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What is the most important aspect of marketing for a brand looking to build its online visibility? Search engine optimization (SEO)? Search engine marketing (SEM)? Or is it public relations (PR)? As is so often the case when discussing marketing and PR strategies and tactics, there is hardly a one-size-fits-all answer.
Establishing or extending domain authority and online visibility requires well-thought-out work with search engines. But these goals are equally dependent on a brand’s reputation, and the trust consumers place in the products and services the company offers. PR is among the most vital tools to build that trust and reputation. So, to stand out in today’s digital landscape, brands need to integrate PR into their SEO strategy.
At the same time, tactics that used to be the gold standard, like building backlinks, are becoming less important. In this article, we are taking a closer look at the new relationship between PR and SEO.
Why combining SEO and PR matters
Less than ten years ago, establishing high-quality backlinks from external websites to a brand’s own was vital to achieving high rankings in the results pages of search engines like Google. Backlinks signaled to Google’s crawlers that others trusted a website and were likely to be useful to search engine users with relevant queries.
Today, search engines use far more sophisticated algorithms to determine a website’s value and its ranking. While backlinks are still part of the equation, they are no longer the deciding factor. Part of the reason behind that change is that backlinks were too easily manipulated. Some could be purchased or traded, so search engine owners started looking for alternatives.
Organic media coverage has become one of those alternative measures to help determine a website’s ranking. That is why integrating PR and SEO is critical when it comes to increasing your brand’s online visibility.
Benefits of PR for SEO
Public relations or editorial coverage increases trust in a brand. Journalists and the media outlets they write or produce content for are generally perceived as third parties that do not automatically take content supplied by a company at face value. Instead, they examine and question what has been supplied and look for verification from other sources before considering publication.
To put it simpler, while brands can easily populate their own media channels with company messages, these messages have to stand up to scrutiny if they are to be published in a magazine or on a highly regarded online platform.
As part of an optimized marketing strategy, PR supports a brand’s search engine optimization strategy in several ways, including:
- Improving search engine rankings
- Increasing website traffic
- Developing a more diverse backlink profile
Furniture retailer IKEA’s award-winning ‘Cook this Page’ campaign is an example of how PR can benefit SEO. The campaign featured recipes printed on parchment that made it easy to measure ingredients and left users with an easy-to-clean kitchen.
Media outlets like Adweek, Fast Company and Huff Post picked up on the campaign and linked to the retailer’s website. Not only did those stories drive direct website traffic to the campaign, but they also generated high-quality, third-party-endorsed backlinks.
How SEO and PR work together
Using the power of PR to improve search engine rankings works best when both aspects of marketing are integrated from the very beginning of a campaign or project.
Consider optimizing your brand’s PR campaign content for the keywords the business wants to rank for. Remember, search engine algorithms have become very adept at identifying keyword stuffing and unnatural-sounding content. However, well-crafted press releases and other materials can easily contain important keywords without sounding artificial.
Remember that the strength of the story, its relevance, and newsworthiness remain the most important criteria for a media outlet. But none of those requirements prevent PR professionals from writing with SEO in mind. As publications pick up on a brand’s story, PR can increase the number, quality, and variety of backlinks generated for the brand.
Especially web-based publications are generally happy to include links to a relevant product website in their content. The brand benefits from the link and growing credibility, thanks to a third party’s endorsement.
Best practices for combining SEO and PR
To make the most of combining SEO and PR, digital marketers need to approach their campaigns with both aspects in mind right from the beginning. Integration is the key to successful execution.
Here are some of the most promising best practices:
- Conduct keyword research and optimize PR pitches for SEO before contacting journalists.
- Utilize the brand’s own social media channels to amplify pitching efforts and emerging media coverage.
- Create highly engaging social media content that is too good not to share. This type of content will naturally increase exposure and generate backlinks.
Both PR and SEO are essential to improving a brand’s online visibility. Considering them as equals during message, pitch, and campaign development sets the scene for outstanding coverage and strong backlinks.
Backlinks alone no longer determine the ranking of a website on search engines like Google. Search engine algorithms look for current, consistent, and relevant content that aligns with a user’s search query. Integrating the results of keyword research with PR pitches to journalists, social media posts and other content all supports SEO rankings.
Each of these tools and tactics plays an important role in determining search engine rankings and increasing brand visibility and credibility. To maximize a brand’s commercial and media-related opportunities, marketers need to blend as many tools as possible into compelling stories that resonate with journalists and consumers alike. As the conversation around those stories builds, it will naturally improve online visibility.