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When talking about how digital technology transformed brands and marketing, most marketers are quick to point out the arrival of new digital marketing channels and the influence of social media. But what about public relations (PR) and search engine optimization (SEO)?
Traditionally, most brand teams would have considered PR and SEO separately or even left SEO to their website teams. As the two disciplines come closer together, brands are starting to see the benefits of integrating PR and SEO.
Understanding the relationship of PR and SEO in digital marketing
The Public Relations Society of America defines PR as a “strategic communications process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” Just a few decades ago, PR professionals relied mainly on newspapers, magazines and broadcast outlets to spread their messages. Today, they have a far wider choice of channels, most of them digital.
SEO, on the other hand, is firmly linked to the digital age. The term describes how teams increase their brand’s visibility and ranking on search engine results pages. As Google puts it, SEO is about “helping search engines understand and present content.”
Both PR and SEO rely on understanding the brand’s audiences and taking a strategic approach to reaching those audiences. While they have traditionally pursued that goal separately, brand teams and company leadership teams are starting to realize that combining their efforts can create previously unknown synergies.
The best marketing strategies have a few things in common. They are built on a central message or a set of messages woven through the entire campaign. They also use the combined power of a variety of different (digital) marketing channels, making sure that their core messages are recognizable across all of them. Lastly, they are based on a solid strategy and clear objectives. Both of those ensure each strategic element contributes toward achieving the objectives.
Use the same principles to integrate PR and SEO and take advantage of the power of public relations to support search engine rankings. Here are four ways PR supports SEO.
Backlinks from high-ranking, influential websites can transform your rankings. So, how can you convince other websites to link to yours? Enter PR. Compelling storytelling is the strength of PR. Use that strength to craft content others would like to share on their platforms.
Consider blog posts, case studies, or high-quality video content to attract the attention of your target brands. Don’t be afraid to send direct links to their brand teams or tag relevant brands if you share social media content.
In most cases, you will spend some time building a relationship before others backlink to you. Stay the course, and you will reap the rewards in the long term.
2. Keyword research
You don’t need to be an SEO expert to understand the importance of keyword research. Knowing how potential customers search for you and optimizing your website accordingly are cornerstones of successful search engine marketing.
To be effective, keyword research needs to include the actual words your audience is looking for and the search intent. Once both are clear, your SEO team needs to share them with your PO professionals. Applying keyword research results only to your website would mean missing out on a large part of the opportunity.
3. Integrating SEO and content marketing
So-called keyword stuffing no longer works for successful SEO. Search engines are looking for well-organized content that adds value to the person who initiated the search. However, that does not mean that you should remove SEO keywords from your PR content.
The opposite is the case: Skilled PR professionals can utilize target keywords without compromising their storytelling. Think about thought leadership articles, social media posts, and even press releases – all of these forms of content can contribute toward higher rankings.
4. Monitoring and measuring performance
Measuring the performance and effectiveness of your efforts is critical to understanding what is working and what needs to be adapted. Start by establishing clear key performance indicators (KPIs) to allow you to benchmark successes and understand where improvement is needed.
Most search engines offer a range of analytics tools to help you understand your performance. Make sure those are set up and ready to monitor your activity right from the start.
Both PR and SEO require mid- to long-term commitment. Over time, their impact builds up and grows stronger. That is why some of the brands reaping the most noticeable results started their integration a few years ago.
Airbnb, for example, developed relationships with leading influencers and thought leaders as early as 2015 to create content that helped users experience key cities and drove traffic to the accommodation platform. The content created by those influencers contributed to Airbnb’s search engine rankings.
Inbound marketing and sales platform Hubspot is another example of a brand integrating PR and SEO successfully. The company realized in 2017 that previous approaches to SEO were no longer as effective. To maximize the potential of their content for search engine rankings, the team not only integrated its own approach but even built a tool customers could use to validate the potential effectiveness of content before creating it.
Challenges to successful integration
Successful integration of public relations and search engine optimization hinges on communications between the teams working on both. Legacy company structures and hierarchies separating them are among the most common challenges in integrating PR and SEO.
Sharing keyword research, insights, and high-performing approaches is simpler when teams share an office or a remote-working platform. Measuring results on a single dashboard allows everyone to see their effort’s effectiveness right before them.