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Surveying PR and SEO’s Human Connection

PR and SEO working together should be a standard practice. Today, that reality has yet to be realized. Here, iAcquire explores how the two realms have converged and the ways they should be synthesized to boost a brand’s digital prowess.

In the past, SEO and PR have been different entities, but with the each new Google algorithm, the two worlds have begun to mirror one another. True, their operating language may be different, but the end goals are not. PR looks to establish brand visibility and reputation. SEO does the same in organic search terms. Looking at the bigger picture, both function as sources of inbound conversions—creating content and managing relationships that lead to a widening customer base. And now that their mediums have become one and the same, so should their practices.

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How the Past Became the Present

SEO has gone through drastic changes before settling on its current, less mechanized route. What was once the Wild West of standard practice – keyword stuffing and black hat link building – has, in a few short years, entered a mature era with its sights set on content.  Thanks to Panda and Penguin updates, editorial-level content, quality links, and strong outreach campaigns have become a cornerstone of modern SEO best practice. That practice that can no longer be done without real time relationships—a craft PR world has long had mastered, though its methods have changed.

Before the advent of the internet, PR was a print machine. The work was physical – making phone calls, cutting and gluing clips, faxing press releases. This wasn’t in the good old days. PR has made a sharp 180 in just the last decade.  When PR went online, it established a new status quo for building relationships with influencers and the public as a whole.

Smart PR pros have learned the new give and take— using blogs as newswires, making longstanding faceless connections, leveraging social channels. For some, however, the old PR bones have remained—serving clients with digitized press releases and placements—while implementing SEO strategies that rarely pay off in the long term.

To function at their best, in what has now become a shared space of bloggers, bylines, page rank,  and social sway, PR and SEO must look to each other’s strengths. In this post, we’ll discuss the power of PR’s greatest skill—making real human connections.

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Understanding Newsworthy Content

Both PR and SEO professionals no longer value quantity over quality. Google has shown itself to be in favor of shareable content—things real people care about, things that can’t be gained with just having some good keywords in the right places. In PR placement hierarchy, a dozen cheap, low level clips hold no weight against a single New York Times feature. To achieve the latter, a pitch or press release must be newsworthy, and so must an outreach e-mail or successful piece of on-page content. While there’s no true formula for creating popular content, there are important factors to use in a quality litmus test—the same factors journalists ask themselves when taking on a story:

  1. Is it original and newsworthy?
  2. Does it include solid research?
  3. Does it approach a problem in a unique way, offering a real solution?
  4. Do I or anyone else care?

With 15% of Google’s current algorithm focused on on-page content, the importance of answering yes to at least one of these questions can’t be stressed. Content must have relevance and appeal in both the PR and SEO world.

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Employing Centralized Outreach

Thanks to the Internet’s democratization of media, bloggers have become be as powerful as journalists and SEO pros have had to learn the skill long honed by PR reps: the art of the pitch. With thought leadership, social campaigns, and editorial-level content at the forefront of SEO, getting at the science of well-executed outreach is crucial.

For PR pros, the key to great outreach in the digital arena has been about nurturing relationships. It’s a simple truth that mass email campaigns have less promise of landing a clip. A few personalized emails to journalists and bloggers who PR reps have collaborated with in the past are the crux of landing coverage. SEO strategy has had to play catch up quickly in recent years as a flood of outreach campaigns have given bloggers power of the pick, and a firm grasp of what is a worthy proposal. Knowing how to establish and grow these relationships is the important overlap in PR and SEO tactics.

A strong rapport with a handful of influencers or reporters lowers a barrier in communication, offering ready collaborators who will divulge their needs willingly and offer a byline without hours of research.

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Harnessing Social Access

In PR, social has become an important tool for crisis management, journalist outreach, and larger brand accessibility. That accessibility allows companies an excellent speakerphone for reaching the public – responding to customer concerns has become a best practice. And for harder-hitting crisis management, social channels have become an unbelievable tool. Take Maker’s Mark’s social comeback after being bashed for changing their recipe as proof. Thought leadership makes similar use of this reputation-building social power.

But most important in this arena, for SEOs and PR reps alike, is access to social influencers.  With Twitter and Facebook running at rush fire speeds, PR reps now have direct links to media contacts. When properly used, social channels offer more tactical start points to developing deeper influencer relationships. This is especially important now for SEOs as social networks have gained more and more weight with recent Google updates.  Hours of research spent creating influencer’s social criteria, building out lists, and sending out initial outreach has palpable repercussions on analytics and brand recognition.

Bottom line: As on-page content and social have risen in importance for Google algorithms, one thing has been made clear—PR campaigns and SEO strategy won’t succeed without making real connections with real people.   

  • Kim

    Awesome article Sasha, really in-depth. I’m putting together a presentation for a PR company on SEO and I’d like to use this as a resource if that’s ok with you?