Better Together: What SEO and Online PR Can Learn from Each Other

By Lindsay Mineo

People tend to focus on the differences between PR and SEO, especially those within these industries, but the two actually have one very crucial skill in common: building relationships outside the brand. The point of both SEO and PR is to draw positive attention towards a brand. Admittedly, they go about it in very different ways but the same goal is there, which makes it easy to incorporate SEO tactics into your PR strategy and PR tactics into your SEO strategy.

Image: Flickr Commons

Just like relationship building is the key component in both SEO and PR, what truly binds them together is content creation. Original, informative, quality content drives users (you know, actual people) to a website time after time as long as the content is kept updated and relevant. The cherry on top of our SEO-PR sundae is that original, informative, quality content is valued pretty highly by Google, too. And when I say pretty highly I mean you really can’t do anything better. That’s because all your insightful blog posts, hilarious images, and viral videos can get you links from other websites and blogs that are original, informative, and authoritative (imagine that!). People can see those connections, but more importantly Google sees those connections and Google adores those connections.

The changes made to search engine marketing algorithms over the past year (thanks Panda!) means both SEOs and PRs have to start doing RCS, so it’s about time we learned from each other. I’ll walk you through some ways you PR pros can hop on the SEO bandwagon, and what us SEO strategists can learn from PR.

Image: Know Your Meme

So, what should I be stealing from SEO to help my PR?

The traditional PR job was to submit a press release every time something newsworthy happened and do a lot of community schmoozing to promote the brand. The internet changed this almost completely, causing PRs to adapt quickly. The Panda and Penguin Updates made it more important than ever to have a constant flow of good, relevant content (the kind that naturally attracts deep, authoritative backlinks), which is something PRs and SEOs alike now have to focus on.

Image: PR Daily

To keep from slipping into Internet Siberia, PRs need to picture themselves as link gatherers in addition to business card hander-overers. As Max said a few weeks ago, while PR gets the quality relationship and immediate recognition thing really well, it often falls short of long term recognition. So unless your client has earth shattering news on a very regular basis that warrants real press releases (and if so, your work should pretty much be cut out for you), PR can start borrowing from SEO.

  1. Start by looking to sources that will give you long lasting followed links. This means looking more towards blogs and online journalists than traditional media outlets because traditional news sources are more likely to bury that link (or worse, remove it) almost immediately. Find and connect with new PR Journalists so you’re not relying on the same few sources over and over again.
  2. Strategically place keywords throughout your online press releases. Look at the title, the description and the tags in addition to the body of the content. Keep it natural: don’t flood the press release with location-based keywords or brand mentions or it won’t sound natural.
  3. Speaking of flooding, don’t go overboard with the press release submissions. While introducing a game-changing product or service to the world is certainly newsworthy and deserving of a well-crafted press release, submitting dozens of press releases to announce mundane updates isn’t going to help the cause. In fact, it can hurt the cause. Flooding the internet with useless press releases is no different from spamming with duplicate content.
  4. Turn to social media. If reputation management is a big part of PR, what better place to manage a brand’s reputation than Facebook, Twitter, and Google+? That’s where fans are turning to air their grievances, ask for help, and express their satisfaction. If you’re present and active on social media profiles you’ll build that audience and soothe any disappointment you come across. Going back to what Max said, an active social media presence with followers and an active fan base will have the long lasting results you want.
  5. Don’t forget to reevaluate your strategy! This means using analytics to measure your results, knowing which keywords to use and why, how to seek out the right sources, and know what is and isn’t working. There are plenty of free and easy to use SEO tools for this (Followerwonk, Google Analytics, Open Site Explorer, etc.) so there’s no reason to make those decisions all willy-nilly. Have a reason for everything you do.

And, what should I be stealing from PR to help my SEO?

The “traditional” (in quotes only because SEO is still a relatively new industry) SEO job was – and still is – to achieve high search engine rankings, website authority, and online awareness. It’s been accused of creating content for search engines, not people, and some have called SEO tactics less than credible. Though most SEO agencies have been doing RCS for some time, the Google updates made those tactics all but impossible to continue with. But there’s still a lot SEO could be doing that PR has already gotten down.

Image: Know Your Meme

  1. SEOs need to start thinking like PRs in terms of building real, valuable interactions. This means going offline sometimes (gasp!) and spending time cultivating a relationship before asking for a link. If you’re working with a blog on a guest post, consider picking up the phone. Or collaborate in a Google+ hangout. Show your face, show your human side. People love that.
  2. Create real content that real people actually care about. If your SEO is just writing for search engines, chances are your site is using some shady tactics that don’t have long term results. You can submit to all the directories in the world, write one blog post for dozens of different blogs, or order canned content and get a bazillion links, but as soon as those links are devalued you’re back to square one with nothing but a lot of wasted time. Invest resources into creating blog posts, videos and images that people care about, and those will get you the desirable, long-lasting links and the social media shares and mentions that will grow the brand.
  3. Think of Facebook and Twitter like store departments, rather than platforms. If someone is already in a store they’re already interested in what’s for sale, so an intense sales pitch will be useless at best and drive them away at worst. Similarly, if someone is already checking out your Facebook page or Twitter profile they’re already interested. The people there are real and they have real concerns; address those and build a community online and your followers will become lifelong fans.

There’s no doubt Google will continue to make updates to its search algorithm, affecting how SEO and PR agencies do their jobs, so there’s no doubt that we’re all going to have to keep learning and adapting. SEOs and PRs can borrow from each other to provide our clients with a well rounded, all inclusive internet marketing strategy, which, after all, is the whole point.

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Lindsay Mineo

By Lindsay Mineo

Lindsay Mineo is a Senior Search Specialist at ThunderActive. She lives with a dog, a cat, and a boy.

She likes to talk about animals and food on Twitter and Google+.

  • There is no question that online PR and SEO get closer together everyday, it is also so ingrained with social media. Great ideas!