The Changing World of Outreach: How SEO and PR are Combining

Although SEO and PR will always be separate, the two are beginning to overlap.

A major part of SEO, or search engine optimization, is about link-building. When search engines see other sites linking to yours, it lets them know that your site has authority on the internet and you then rank higher for specific search queries.

It used to be the case that a webmaster could go out and build links on hundreds of really bad sites in minutes and see fast results. Now, Google has invested substantially in updates that prevent people from doing this. Google’s goal is to provide their users with the best experience, and when people try to cheat that by building spammy links to a website, Google penalizes them.

These changes have launched SEO into a new era; done are the days of “instant results” link-building and here are the days of traditional web outreach. SEO firms have to seek coverage on sites by contacting publishers and writers, and pitching their stories. This can create overlap between SEO and PR firms, because they both have similar goals.

PR firms are inherently outreach-driven. Their goal is typically to earn their clients as much coverage as possible from a general awareness perspective. If an SEO firm is working to gain coverage on sites for linking purposes, it is common for some level of friction to arise. PR firms work hard to maintain synergistic relationships with reporters and media outlets. If an SEO firm were to pitch a story to a PR firm’s contact for the same client, this could destroy the relationship the PR firm has worked so hard to develop.

These competing goals of earning clients coverage on other websites not only causes problems between firms, but it can also hurt both sides’ productivity and success rates for the client. Avoiding this isn’t hard, but it takes a little practice and a lot of communication.

We know from experience that SEO and PR teams can work together to earn maximum success for clients. Here are a few tactical approaches:

Identify and maintain restrictions for outreach

Discussing boundaries is important if both agencies have similar goals. There are ways to do this, like using metrics such as unique monthly visitors or Domain Authority (a metric that gives a general sense of the strength of a site’s links). PR firms will generally want to keep the major media outlets untouched because those are the people they have established connections with. Other sites such as mid-tier blogs or mom and pop news sites are beneficial for SEO purposes but often have too little reach to be ideal outlets for PR purposes. These are prime targets for SEO outreach.

Understand what the other firm’s goals are

SEO firms are seeking clean, authoritative backlinks. This means another website has a “do-follow” link to the client’s website. This passes “link juice” from one site to another. “Link juice” is essentially what helps you to rank in the search engine. A webmaster has the choice to “follow” or “no-follow” a link, essentially telling Google the site wishes to pass “link juice” or not. Sites that are newer or don’t have many links themselves aren’t as beneficial to receive a backlink from. Making sure that the PR team clearly understands the basic characteristics of helpful and harmful links for SEO is a critical, so that they can work in tandem with organic search initiatives.

One tactic often used by SEO firms is called link reclamation. If someone mentions the brand, but doesn’t link back to the brand’s site, you can reach out and ask them to provide their readers with a hyperlink. A lot of times, these mentions arise are from PR coverage. Many times SEO firms will need to double check with PR firms before reaching out to them because they don’t want to hurt previously established relationships. Working together to get these links can be very impactful to the SEO profile.

SEO also needs to take into consideration PR goals. PR is constantly looking to gain maximum coverage for their clients. Rather than thinking about links, they are thinking about exposure. PR firms do a large amount of work to drive customers toward a client. Understanding this is important for an SEO firm. These conflicting goals are what build and make the relationship between the two difficult at times.

Maintain frequent collaboration between SEO and PR

Communication is essential. SEO and PR must be in constant collaboration and contact to maintain a healthy relationship. Establishing a relationship at the beginning can set up a clear channel of communication and allow for a healthy relationship to develop. There are multiple solutions to maximizing communication between SEO and PR. Setting up a group email or a chat can allow for fast and easy discussions about conflicting interests. Another way to maintain collaboration is to spark a friendship. Having SEO and PR close can help in the long run, making them both more successful.

In conclusion, SEO has changed a lot over the years. With Google and other major search engines constantly keeping websites from beating their systems, outreach in SEO has become essential. In this new age of SEO, both channels must work together to achieve results and impress their clients.

Jimmy Page is the founder of Inseev Interactive, a successful digital marketing company based in San Diego. He currently resides on the board of the San Diego Chapter of the American Marketing Association and hosts the SDAMA podcast, ‘This Week in Marketing.’ In his free time he enjoys traveling to Mexico and boating in the San Diego sunshine.

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