PR (Public Relations) and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) used to be two separate marketing silos. SEO took care of the technical side of digital marketing, while PR was used to build relationships with other people. Today, though, you’re much more likely to see the opposite: SEO and PR teams that work so closely together that their roles, tasks, and logistics are hard to tell apart.
The truth is that you can use this overlap to make your marketing strategy work better. So, here’s an overview of how to get a big return on investment (ROI) by getting your PR and SEO teams to work together.
Why you need both PR and SEO
Enterprise SEO and PR often have the same business goals. So, if you do well at both, your brand will have a bigger impact. This line-up consists of:
Know-how of a brand
Think about going to the grocery store and walking down the aisle with drinks. Do you buy the store-brand soda or Coke? It’s likely that you’ll choose Coke. When they have to choose between something they know and something they don’t, most people go with what they know.
Studies of the “mere exposure effect,” which shows that people like what they already know, have shown this to be true. People tend to like something, like a brand, more the more they know about it. This is true no matter what the message says.
Both online PR and SEO help spread the word about a brand. PR is a good way to get the media to talk about you. It also helps you get your brand’s name out there at events and through experiential campaigns. SEO works well to grab Google SERP features. With SEO, you try to reach your target audience right when they are looking for information or a solution that you can provide.
Taking care of a brand's reputation
Public relations professionals spend time coming up with messages and communications that change how people think about a company. If your branded SERPs are negative, you can add authentically positive information to the SERPs through both PR campaigns and SEO strategies. This strategy, which is also called “online reputation management,” makes sure that there is a balance of information and helps to move negative information down the page.
Usually, the PR team is good at getting the brand’s message across. On the other hand, the SEO team makes sure that these brand messages are seen by your customers online.
Even if your messages are well-written, they won’t make a difference if the wrong things are being said about your company in the search results.
Sharing in a group
SEO and PR both make it more likely that the right people will read or watch your content and share it. They are also very important in deciding what the content will be and how it will be spread.
PR campaigns often try to find new ways to get people’s attention. Because of this, they are very good at getting people to share content with other people.
A good SEO program looks for content gaps and fills them with interesting content that is often easy to share.
Consumers care a lot about what other people think. They rely heavily on trust signals to help them decide what to buy and which brands to support. The more they see a brand in trusted places, the more trust signals that brand sends.
A brand might sponsor a charity event as a way to build trust through public relations. Or a reporter talking about the brand, a product review on a blog, a joint marketing campaign with a well-known brand, a celebrity endorsement, a bylined article, or a positive conversation on social media. All of these public relations efforts are good for the brand.
On the SEO side of things, social proof is just as important. Off-page SEO signals like mentions, backlinks, and shares show Google that your brand is a trusted authority.
Both public relations and SEO can have a huge effect on social proof and its signals in these ways.
Consistency in a brand
A key part of a well-developed omnichannel strategy is making sure that the brand is the same across all channels and platforms. SEO and PR need to work together to make sure that key messages get to the right people and platforms at the right time. So, if you see a brand at an event, then in a magazine, then in the SERPs, and finally on their website, you’re seeing the same positioning and messaging over and over again. This helps your audience remember who you are and what you do.
Having faith and power
Let’s go back to the situation of “Coke vs. generic soda.” People really chose Coke, but why? Since they believe it.
Why should they believe it? Because they already know a lot about the brand and have had experiences with it that can help them decide. They also know that this is true for every Coke until Coke changes its recipe or process. So the brand consistency we just talked about isn’t just good for the brand; it’s also a way to build trust in the product as a whole.
Both digital PR and SEO have important feedback loops that have to do with trust and authority. They have a lot to do with how Google ranks search results, and they can also make or break a business.
Most marketers don’t talk about public relations when they talk about all the ways to get new clients. But that’s an old-fashioned way to do PR. Today, direct response and lead generation are common at events, in content campaigns, and in many other types of PR efforts.
Imagine that LinkedIn opened a chain of “Linked Inns” where it set up pop-up pubs and networking events. The campaign’s main goal was to get people to think more about how they could use LinkedIn for their careers, sign up for the site, and use it more.
