketing, and for brands to succeed they need to be smart, genuine, and consistent with the content they produce and the way they leverage it to get results.
- Combining the strengths of PR and SEO can produce a huge impact
- SEO and PR teams can learn from and feed off of each other’s strengths and expertise
- Effective SEO and PR integration creates more ongoing organic traffic that has real value for the company
- The key to effectively leveraging SEO and PR is a collaboration
Why Companies Need PR and SEO
Before we really start, let’s run through a quick overview of what exactly PR and SEO do for brands when it comes to marketing.
Public relations teams are strategic communicators that manage brand reputation and increase brand visibility by producing media content (traditional and digital) and building relationships in their industry. PR teams do things like secure media coverage, pitch and write stories, send out press releases, manage ad campaigns, and promote events and news.
SEO teams maximize a brand’s online presence by ensuring their digital content is search-engine optimized to drive traffic to their website and ultimately generate leads and drive conversions. SEO teams do things like keyword research, SERP rankings management, optimizing new and old content to drive traffic, and website analysis.
PR and SEO attack many of the same goals, but from different angles. There’s no shortage of debate around which is more important. Those on the PR side will tell you they amplify a brand through media mentions that impact brand sentiment, and SEO people will tell you none of that matters in a digital world unless you can get it to the right audience through correct placement and high search rankings.
Our opinion? Everybody’s right. SEO and PR are not mutually exclusive.
In fact, marrying the two to feed off each other’s strengths is essential to building trust, which is pretty much the number one factor in determining whether a potential customer will convert after interacting with your content.
What exactly do we mean? Think of it this way — SEO teams could craft website content with all of the SEO bells and whistles with the sole intent of getting a high ranking on Google. While it’s not that simple nowadays, let’s just say it happens.
When a customer arrives on your website and sees content without any of the meaningful aspects added by PR teams — thought leadership, guest input, carefully considered marketing messaging — they’ll quickly realize they’re looking at a bunch of keywords and move on.
Let’s reverse that and consider a thoughtfully crafted feature story created by a PR team that includes a compelling brand message, but it’s not optimized and lives on the third Google search results page. No matter how great the story is, odds are your target audience won’t ever see it (when’s the last time you clicked past page one on Google?) and even if they do, they’ll be skeptical because it was so low ranking.
Companies doing SEO and PR the best are doing it together, leaning on PR teams to create opportunities for meaningful content creation, and allowing the SEO experts to make sure it’s optimized and visible to the right audience.
If you’re interested in a deeper dive, here’s a great webinar hosted by SEMrush discussing how companies are getting results from SEO and PR integration.
Leveraging the PR and SEO Relationship
There was a time (ah, the 2000s) when you could jam a ton of keywords into your content and expect results. There was also a time (the pre-internet stone ages) when a brand could put a message in an advertisement and consumers would just… believe them.
Those days are gone.
In order for a customer to really trust you, you’ve got to have it all — high rankings, optimized websites, and engaging content. Even if consumers don’t realize they’re evaluating these exact factors, they are. Internet users in 2021 know a good website from a bad one, and when it’s bad, they’re moving on.
A whopping 93% of online experiences today start with search. So it’s clear that SEO and PR teams need to work together to rank high for their keywords, and while you might assume this responsibility falls primarily on the SEO team, that’s not necessarily true.
Like we said, the keyword monopoly on SEO rankings impact is no more. Today, it’s content and backlinks that get you where you want to be, and PR teams are the ones who can help you get there.
Here’s a pretty good visual of what an integrated SEO and PR content strategy looks like:
When SEO and PR efforts are integrated, they create a cycle of valuable content output in the right places, to the right audiences, and at the right times.
Your owned media (your website, blogs, social media — anything your brand is producing themselves) will be both optimized for SEO and crafted to meaningfully cover the topics, issues, and stories your customers care about. At the same time, your PR output and earned media (guest blogging on other sites, press mentions, etc) will drive traffic back to your website where leads are most likely to convert.
Over time, these combined efforts increase your domain authority, giving your brand a solid foundation for continual visibility, better brand recognition, and more ongoing organic traffic (vs. one big-hit mention that can create a spike in traffic that quickly drops again afterward).
Putting the Strategy into Action
There’s certainly no one-size-fits-all way to put an integrated PR and SEO strategy into action. What it really comes down to is effective communication and collaboration between the people and teams who handle your content and brand marketing.
A good first step is considering what the division of responsibility looks like for your company when it comes to SEO and PR.
Is there one team handling it all? If so, it might mean educating the team about the importance of SEO and PR integration and some dedicated time to strategize about how you’ll do it. If you’ve got separate teams handling each, it’s probably a good idea to create clear, open lines of communication between them and specific ways you want them to work together.
No matter what your specific solution looks like, building awareness among your marketing team about leveraging the opportunities presented by SEO and PR integration gets your brand moving in the right direction.