How PR and SEO Work Together to Build Your Brand
PR and SEO. How do they work together?
At PR Superstar, we talk a lot about PR. Makes sense, as it’s in the name. But SEO? Not so much. As a result, you may be less familiar with it. But SEO is an important part of modern PR.
When you get your online PR and SEO working together well, it can generate your brand a ton of high-quality, positive publicity and push you high up the Google search rankings.
In this post, we’re going to explore how these two worlds collide and explain how integrated SEO and PR can launch your brand to the next level.
What are SEO and PR?
Before we get too deep into the topic, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page.
THE DEFINITION OF PR
PR or public relations is all about reputation management. It’s about protecting, enhancing and building your brand’s reputation to positively influence the opinions and behaviours of the public, media and your stakeholders.
For more detail on this, read: Reputation Management: How to Win Customers and Influence Stakeholders.
SEO, or search engine optimisation, is the art of tweaking your web content to improve its rank in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
The aim is to be visible on page 1 of Google, Yahoo!, Bing and other search engines for specific search terms. Why? Because it boosts the amount of traffic to your site by 143%, according to a study conducted by Poll the People.
Not on page 1 of Google yet? Let’s deep dive into the world of SEO in order to get you there.
SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMISATION: THE LOWDOWN
Back in the early days of search engines, SEO was a dirty, lawless battle between organisations desperately trying to claw their way to the top of Google.
Brands manipulated search engines by stacking content with nonsense keywords in a practice known as keyword stuffing, and paying other (equally low-quality) sites to link back to them. The content offered very little value, but it got websites to the top of the SERPs.
But over time search engines like Google have gotten smarter and tactics like keyword stuffing no longer cut the mustard. Now, the focus is on putting the end user’s experience first, and concentrating on abstract ideas such as authority, engagement, and legitimacy, rather than simple technical metrics like how many keywords are included.
In other words, the quality of content has become the deciding factor in a website rank. As it should be.
FOUR WAYS TO MAKE HIGH-QUALITY CONTENT
The term ‘high-quality’ is thrown around a lot in conversations about SEO, but what does it actually mean? Here are a few pointers:
1. WRITE FOR YOUR READERS, NOT FOR YOURSELF
Your web content needs to offer value to your readers. Consider your customers’ needs and create content based around those needs. Ask yourself:
- What question are they seeking to answer?
- What issues are they trying to fix?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help you produce high-quality content that people will want to read.
Okay, but how do you know what problems your readers want help with?
Answer: Keyword research.
2. CONDUCT KEYWORD RESEARCH
Keyword research is fundamental to successful SEO. It involves identifying popular words and phrases that people type into a search bar to find the information they need.
Once you know what people are searching for, you can focus your content around those topics.
But how do you conduct keyword research effectively and efficiently?
To be honest, this is an entire blog post in itself, but this beginner’s guide to keyword research by HubSpot is a good place to start.
3. READABILITY IS KEY
SEO rule number three. Make sure your content is easy to read.
Think about the structure of your text and the words you use. Endless pages of text with no white space will put people off reading your posts.
Use headings, subheadings, and paragraphs to break up the copy. Keep your sentences short and limit your use of difficult words and industry jargon.
If in doubt, use a free online tool like the Flesch-Kincaid readability test to see if your content needs simplifying.
4. INCORPORATE IMAGES AND LISTS
They say that variety is the spice of life, right? Well, its true of SEO too. So use a variety of content formats to keep readers interested.
A study by Wistia found that the average ‘dwell time’ (how long people stay on a page) is doubled with the inclusion of video. That’s a big boost to your site’s domain authority right there!
Want to know how to effectively use video in your PR campaigns? Read: How to Use Video for Public Relations.
Four ways SEO and PR work well together
So far, we’ve talked about public relations and search engine optimisation as separate entities. Now it’s time to discuss the benefits of integrated PR and SEO.
When combined with SEO, public relations is a force to be reckoned with.
Let’s look at how digital PR and SEO come together to make an impact online.
- SEO provides free publicity
- Both SEO and digital PR passively bring in new audiences
- SEO can be used to quell a PR crisis
- Good old-fashioned PR work makes SEO more valuable.
1. Strong SEO equals excellent publicity
SEO is great because it generates free publicity – the lifeblood of PR. How so? Well, Google, in essence, is the world’s largest media agency. Bigger than both the BBC and CNN. If you want to publicise your brand, being at the top of Google’s search engine results is where you want to be.
But remember, not all exposure is created equal.
Many businesses bid to have their websites visible in sponsored links at the top of Google searches. Paid ads are much easier than putting in the hard graft with SEO and PR. But the long-term results are less valuable.
Research by FirstPageSage.com found that the number one organic search result receives 19 times the number of clicks that the top paid search result gets.
In other words, paid results only see real success when nobody is out there doing SEO. Not a ringing endorsement for ads is it? But the sad fact is, nobody likes paid advertising. A 2020 Ipsos MORI study found that ad execs were the least trusted profession in the UK, behind politicians. Ouch!
