Once upon a time, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) – improving your organic ranking on search engines - was a relatively simple thing.
The key to having a high search ranking on sites such as Google was to have lots and lots of ‘backlinks’, i.e. links from external websites leading back to your own. It didn’t really matter where those links ‘lived’ online, it was the volume of links that was important, so companies would regularly buy bulk packages of backlinks, e.g. in hundreds of ‘online directories’, as a way of propping-up their web ranking.
As Google evolved, however, it recognised the importance of being able to serve its users with relevant, authoritative answers to their search queries, so began to weed out the ways in which its algorithm could be tricked into giving a website a higher search ranking than it really deserved.
One way it did this was to start taking account of the overall quality of the websites that hosted your backlinks. Low quality sites (such as directories that existed purely to help trick Google) were now discounted by Google’s algorithm and only links from high-quality providers of relevant information, such as recognised news sites, were classed as important.
In this way, the disciplines of SEO and PR have gradually begun to align, overlap and merge. Today, a successful PR placement in a high-quality online media title has value far beyond the brand awareness it generates - it also has the potential to improve the organic search performance of your organisation’s website.
Two birds, one stone
The changes Google has made to improve its algorithm’s performance have made traditional PR techniques hugely valuable SEO tools. Established online news outlets are exactly the type of high-quality site you want to appear on and the way to do that is by creating and offering high quality content to your key media targets. Creating good relationships with target journalists becomes important in securing the backlink you need embedded in the coverage.
As well as the obvious profile-raising and increased online traffic that accompanies media coverage, backlinks from recognised media outlets also have the digital marketing benefit of helping to improve the Domain Authority of your own site, boosting your natural search ranking in the process. Keywords (the words contained in a user query) remain important to search engines, so PR activity should also be designed to support your current business priorities and, where appropriate, include the keywords most associated with your service or product offering.
Just as PR now supports your SEO, the same is true in reverse. Journalists use search engines just like everyone else: if Google takes you seriously, the chance are they will too. Imagine a situation where a journalist likes the content you’ve provided but doesn’t know if you are a ‘big enough’ name to cover. Having the credibility of a strong organic search ranking might be difference between your story being picked-up or not.
Whatever the scale of your organisation, in 2022, building and maintaining your online profile requires your PR and SEO strategies to complement and support each other.