SEO and Public Relations — How They Work Together

Elena Terenteva

Feb 08, 201610 min read
SEO and Public Relations

Public relations (PR) is an essential part of marketing, but how can SEO and public relations work together? On face value, the two niches of marketing might seem polarised but they are actually a natural fit to complement each other.

By investing in digital PR you can directly impact SEO.

This dependency isn’t direct, but by improving your PR activities it can supplement your SEO efforts. And both teams should be working together towards the same goals.

Our guest today is the public relations specialist Carrie Morgan and she discusses SEO and public relations with our other SEMrush Chat participants.

Today, the focus of our chat is the impact of PR on SEO. As a starting point, evaluating the benefits of incorporating PR into SEO strategies.

1. What is The Value of Incorporating PR Into SEO Strategies?

Creating content is a natural function of both PR and SEO.

PR increases awareness, which leads to more searches. It can also help build links organically via people sharing content. The most natural and authoritative links are byproducts of good digital PR and offline publicity campaigns.

Carrie adds that PR team generates a natural backlink with every guest blog post and online article and this happens with or without SEO guidance.

Joe Martinez agrees that PR increases awareness, which leads to more searches. He also adds that it can help build links organically via people sharing content.

Omi Sido shares that SEO can provide quantifiable metrics for existing PR and marketing. Also, SEO helps marketers plan their marketing goals

SEO and public relations Q1 recap: The benefits of incorporating PR into SEO strategies...

  • They can both help with link building.
  • Good PR can generate high-authority links.
  • The input of a PR-specialist can help you create epic content. 

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2. How is a journalist's behavior and search intent different from those of a consumer?

Carrie explained that customers’ and journalist's behavior are very different in nature. Journalists want to create what consumers want to read. They want traffic and to grow their audience.

Journalists want credible, smart sources and are more likely to source stories from pitches and relationships, not from organic searches. 

Tim Capper notes there are four micro-moments for a consumer: I want to know, I want to go, I want to do and I want to buy. Journalists generally don't produce content that satisfies consumers’ intent. They merely provide fluff to peak their interest.

Wesley Young puts it simply — a journalist’s searches will be of an investigative nature, whereas a consumer’s searches will likely originate from their intent to make a purchase.

SEO and public relations Q2 recap: Journalists' behavior vs. consumers' behavior...

The main similarity between journalists and consumers is that they are both interested in high-quality content. One creates it, one consumes it. As a journalists’ search journey is more investigative, customers search in order to find specific items and learn information.

  • A journalist is looking for a story and a searcher is looking for a solution.
  • Journalists search for sources to help them create content and consumers search for content to read.
  • Both journalists and consumers want high-quality content – but one creates and one consumes.
  • Journalists are looking for a story to sell and searchers are looking for answers to help them purchase.

3. What key brand positioning questions should you answer before defining both your PR and SEO strategies?

Planning PR and SEO strategies is one of the most challenging tasks marketers have to complete. Only precise measurement and clearly defined goals will help you determine success in both activities. We asked our experts what questions should each marketer ask before planning.

In Carrie’s opinion, planning is not about how many keywords you rank well for or how many backlinks you secure. It’s about doing those things for the right audience and creating the right kinds of traffic. And if a marketer doesn’t understand their brand, how could he or she expect their audience to?

Tim Capper recommends refreshing your average buyer profile as often as possible.

SEO and public relations Q3 recap: Key questions for positioning your brand...

  • Before choosing any strategy you must answer – what is the goal of this business?
  • Who are we reaching, why and what do they want?
  • PR, SEO, social media, content marketing – every effort should circle back to the "who?" and the "why?".
  • For strategy, keyword research, content creation, backlink identification – brand clarity comes first.

More reading:

Need More Brand Authority? 2 Simple Strategies You Need 

4. What are some examples of PR content that can be optimized?

Our expert Carrie recommends optimizing everything possible. If it goes online and it’s written in house, it can be optimized. Will it help boost your company’s reach? Good question. Each marketer should find out by experimenting with different approaches.

As a PR specialist, you should pay attention to your keyword list when writing PR content, according to Amel Mehenaoui. Write it then optimize it.

Tim Capper also shared a statistic: if your site helps the customer find the answer to their question, they’ll be 69 percent more likely to buy from you.

Samuel Scott mentioned that the word "content" is a cliché and doesn't mean anything specific. Benj Arriola stressed the importance of good content, as well as a useful or inspiring story. 

