Once upon a time, you may have heard a school of thought that PR and SEO were two different methods of promoting an organisation or website, and would always remain as such. That line of thinking has now been thrown out the window following the mass migration of media to digital platforms, leading to the birth of a new concept: SEO PR. But what is SEO PR, and how can it benefit your institution?
What is SEO?
Well, answering that question entails first ironing out exactly what SEO means. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimisation, an approach to increasing a website’s visibility by adapting content to appeal to search engine algorithms.
Suppose you were to google an answer to this question, ‘what is SEO?’ The browser would generate a list of webpages and you’d probably click on one of the first few links near the top. What you may not have realised is that behind the scenes, those websites have been ranked according to their SEO score by a computer programme.
You’re able to boost your website’s score by making it more appealing to the algorithm that does the ranking, for example by creating a key phrase or writing content over a certain word length. Your score will also be improved if pages with a higher SEO score include links to your website. And that leads handily on to what SEO PR is all about.
So what is SEO PR and does it differ from traditional PR?
Simply put – SEO PR and traditional PR are essentially the same job but with different goals. Whereas traditional PR is about generating positive content in the media for your organisation, SEO PR focuses on getting you ranked higher in online search results.
This comes with its own set of perks and downsides. SEO PR utterly sidesteps the issue that is the pet peeve of traditional PR consultants, which is how to demonstrate return on investment (ROI). Only a few agencies still use advertising value equivalent (AVE), and the rest are forced to wrestle with metrics like circulation, views, likes, comments, shares, and sentiment analysis, when explaining a piece of coverage’s worth to a client.
With SEO PR, it’s simple. If Client A jumps up the list of search results by five places when people google a key term related to their institution, the agency can accurately report back on how this has improved sales, revenue and traffic to Client A’s website.
A significant drawback, however, is that SEO PR is solely focused on raising your organisation’s profile with search engine algorithms. That means print media is outside the realms of their concern. If you were hoping to snag a double-page spread in the next edition of the Financial Times – you’ve got the wrong people.
What are the dos and don’ts of SEO PR?
It’s all about Domain Authority
In the realm of SEO PR, domain authority (DA) is everything. It’s assessed on a scale of one to 100 and determines how authoritative a site is based on various factors including the number and quality of inbound links. Sites with a higher DA tend to rank better with search engine algorithms, and are therefore a key target for SEO PR professionals.
For this reason, websites that a traditional PR agency might pass by could be high up on an SEO PR agency’s priority list because of its high DA. Of course, it still needs to be relevant to your institution in order for pitching content ideas to be effective.
An SEO PR professional will try and secure content on sites with a high DA that includes organic links to your institution’s website. In this way, you are pulled up the SEO rankings due to your association with higher-rated organisations. Think of it like being recommended for a promotion by one of your mentors.
Sponsored content is not an option
However, it’s of paramount importance that links are generated organically. That means sponsored content, or giving bloggers and journalists any kind of incentive to write about your organisation, is off the cards. This is because there are two kinds of weblinks in SEO PR: ‘follow’ and ‘no follow’.
A follow link not only ferries people over to your website; it also flags the connection to search engine algorithms and pulls up your site’s DA. A no follow link, on the other hand, doesn’t come with this extra benefit. It’s against Google policy to include follow links in remunerated content and you risk heavy penalisation if you’re found to be in violation of the terms and conditions.
The end destination of a link is also important. If people are being shipped over to your homepage, this is all very well and good to start with, but the benefits dwindle over time. Ideally, the links should take potential students directly to a strategically designed content hub with internal links branching out to your various courses.
The time frame is much broader
Something else that separates SEO PR from the more traditional approach is the timeframe in which professionals can pitch out content. Often, conventional PR practices use current media trends as a springboard for content, giving them a relatively narrow pitching window. SEO PR, by contrast, focuses more on long-life content that they can keep pitching for several months, allowing them to rake in much higher coverage yields for a single article than their counterparts.
How can SEO PR and traditional PR work together?
None of this is intended to be interpreted as a boxing match between the two forms of PR, nor is it suggesting that traditional PR is out of date in the modern world of digital media. Their different focuses are mutually beneficial to promoting your organisation – they simply approach this objective from different angles.
A traditional PR consultancy will work to increase the volume and quality of coverage surrounding your institution and its members, whereas an SEO PR practice will ensure people are more likely to come across your content while surfing the web. Pair the two approaches together and you have the recipe for a successful partnership.
Having developed his craft as a writer under the guidance of world-renowned novelists, poets and playwrights, Jamie has also spent a couple of years as a content writer for a primarily American readership, with over 150 articles published under his name.