PR has evolved considerably over the past decade and is (or at least should be) deeply intertwined with broader digital marketing strategies. In particular, as the digital channel consumes an even bigger share of the marketing budget, good search engine optimization (SEO) is essential to reaching customers and succeeding in the marketplace.
There was a time when it seemed like SEO would consume the entire marketing world and make other disciplines (including PR) obsolete. It didn’t help that the impact of PR seemed difficult to measure, especially when compared to the data-driven, outcome obsessed world of SEO. But like so many other trends, that was premature. It turns out that good PR should play an important role in SEO optimization.
Defining Good SEO
First, a quick (and by no means exhaustive) refresher on what drives good SEO. Search engines like Google evaluate a number of factors when determining where a web page shows up in search results. Some are related to the nuts and bolts of how a website is put together, such as page load times and whether a site uses HTTPS URLs. But two of the most important criteria are good content and quality backlinks.
Good content is pretty much what it sounds like. It informs and provides value to readers, which leads to it being read and shared. The acronym E.A.T. is often used to describe how Google evaluates the content on websites; it stands for expertise, authority and trustworthiness. Content should have author names and bios that show the authors are qualified to write about the subject they’re covering. Google considers links to (and from) reputable sources, as well as media mentions in evaluating expertise. Don’t forget to include keywords that your customers are likely to search for (just don’t overdo it).
Quality backlinks come from pages that Google ranks highly for authority and expertise – domains that are authoritative (which you can see using Moz’s Domain Authority or Ahrefs’ Domain Rating) and content that’s relevant to your business. Google cares more about the quality of your backlinks than the quantity. Links that come from disreputable or random sources can actually hurt SEO.
Combining SEO and PR: What You Need to Know
So how does PR fit into all of this? Well, for starters, some of the highest quality links come from authoritative media sites. That means earned media is like gold for your SEO. For example, just look at the domain authority (a key indicator of influence) of some of these online publications:
How do you leverage PR to successfully impact SEO?
At a high level, your PR strategy needs to be well-targeted and focused. Specifically:
Concentrate your outreach on outlets with high domain (DA) and page authority (PA) scores. That said, it’s important to know where your customers get their information; a site with an average domain authority ranking (say around 50) might actually be widely read by your target audience (which could be niche).
Prioritize media and specific media opportunities that are relevant to your business and audience. The old adage that “any press is good press” doesn’t really translate in the digital marketing era. Ayodeji Onibalusi perhaps put it best when he said “…the prospect of getting a link from NYTimes.com sounds amazing. However, the link is useless to you if the subject matter of the article doesn’t relate to the subject matter of your website.”
- It’s important to ensure that the keywords and key-phrases embedded in your website and assets are included in third party media content, so make sure to give your PR team a preferred keyword or phrase list. Our clients will often build content programs around specific keywords and then measure the impact on organic search. This tactic is highly effective for demonstrating success.
Try These 4 PR Tactics to Improve SEO
There are a number of specific PR activities that can help bolster SEO, but here are 4 to get you started:
Contributed Content: Placing a good thought leadership or technical article (authored by one of your subject matter experts) on an authoritative website can drive traffic back to your own domain and may also rank highly for the search terms you care about the most. Be sure to verify that the publication or website includes dofollow links (some modify to nofollow).
Rankings and Listings: Articles that compare or list similar products and services tend to rank highly in search and often provide links back to the companies that are listed. If your company is product or service focused, make sure you’re doing everything possible to be included in any roundups that are written about your industry or product segment.
Product Reviews: A good product review serves two purposes. It provides third-party validation that your product or service does what it claims to do and provides good value for the money. And it can drive high quality traffic (and links) back to your website, which will improve your own domain authority. For many customers, product reviews are an early and essential part of their journey from consideration to purchase decision.
- Forbes Councils: A few years ago, Forbes introduced a Councils program that provides a platform for industry professionals from across different disciplines (e.g. tech, communications, agency, legal) to share their expertise. While this is a “pay-to-play” opportunity, content posted here gets the juice from Forbes’s highly ranked domain. Links to Forbes Council articles will often turn up on the first page of search engine results pages (SERPs) for specific topics.
What About Press Releases?
While the PR value of press releases has been called into question in recent years – thanks to the rise of blogs, social media and other changes to the media landscape (a discussion that’s probably worth its own blog post) – they can still have SEO value if done correctly.
Fortunately, we’re past the early days of SEO, when press releases were seen as an easy way to get backlinks from reputable sites. That led to a lot of very bad press releases that were stuffed with links and keywords, but provided almost no informational or news value. In response, Google started penalizing releases with lots of links and has since shifted to a more benign approach that simply ignores the links in releases.
These days, when it comes to press releases, try and follow the same guidelines that govern all good content:
- Make the content worthwhile for readers.
- Make sure the release contains actual news.
- Include keywords naturally, in sentences that make…you know, sense.
- Limit the number of links to a few at most.
The bottom line is that the two most important factors that contribute to SEO can be supercharged with a strong, strategic earned and contributed media program. Talk to us if you’d like us to help you build yours.