Julia McCoy also agrees that all text content published for PR can be SEO optimized: press releases (titles and body), blogs, web pages, etc.

SEO and public relations Q4 recap: Examples of PR content that can be optimized...

Any piece of content intended for online use can be optimized. 

  • Press releases – keywords can be incorporated, along with links (if allowed).
  • Blog posts, guest posts, whitepapers, etc.
  • Why not optimize everything?
  • All text content published for PR can be optimized.
  • Keyword research is a fantastic rich source of blog post ideas.

More reading:

7 Easy Steps to Writing a Press Release 

5. Writing skills: what content essentials are vital for both PR and SEO?

The discussion about the meaning of content raised an important question: is there a way that SEO and PR specialists can exchange knowledge on content production?

Writing is about reaching your audience in a familiar way, but also about engaging them from the beginning, so they won’t have the option to close a tab with your article and leave. Carrie suggests that SEOs should ask PR specialists about how they pitch to the same audience.

If you are chasing backlinks the old-school way, you should stop. If you can’t create a custom pitch tailored to both bloggers and journalists and their needs, just don’t do it at all. And never, ever ask for a backlink. Nobody cares! Offer great content tailored to their site.

Omi Sido explained that the key is the balance between PR and SEO. They should help each other.

SEO and public relations Q5 recap: Essential skills for both SEO and PR...

SEOs should learn how to write naturally and create content that engages, informs and inspires. They should also use images and short videos to increase interest and lower their bounce rate.

  • Storytelling.
  • Don't overuse buzz words – write naturally.
  • Use images and video.
  • Write content that engages, informs and inspires.
  • Learn how to relate with and talk to your ideal customer.
  • Don't generalize – talk directly to one person.
  • Pitch skills – SEOs need more training on how to pitch.
  • Grammar. Spelling. Keywords.

Read more: 

Content Marketing Best Practices: Content Writing

Content Writing: Tips to Take Your Content Development to the Next Level 

As we know, PR specialists contact representatives of different types of audiences on a daily basis. Isn’t this an opportunity to earn some qualified links? Sure. But how do you do it? 

David Bain thinks that PR should be aimed at bloggers in your industry. So you have a lot of opportunities: it’s time to pitch them to share some of your content and offer a long-term partnership – if they are worth it.

Julia McCoy thinks the word “earn” is acceptable in this case and, if you want more links, you should gaining trust, publishing great content and then you’ll start earning them.

Express Writers agree that marketers can only get backlinks naturally by writing high-quality, shareable content. People will want to share quality content.

To earn more backlinks through PR, gain trust and publish great content.

  • Ask for a link in the article. Try to get at least one follow link back to your site.
  • Invite journalists and bloggers to PR events.
  • Be intentional. Strategically pursue links with your PR campaigns.

Read more:

Link Building for SEO: Which Strategies Work in 2020 (and Which Don’t) 

7. What online PR metrics correlate with SEO strategies and how can marketers measure the value of optimized PR efforts? 

It’s time to determine how marketers should evaluate the effectiveness of their PR efforts. These answers from our participants will help you to better understand your results and quickly diversify your efforts.

Carrie shares that both should connect outcomes to larger business goals and both can be measured through website traffic.

Carrie adds that it's not just about analytics — it's about interpreting them. Connect data to business goals, C-suite goals. Online PR is about your audience, traffic and conversions, but isn’t SEO about the same thing?

Joe Martinez advises using parameters (e.g., UTM tags) to track the PR source. Also, add these parameters to social share buttons.

SEO and public relations Q7 recap: How to measure the value of optimized PR efforts...

To measure the value of their optimized PR efforts, marketers should focus on brand awareness, track ROI and use UTM tags with both on-site and social engagement analytics.

  • Analytics!
  • Measure social engagement and website interaction.
  • Connect outcomes to wider business goals.
  • Monitor traffic sources and backlinks.
  • Split test and measure content for CTR and ROI.
  • Use UTM tags.

More reading

How To Calculate SEO ROI with Formulas That Show Real Results How to Leverage Your Local User Data for PR 

Thank you to Carrie Morgan for sharing her thoughts and expertise, and to all our SEMrushchat participants.

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Note, this SEMrush chat was hosted in February 2016 and all information was relevant at that time.

Author Photo
Elena TerentevaElena Terenteva, Product Marketing Manager at Semrush. Elena has eight years public relations and journalism experience, working as a broadcasting journalist, PR/Content manager for IT and finance companies. Bookworm, poker player, good swimmer.
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