In today’s digital marketing landscape, the once separate entities of search engine optimization and public relations are merging to form a new, hybrid department. As Google’s standards on quality content evolved, so too did the link-based strategies digital marketers always relied on to achieve strong search rankings. Google’s adjustments, starting with the Penguin update and evolving into an authority-based algorithm, shook the world of SEO. It quickly became evident that PR professionals were best suited to fill the void. Today, PR and SEO are integrating their efforts and skill sets so thoroughly, it is becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish one from the other.
In the last two to three years, close to 85% of our clients have integrated their PR and SEO efforts. At Brilliance, our content marketing efforts are leveraged by our PR team. While PR pitches to media partners, our SEO team pitches to bloggers and influencers. PR is tasked with acquiring high-quality, authoritative links while SEO uses PR contacts to generate authoritative links and mentions.
From Link Building to Link Baiting
Before the content marketing revolution, link building was the strategic foundation of SEO. The teams that did the work were largely made up of back-end technologists. As Forbes contributor John Rampton points out in a recent article, this all changed when Google altered its algorithm to put a much higher premium on relevant, high-quality, authoritative content.
The old rules, which relied on massive link-building structures, suddenly no longer applied. The purpose of SEO was no longer to build links, but to make content on web pages so compelling that they served as bait for credible, established sites to link to them voluntarily.
This new SEO strategy grabbed the attention of large media companies, which public relations professionals have been practicing for generations.
PR and SEO: Perfect Together
As previously mentioned, SEO experts historically came from technical backgrounds. Their skills involved back-end operations and analytics. Meanwhile, PR professionals have always been relationship people. The most highly-coveted (and best paid) PR experts were those who could foster bonds with publishers, reporters and other media players. The problem was that their results were hard to measure and ROI was difficult to quantify.
Backed by the metric-based analytical skills of SEO experts, however, modern PR professionals can now reliably gauge the effectiveness of their campaigns. On the other side of the coin, SEO teams can leverage their PR partners’ relationships to earn the links that Google favors so heavily.
In fact, the individual skill sets of PR and SEO are so complementary that even their tools are starting to overlap.
Tools for Success
As Forbes also points out, content calendars, which were once a scheduling and management tool used exclusively by PR agents, are now being widely adopted by SEO teams.
Platforms like Help a Reporter Out pair journalists and content creators with experts eager to lend their credibility in exchange for a link. Squarely in the middle sits both the public relations professionals who manage those relationships and SEO teams that use the links to gain ground with Google. Both the SEO teams and PR teams that we’ve worked with are using platforms like HARO, PressRush, and Vocus.
Tips for Merging Your SEO and PR Efforts
Our experience integrating our PR and SEO teams taught us some valuable lessons:
- Communicate. PR and SEO teams should create and share interdepartmental editorial calendars to avoid conflicts or work duplications.
- Treat social media as an offshoot of search. Just as the line between PR and SEO becomes increasingly blurred, so too is the line between searching and social media. Search engines were long the domain of technical SEO professionals, and social media was the playground for bold, catchy PR campaigns. As a bigger chunk of audiences now use social for primary searching, SEO pros must apply their analytical skills to social campaigns and leverage social platforms for content promotion. We’ve had great success using Facebook Ads to amplify content shared on social, which has in turn generated powerful media mentions.
- Target influencers. Links from large, well-established publications are the ultimate reward. A few links from top websites are far more valuable than lots of low-quality links from questionable sites. The problem is, however, that everyone is vying for their attention, so it is difficult to get them to notice your brand. Instead of targeting them directly, PR should focus on more readily available influencers in social media and blogging. A top publication is far more likely to take notice of a mention from an influencer than they are to respond to even the best direct pitch or press release. SEO can focus on medium and lower quality publications while PR hyper focuses on the higher end publications.
- Respect the value of mentions. Jonathan Long, founder and CEO of Marketing Domination Media, stated that “implied links” will soon be as important as SEO advances. The best way to chase implied links, or frequent brand mentions that aren’t necessarily accompanied by actual links, is through PR campaigns.
Google’s love of compelling content has quickly created a merger between PR professionals and SEO teams. Once Google began penalizing virtually all SEO strategies that can be automated, the value of public relations as a complementary skill set became evident. Today, public relations and search engine optimization are two sides of the same coin. Although they will always retain their unique identities, they should no longer function as separate units. One depends on the other to spread content, drive branding, and of course, keep Google happy.