Why SEO is the New Linchpin PR Tool
Perhaps the million-dollar question for just about anyone looking to be heard on the internet, these days: What is SEO? And, how does it work?
Luckily for PR pros, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is becoming more and more in line with our craft as communicators. Now, it’s time to make SEO into your own PR tool.
Today, we’re sharing expert advice from Darryl Sparey, co-founder and MD of one of the fastest growing PR agencies in the world, Hard Numbers. Sparey has done years of work on both the PR and the SEO side of things, so he’s here to share how the two are becoming more connected than ever.
How SEO has evolved to prioritize PR best practices…
Let’s begin with some background about SEO, as it pertains to Google search results.
Sparey explained how Google comes from academia, and mirrors the process of academic text citations to develop a search engine hierarchy of results.
Google built a whole business off the back of academia, in the sense that if you cite a paper that’s written on a particular subject that includes credible citations on the same subject, that is an indication of authority on the particular topic area.
“In the early days of Google, its algorithm worked by using links as a sign of ‘authority’ online -- the more sites that linked to a website about a specific subject, with that subject in the ‘anchor text’ of the link, the more likely it was to be ‘authoritative’ on the subject,” Sparey said.
So, citations from credible sources are an indication of authority, and in turn, greater search result precedence.
To make sure people aren’t rigging the search results, Google had to make some algorithm changes over time. Some users started partaking in what Sparey coins, “black hat SEO,” or dodgey SEO, just like the bad guys in the Western movies. They were tossing in links from questionable sources to artificially rank higher, and this had to come to an end...
Good news for us! This means that the formula for top results is putting more emphasis on assessing domain quality. As we know, many of the highly authoritative websites tend to be credible online publications and news outlets, Sparey said.
Things like the 2012 Google Penguin update make sure of this shift toward content quality and honesty.
The takeaway? Google is increasingly rewarding credible, high-quality websites by making sure content that links to these sources rank higher in web search results.
Why should PR pros care about SEO?
“If you think about it, 75% of SEO is what PR people do all the time,” Sparey said.
PR pros invest time in producing quality content that’s relevant to particular topics, and get third-party websites or third-party people to write about what different organizations are doing, he said. And hopefully, also score backlinks that then drive traffic to certain websites.
It is definitely time you use SEO as a PR tool with attempts to score great media coverage. Sparey shared some things to keep in mind when practicing PR, with SEO in mind:
What drives SEO:
- Page speed
- Mobile friendliness
- User experience
- Content accuracy
- Freshness of content
- Topical authority and quality of content
- Relevance to search intent
- … More backlinks!
Sparey has found that these different components contribute to SEO at large in different amounts. Technological factors contribute roughly 25%, web content 25%, and backlinks contribute approx. 50%.
Keeping this strengthening link between SEO and PR in mind,
What is “Domain Authority” and why is it relevant to PR?
“Domain Authority (DA) is a score (on a 100-point scale), developed by SEO tools company Moz, that predicts how well a website will rank on search engines,” said Sparey. “Domain Authority is, therefore, a measure of how valuable a link is from a third-party website -- the closer to 100, the better!”
Generally, a DA above 60 is good, and a DA below 30 is something you would disavow on Google Search Console, Sparey said.
Here are some ways Sparey suggest you measure the effectiveness of SEO, as it relates to PR:
- DA of links built, and average DA of links built.
- Improvement in rankings for target keywords.
- New ranking positions created by new on-site pages.
- Referral traffic from third party domains.
How to Apply SEO thinking to PR:
Understand keywords you want to rank for, and where you rank them currently, by:
- Using tools.
- Searching your brand + a key word and see what pages currently rank for that keyword.
- Understand the pages that rank for these searches currently, too.
- Use PR tools like Propel to research high domain authority outlets you want to be featured in and get backlinks from.
- In your outreach, try to get backlinks to the pages that you want to rank with the keywords you want to rank for in the anchor text.
Why is there a peaked interest in “digital PR?”
Aside from the obvious point that nearly everyone is online these days…
- Google’s algorithm is changing to bring content that PR people are a part of, much more front and center, Sparey said.
- Many more tools are also becoming available that allow pros to do what used to be only possible in a physical, traditional sense, in a digital form.
- There is a continual, huge increase in companies’ presence on social media. We’re seeing lots of large PR agencies, particularly in the U.K., for example, have a strong social media presence, which plays a large role in the shift to digital PR.
SEO Tools in PR
A tool like Propel can help you to really streamline your entire PR workflow, as well as have an impact on SEO.
Sparey finds that Propel tools help him see domain authority by having access to details about outlet tier ranking, journalist topic preferences, etc., so he can then understand their domain authority rankings.
Book a demo with our team to learn more!