No matter the size of your business or the company you work for, the SEO and PR teams are generally considered to be entirely separate entities. One deals with internal resources like the website and its content, while the other is primarily working with outside factors like the media or social media influencers.
But thinking of these key components of your marketing team as two separate, siloed entities is a mistake. Regardless of the tactics they use, your SEO and PR teams are ultimately working toward the same goal — increasing your brand visibility and getting more relevant coverage online.
“Effectively combining PR and SEO efforts helps brands devise strategic media outreach plans that result in meaningful coverage that drives traffic, click throughs, and conversion,” says Jee Nah Chang Walker, executive vice president of Kaplow Communications. “While they serve different core functions, both channels add value to a brand, and combining efforts brings structure and synthesis to channels that have traditionally worked independently.”
As two sides of the same coin, SEO and PR can seamlessly work together with an integrated approach to boost your business online, improve brand awareness, and even increase sales.
Build those links, links, links
You’ve likely heard the SEO team talk about links before. As an off-site ranking factor, reputable backlinks are one of the most important, if not the most important, factor in helping your site appear higher in search engine results pages (SERPs).
Since these links are of such high value to digital marketers, gaining them is often a challenge. This is where the PR team can step in. Earned media coverage is their bread and butter, and, with their depth of knowledge, it’s possible to accrue backlinks across all kinds of online publications.
While sending content to be published with a link already included is one of the best strategies for SEO teams and content marketers to use, PR teams are often your best bet for link reclamation.
Using their media contacts, the PR team can leverage these relationships and ask for links to be added in already-published content that mentions your brand. Not every publication allows for outside linking, but simply asking never hurts. And with a PR team taking control here, your odds of getting a link increase.
Don’t forget about images here too. If your visual content is being used online without attribution, you’re well within your rights to ask for the picture to be removed or, ideally, for a link to be included back to the original source (your website).
Use SEO keyword research to inform PR contacts
Keyword research isn’t only an essential part of an SEO team’s task list, but it should also be used strategically beyond the confines of your website. Sharing research means both SEO and PR teams are thinking carefully about what topics their audience is interested in, using hard data to back that up. From there, the PR team can use specific keywords when pitching publications and looking for coverage online.
Even better, keyword research often goes hand in hand with competitor research. The SEO teams should also share this information with the PR team, providing information on which businesses are already ranking in search results for those phrases, along with what publications are appearing for those topics on page one and two. This can open up a whole world of possibilities for media outlets the PR team can get in touch with.
Collaborate on internal content marketing
PR teams don’t only pitch your company directly to the media in the hope that you’ll be featured. Sometimes, journalists come to you or put out general requests for relevant sources. If they don’t already, your PR team should utilize tools to bring in these requests, like subscribing to email blasts like Help A Reporter Out (HARO). This can help with newsjacking, the tactic used to insert your brand authority into timely news stories. As a vital part of this strategy, you also need strong content on your website that these publications can link back to.
That said, the PR and SEO teams should work together to create compelling content that works for both sides — informative, keyword-rich, long-form content to rank in SERPs that is also helpful and useful for users coming to your site from any source.
Be aware of how influencer marketing can impact SEO
Your PR team may have worked hard to secure several lucrative influencer partnerships. Although SEO teams typically have little to do with the social media and PR sides of a business, it’s still important for both teams to be aligned here.
“PR generates brand recognition and importantly credibility while SEO ensures you show up how you want, where you want. Most people have had an 'instagram vs. reality' type of experience with a product and PR helps to substantiate you are what you say you are. It's not just people that appreciate hearing about you from a trusted source, these reputable sources are also helpful for boosting SEO rankings,” says Shane Pittson, vice president of marketing at Quip.
Online reputation matters and has an impact on SEO, for better or worse. The SEO team should always be made aware of any new partnerships in place so they can monitor for backlinks or any press coverage from these influencers. This can include internal thought leaders, such as executives. “Helpful tip - try leveraging first party data like surveys to both publish thought leadership for SEO and generate buzz from PR,” added Pittson.
This is especially important if the influencer receives negative press of their own. Even if your brand isn’t mentioned directly, any association could be potentially damaging long term and require significant SEO efforts to clean up.
Gather customer reviews for Google Business Profile
Every piece of content published about your brand, whether owned or earned media, is a reminder to previous customers about who you are and what you offer. One often-overlooked area where PR and SEO can collaborate is in garnering additional customer reviews online.
Ideally, you want customers to leave reviews on your Google Business Profile. For businesses with a significant number of reviews and a well-optimized site, their placement in the Maps feature of Google SERPs is likely.
There’s no exact science to the number of reviews you need, but any PR work around existing or previous customers should always be thinking about how to make a review on Google Business Profile possible.
Ensure your technical site elements are in good shape
Having a poorly designed or non-functioning website isn’t only a problem for organic users; it’s a problem for everyone who comes to your site. One of the best ways that SEO teams can help support their PR team is by ensuring that any technical aspects of the site are well maintained and issues are dealt with as soon as possible.
It’s likely that the PR team has very little communication with any internal developers on staff. The SEO team, on the other hand, probably connects with this team frequently. Don’t let your PR team’s efforts go to waste if they get you excellent media coverage but are driving users to a terrible web experience.
This is especially true with ecommerce brands. Be sure to have a plan for out-of-stock items, like a waitlist notification system, especially if you’re expecting products to be mentioned in the media. It can take several months from when your PR teams first pitch a publication to when an article actually goes live. In that time, your featured product may have sold out. Ensure that you have contingency plans for this and that your site infrastructure can support any influx of users following media coverage.
Align brand message across both teams
Regardless of how frequently the PR and SEO teams work together, both groups should always understand where their work fits into the bigger brand story. From knowing how the company solves customer pain points, to why customers or clients choose to work specifically with you, both teams should know exactly how their efforts convey that information.
This communication is essential for ensuring that language and messaging is consistent through PR and SEO content, along with any other marketing materials being produced. All outward-facing brand communications must convey a cohesive, unified message. If any strategy changes happen that affect this, both teams must communicate those updates to the other team as soon as possible for implementation.
Share metrics for a deeper understanding of the business
Every good marketer knows that data is the goldmine that strategies are based on. Without data, you have no idea whether your work is effective at building your business’s bottom line. The importance of monitoring results shouldn’t come as a surprise, but when teams are limited in time and resources, the natural outcome is that they only look at data deemed relevant to them.
Instead of gatekeeping data, whether intentionally or not, SEO and PR teams should be sharing as much as they can where data points to efforts from both parties. Details on referring domains, new and lost backlinks, unlinked mentions, click-through rates, conversions, and referral sources all come from and impact the work of each team. The applications of this data may vary from team to team, but sharing this knowledge only strengthens the next SEO or PR campaign.
The final word on the PR and SEO relationship
Instead of viewing other teams as internal competition, PR and SEO should work together wherever possible to share data, ideas, and ultimately toward building a stronger brand identity for the business. Although their day-to-day roles may look very different, a shared vision for greater brand awareness will lead to more successful campaigns across both divisions of marketing and communications.