SEO has always been important to companies as a way to get leads because it is so cheap. In fact, SEO always beats PPC in terms of how much it costs to get a new customer.
SEO has a big flywheel effect as well. When your organic search results get better, Google sees your brand as a reliable authority. Because of this, it becomes easier to get higher rankings in organic search results. This cycle creates a lead-generation funnel that will work well for a long time.
SEO insights make PR efforts stronger
Relationships are important to PR strategists. But they still need a quick and reliable way to figure out which relationships, ideas, and campaigns are worth pursuing.
SEO can be like a slingshot for the whole PR plan, giving it momentum and a sense of direction. Keyword research, data on trends, competitive analysis, backlink research, and quality-scoring SEO tools like Moz and Semrush all give PR important information for making an effective strategy.
PR connections amplify SEO value
Before the SEO team can build high-quality backlinks for the site, they need to use PR’s connections and skills at building relationships. PR strategies are often part of “link building” in the world of SEO. In the past, SEO link building wasn’t as relationship-based as it is now. The PR team is much more likely to have many connections with people in high-level positions. Link building will be a lot easier if you work with PR to take advantage of these connections.
Integrate PR and SEO to increase marketing’s return on investment (ROI).
So, this is why PR and SEO work so well together. But what does that mean in the real world? How should the two teams work together to get the best results?
First, both teams should work together to find opportunities, come up with ideas, and make a plan. They should also meet regularly to talk about the plan and make it better. Look for ways to share information and work together when running campaigns. What are your goals and messages for the quarter, month, or day? What about new products, holidays, and sales that are coming up? Will you need to come up with a lot of new ideas for content? What kinds of? Where does it go? Who are you going to reach out to?
Also, be open to new opportunities outside of the set marketing schedule. What’s popular or making the rounds? Are there any new problems that could hurt the reputation of the company? What’s going on in the news, and how should you react? How can you bring your brand into the conversation in a creative way?
Each company has its own way of dividing up the work. But it’s important that both teams know what their jobs are. At some companies, the SEO team might come up with a list of bloggers to reach out to, but the PR team would be in charge of the actual reaching out.
In another situation, PR might find some ways to promote the company and ask the search team for advice. For example, the SEO team could give campaign assets more visibility by giving information about how people search.
With this in mind, here are some ways to combine PR and SEO to get a better return on your marketing investment (ROI) and results that get better over time.
Events are a natural way to make people talk about something and build good links. Companies can take part in or host a wide range of events that show off their brand, from formal conferences to tongue-in-cheek cookoff contests.
For example, every year, EA Play is held by EA Games. It’s a free event where gamers can get a sneak peek at upcoming games, play exclusive games, and meet other gamers with the same interests. This is a great way for EA Games to connect with their audience and show that they are an industry leader.
From an SEO point of view, events are a chance to make new assets that will help your site rank higher in organic search. Also, events are a great way to build more backlinks. More than 450 different websites have been linked to the EA Play website. There are more than 740 referring domains to Magento’s Imagine conference. And to really prove our point, more than 4,400 external domains have linked back to Salesforce’s Dreamforce event. To say that events are good for both SEO and public relations is clearly an understatement.
The news release is still alive. The days of sending out a bunch of press releases about nothing are over, though. Today’s press releases are much more specific and tailored to the audience. They also pay attention to the magazines and news outlets where the story fits well.
Read this press release from Apple to see what I mean. The most interesting part of the story—a recycling robot—comes first in the story. Earth Day and growing concerns about the environment are used as a frame for the story. Then, they relate this idea to Apple’s Giveback Program (now called Apple Trade-In). By putting their initiative in the context of a larger problem that affects everyone, they have implicitly answered the question “Why should I care?” and gotten people to visit the Apple Trade In website.
More than 500 websites linked back to the first press release. But, more importantly from a business point of view, the Apple Trade In website has backlinks from more than 3,000 other websites.
Google doesn’t care about links in press releases. Smart marketers, on the other hand, know that customized press releases are great tools. They not only get mentioned in the media, but they also increase web traffic and backlinks to digital properties with the brand’s name on them.