In contrast, good SEO builds meaningful brand awareness. And featuring high in the search engine results organically builds trust with your audience. And trust is a big thing in business.
When you search online for news, the top results (the ones you’ll click on) are from respected sites such as the BBC, The Guardian and The Telegraph, as opposed to satirical news sites like The Onion.
That aura of authenticity carries over to other searches. People naturally see ‘organic’ results as earned, and therefore authoritative.
It’s called social proof, and it’s an idea that’s well-attested in psychology. The gist of it being that if lots of people do something, we assume they’re doing it for a good reason.
For example, when the UK government mentioned in letters that nine out of ten people paid their taxes on time, repayment rates spiked.
In the same way, getting to the top of Google becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Effective SEO increases your audience and your reputation. All for free.
2. SEO can help you through a crisis
PR crises are never good. They can hit when you least expect it and can undo years of work building a reputation, in minutes.
Take British brewery and pub chain, BrewDog. In an open letter to the company on Twitter in 2021, a disgruntled ex-employee accused them of having a ‘toxic attitude’ and promoting an internal ‘culture of fear’.
As a result, BrewDog’s index score (a mark of perceived quality, value and reputation) tanked from 18.9 to 4.7 overnight.
It also affected their Google rankings. Now, when searching for BrewDog on Google, one of the first things consumers see is the scandal:
BrewDog’s response? A rather poor Twitter post that came a week and a half after the fact, that barely anyone read.
The takeaway? Every brand needs a crisis comms strategy. Find out what a good one looks like. Read: Crisis Management in Public Relations
So, how can you get SEO and PR working together to minimise the damage of a crisis?
The first thing to know is that building a high-quality digital presence takes time, so it’s a good idea to be proactive.
Here’s a simple plan for using SEO to prevent a PR crisis:
- Identify the areas where you’re most likely to receive criticism
- Put out high quality content using keywords related to those topics.
If you can build up a library of good, high-authority content in the problem area, scandals will have a harder time snatching up the top search results.
3. PR’s human touch helps SEO shine
Many people think SEO is a numbers game, where hard data is king. There’s little room for the soft skills of traditional PR, right?
Wrong. As mentioned earlier, search engines have moved away from data-driven metrics. What matters most now is your ‘EAT’.
What is EAT? It’s a term coined by Google referring to your site’s:
One of the most effective ways to increase your EAT is via backlinks.
In the same way that a positive product review from a respected trade magazine will increase your reputation, a 2020 Backlinko study discovered that backlinks from authoritative sites correlated positively with high search rankings.
In stark contrast, tit-for-tat schemes or directly buying backlinks will get your site downgraded, or even blacklisted, by search engine algorithms.
But how do you get these precious links?
It comes down to three simple things: outreach, outreach and outreach.
You need to convince respected editors and content creators in your field that you’re worth talking about. When reaching out to the press, remember to be:
- Interesting: if you can’t find anything to say about yourself, neither will journalists
- Relevant: if you’re a fashion company, don’t waste time trying to get featured in a foodie blog – regardless of how many followers they have
- Restrained: don’t spam every inbox you can find, unless you like being ignored.
Integrated SEO and PR makes it harder for others to muscle in on your digital territory without putting in an equal amount of work, as your site’s inbound links are based on genuine relationships rather than artificial technical metrics.
Interested in how to pitch to the online media? Read: How to be Pitch Perfect: 5 Golden Rules for Pitching to the Press.
4. PR and SEO are both low-investment, high-reward
In recent years, PR mainstays like content marketing have become less effective. According to a 2018 report from ProfitWell, the cost to convert a single customer through content marketing has increased by nearly 50%.
The data suggests that focusing your efforts on building new audiences will suck your budget dry and the ROI (return on investment) will be poor. Instead, you need a way to passively draw in new audiences.
How? Online PR and SEO, of course.
Every hit you receive increases your EAT, which in turn makes it easier to get new views.
As mentioned earlier, hitting the top spot on Google is a form of ‘social proof’ that feeds back into itself. SEO and PR form a positive cycle from which you can reap massive rewards.
Of course, there’s a downside. Google takes time to index new sites, so you’re going to be pumping out content to an audience of zero for several weeks at least. Possibly months. But nothing worth doing is ever easy, right?
You can counter this by building a ‘seed audience’ before you go live. These are people you already have a connection to that provide the initial momentum which attracts a wider readership. Your seed audience can consist of:
- Past and present customers
- Business partners
- Your team members
- Friends and family.
PR and SEO build on each other’s strengths here. Past PR work builds a network of contacts in the field that SEO can passively grow into a wider audience.
Of course, as Forbes wrote in 2020 SEO is never ‘done’ — you can always find something to tweak for better results.
The power of PR and SEO working together
SEO is a powerful tool. So make sure it’s a key part of your PR campaigns.