SEO now defines my PR role

Claudia Barnett
Claudia Barnett

This is an article by Claudia Barnett.

My first foray into the wonderful world of PR was at 16 during two weeks in a New York agency, stuffing envelopes and making more than one trip to the post office every day.

It was pure, traditional PR in every sense of the word – product loans and desk drops, and not a single second of digital marketing found its way to my timesheet.

Now, six years later, it makes up a solid majority of my daily routine since I started working for addmustard – a specialist digital marketing company.

However, whilst at university, digital marketing, and more specifically SEO (search engine optimisation), wasn’t touched upon once.

I’m willing to admit before my interview at addmustard I wasn’t entirely confident I knew the true ins and outs of SEO, and spent many afternoons (in between dissertation mayhem and visits to the library) swotting up on a discipline that now defines my role as a PR Executive in the travel industry.

In short, off-site SEO offers a solution for brands to gain exposure through free and organic web-based content in order to drive traffic to their site.

Sounds similar to PR? That’s because it is.

Nowadays, SEO is a bit of a taboo word, and is an industry that, for the past few years, has been having to lean towards more traditional PR tactics to gain results… however some SEOs still get it wrong.

Nevertheless, there are also still some learnings that PRs can take from them,- and you definitely won’t pick them up in a lecture hall or battered library copy of “Exploring Public Relations”.

What can SEOs learn from PR professionals?

Storytelling, that reliable PR buzzword about creating a good narrative whilst tying in with existing stories in terms of reactive PR. Storytelling gives SEOs the opportunity to build valuable backlinks and cater to search terms that may be at the forefront of consumers’ minds. Stories that tie in with the news agenda are more valuable in terms of PR and SEO, as well as gaining relationships with readers that will keep coming back for more. Taking time away from a keyword-driven content calendar, and instead being reactive can be highly beneficial.

Going big. Some SEOs (and particularly agencies) can get hung up on bloggers, or smaller sites, omitting big names such as national press. This shouldn’t be the case. Create a story or piece of content that’s good enough, and they will write about it. Some bloggers will also write about what they see on larger publications, so ‘going big’ can cover both bases.

Prioritise the coverage, not the links. If you think like a PR, rather than someone simply driven by gaining links, you will begin to consider different things:

  • The stories different journalists are writing about open up opportunities to create new content.
  • The quality of the stories they run – this sets a benchmark for your own content.
  • Timing – releasing content at the right time, to suit a news agenda also proves to be beneficial. As opposed to creating content for the sake of it at times that don’t coincide with larger areas of press.
  • Links will come naturally. Working and thinking more like a traditional PR will boost the chance of coverage, and if the content you have created is good enough for the stories, links will find their way to you and your client organically. Which is exactly what SEO should be about in 2016: natural activity that uses no underhand techniques.

But, PRs can learn from SEOs too…

  • Remember the importance of online; gone are the days of ‘column inches’ and even AVE (advertising value equivalent) is making its way out the door. With most businesses now being primarily online, SEO is a must – and the worth of print media is constantly depleting. PR efforts needs to be focused online.
  • Being clued up on best practice: know anything about exact match anchor text? If not, it’s time to swot up. Any online coverage you are gaining, and links you are building could actually be detrimental to your content if you’re not doing it right.
  • Understand the worth of SEO. If you’re working alongside someone driven by SEO, their desire to build a link might confuse you. ‘Is the coverage alone not good enough?’ Know that a link within your online coverage can not only enhance SEO visibility, but could bring visits (and therefore sales), as well as all-important PR reputation building.
  • Think outside the box: at times, traditional PR can be extremely product focused, however with the rise of content marketing (grounded in SEO), you can think outside of the box to gain coverage for a brand or client. This means not having to be overly product focused – but instead looking further into your industry and the stories you can create from it.
  • The opportunity online presents: Of course, focusing on print media can restrict you to particular stories or types of content – however online brings with it a host of opportunities to create something interactive, or even devise video pieces that could go viral. And we mustn’t forget that many huge news sites now operate similarly to a syndicate – land on one huge site, and that will often generate a snowball effect of coverage.

The persisting value of links should never be underrated (even with the distant cries of ‘link building’ is dead) but, neither should column inches or even a good relationship with an up and coming journalist.

It’s always worth remembering that PR takes on many different guises, and expansive SEO-driven content marketing efforts aren’t necessarily valuable for all of your clients.

Local businesses, for example, could benefit more from a pop-up stall at a local event than a huge national coverage campaign when they can’t fulfil demand created by the exposure. However, in most cases high-authority coverage is worth more than it seems – and good SEO, as with good PR, should never be underestimated.

Claudia Barnett is a PR Executive at addmustard – specialists in digital marketing for the travel industry.

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