Articles with your name on them, guest blogging, and interviews
Guest blogging on trusted industry sites is a great way to show that you are a thought leader and bring more attention to your brand. When SEO is in charge of the tactics and PR is in charge of the strategy, the teams can work together to get the most out of every guest post.
The project management software company Basecamp was started by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. They seem to write editorials or do interviews for third-party websites all the time. Fried has written more than 75 articles under his own name for places like Inc. Magazine. Also, he and Hansson have been in a long list of interviews in high-profile publications like the New York Times, CNBC, Vox, The Tim Ferriss Show, and Forbes. Basecamp 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 care deeply about. From a search engine optimization (SEO) point of view, the articles have helped build a strong traffic funnel and backlink profile, with more than 34,000 websites sending traffic to the site.
Campaigns with a twist
If a campaign is creative enough, people will talk about it on their own. That means it can get a lot of media coverage, impressions, video views, conversations, social media activity, and backlinks.
If done right, this can make such a strong impression that it becomes a key part of the brand even years later.
This includes the #LikeAGirl campaign by Always to help young girls feel more confident. More than 67 million people watched the first video (and 4.4 billion media impressions in the first three months). The #LikeAGirl – Unstoppable video, which is a follow-up, has more than 39 million views. More than 6.2 million people saw a #LikeAGirl post about soccer star Alex Morgan. Another video about an Oklahoma middle school basketball team got more than 4.8 million views. There are more than 25 videos in this series as a whole. The campaign also used influencer marketing, reached out to the media, made infographics, asked girls to suggest more empowering female emojis through user-generated content, and held a Confidence Summit for girls.
If you type “#LikeAGirl” into Google right now, you’ll get more than 430 million results. What should we learn from this? If you’re creative and talk to your audience about how they really feel, you might just hit PR and SEO gold.
A great example of content marketing is newsjacking. It just means, “Do something meaningful with the news.” In short, when something important happens in the news that has something to do with your brand, you can use the popularity of the topic to your advantage by giving your own take on it and bringing your brand into the conversation.
The rules are clear. For example, you shouldn’t talk about hot-button issues that could cause a rift between your brand and a large portion of its audience. (Unless, of course, you choose a controversial campaign like Nike’s partnership with Colin Kaepernick, which led to a 10% sales increase for Nike.) Use good content and a voice that fits with your brand. MoonPie is good at picking up funny stories from the news and putting their own spin on them. They will even stop other brands from trying new jack, which is often funny.
Adding to the content
Content amplification is what makes one piece of content spread all over the web. PR and SEO can work together to make sure that all content is useful, shareable, consistent with the brand, and easy to find. Without that important addition, you’re not likely to get more out of your content than you put into it.
At MTB Strategies, we often come up with content strategies and do wide-ranging content amplification while creating organic backlinks that help a brand’s SEO profile.
For example, for one provider of student loan refinancing, we got over 13.3 million unique brand impressions and more than 5,800 audience engagements through 470+ content placements. We made a similar pitch to influencers for a Greek yogurt brand to get 29 million unique brand impressions from 1,600 content placements.
SEO and public relations can both benefit from making content. But content amplification means that your brand’s marketing really pays off.
Public relations isn't just about building links
PR and off-page SEO are sometimes used interchangeably, but they are not the same thing. Strategically, PR is about building relationships with reporters, publications, and bloggers that will last for a long time. Then, they will use these connections whenever something comes up that their audience would be interested in. On the other hand, link building is more about getting links from new places.
SEO campaigns can give you power, momentum, and access to new opportunities. Even though the PR team has spent a lot of time building relationships with influential people and publications. The most natural links will come from these relationships. A story from a single influential publication can cause hundreds or thousands of other publications to share, respond, and give their opinions on the story. PR cares much more about who than about how many.
Collaborate, integrate, educate
What is the real key to getting your SEO and PR teams to work together and do their best work? Education! As each team learns more about what the other does, they will respect and understand each other more.
Where do they overlap and where do they differ most? Where can both teams help and support each other? As two different approaches come together, it will also lead to the creation of new ideas and plans.
At the end of the day, having a PR team or an SEO team isn’t what matters. It’s about having both and making more money because of it.