While search engine optimization (SEO) and PR have been buddies for a while now, never have they been so reliant on each other. We’re now moving into an era of PR SEO.
Why is this the case? Search seems to be a moving target. However, we know that Google rewards quality links. Well-written content and proactive outreach are a crucial part of SEO success. No one is better versed in these areas than PR pros.
Andy Crestodina, Chief Marketing Officer and Co-Founder of Orbit Media, points out that a lot of SEO companies now have positions with the title of “outreach manager.” The reason for this position is because links and mentions from other sites are now even more important for search.
An essential component of the outreach manager’s role is researching publications that may be a fit and then pitching content—or story—ideas. This relationship-building is, of course, very similar to what PR pros do every day. The difference is that those doing SEO, which was once known as link building, are more concerned with the “authority” level of the website and getting a link, versus a PR practitioner, who’s more focused on sharing messages with an intended audience.
“If the media mentions links to a page on your website, you just had a great day for SEO. Links to your website are an authority,” says Crestodina. “And authority increases the likelihood that anything on your domain will rank. This is why PR professionals have such a huge ability to affect search rankings. The key is to understand the value of links and capture the opportunities of press mentions.”
So, what are the most effective SEO practices for PR pros right now?
Stop thinking press releases are helpful to your rankings:
Press releases aren’t directly relevant to SEO. They used to be—but no longer. Google now ignores them. A press release only helps your ranking if it’s picked up by a reporter who writes a story linking back to the client’s site. Or if you repurpose the content as a blog post and that spurs engagement.
Not everything you work on is relevant to SEO:
Search is only helpful if someone is looking for your content. So, try changing the way you think about PR by answering this question: “What phrase would someone who’s looking for this story use to search?” You may realize that what you’re currently working on isn’t search-worthy—and that’s okay.
For example, if you need to issue a press release on an award your client won, do it. There are still benefits to letting audiences hear about this news. Just drop the expectation that the public will find it via SEO. No one is searching for that announcement. People google for answers to questions and solutions to problems. For search, you need to think in those terms.
Remember that while the value of earned media is temporary, SEO is forever:
While the benefit of a press mention boosts a brand, it may be short-lived. The spike in referral traffic may be brief.
But, when you’re able to get a journalist or blogger to link to a piece of content on your site, that link is likely to last. It’s rare that sites delete pages and links. And, this will increase your SEO.
Be original—provocative even—with your content:
Some ways to rank higher in search include publishing posts featuring original research. Conducting original research may be costly or time-consuming, but can reap greater results than using someone else’s.
You can also conduct a survey and publish the findings. For example, Orbit Media conducts an annual survey of bloggers that they then turn into a post that garners many links. Or, aggregate research on a particular topic. What do people in your industry say but rarely support? Answer that using data you uncover.
Develop content based on strong opinions.
Perhaps take a position on an issue that may not be shared by everyone in your industry.
Crestodina suggests reading Spin Sucks to read up on challenges faced by modern PR pros. “It’s filled with practical posts that include specific tips that fill in the skill gaps for PR pros,” he says.