It’s tempting to think of public relations (PR) and search engine optimization (SEO) as separate strategies; in fact, most marketers do. But there’s an incredible amount of synergy between these two strategies, such that it may be advantageous to think of them as two sides of the same strategy.
How does this conceptual thinking allow you to see better results?
The Similar Strategic Aims of PR and SEO
First, we have to acknowledge the similar strategic games of PR and SEO. Both of these strategies have similar end goals, if you take them at the abstract level.
- Visibility. Both PR and SEO are all about improving the visibility of your brand. In a PR strategy, it’s about achieving cross-channel dominance, making sure your brand is advertised or is top of mind with as many people as possible. In an SEO strategy, visibility improvements are mostly restricted to organic search results.
- Familiarity. These strategies are also about increasing familiarity and trust. However, with SEO, this is only an incidental benefit. PR strategies arguably make a concentrated effort to improve audience perceptions.
- Traffic. Both strategies are interested in generating traffic to a website, landing page, or similar online destination for the brand. However, these strategies go after different types of traffic. For example, SEO is almost exclusively focused on organic search traffic, while PR focuses on organic search traffic, social media traffic, referral traffic, and traffic from other sources.
- Conversions. While PR and SEO are interested in generating conversions and sales for the business as a high-level objective, neither one of these strategies is primarily about closing the deal or landing the sale.
Subtle Differences Between PR and SEO
Now let’s look at the subtle differences between PR and SEO:
- Tactical execution. First, there’s the tactical execution component. PR strategists reach out to many different publishers and use many different channels to build a presence. SEO strategists usually focus on a small collection of technical areas of optimization while developing onsite and offsite content.
- Specific goals. Specific goals can also vary between the two strategies. SEO experts are typically focused on achieving high keyword rankings and high volumes of traffic. PR experts might be more interested in media mentions, total traffic generated across all channels or overall customer sentiment.
- Skills and experience. There are also some differences in the skills required by these fields. PR experts need to be more in tune with customer psychology and more familiar with different types of platforms, while SEO experts need to be more technically skilled and focused on understanding search engine algorithms.
Of course, there’s incredible synergistic potential between these two strategies. Focusing on SEO allows you to build up your organic search presence, increasing your public visibility. Simultaneously, focusing on PR allows you to improve your reputation, which makes earning links and achieving higher keyword rankings much easier.
The more you invest in one, the more the benefits of the other are going to be amplified.
How to Execute SEO and PR as Connected Strategies
It’s still valuable to think of SEO and PR as separate strategies since they have different goals and technical considerations, but it’s wise to see them as connected and interdependent.
These are a few tips that can help you execute SEO and PR as connected strategies:
- Work from the top down. The ground-level tactical execution of these strategies looks very different, but the high-level goals look very similar. Accordingly, you should always plan from the top down. In other words, you should think about the high-level objectives you want to achieve and the broad strategies that will help you get there. Gradually, you can work your way down to more practical levels of execution.
- Collaborate across teams. It’s fine to hire people with separate skill sets for PR and SEO, but you’ll want to encourage collaboration across those teams. This work is done for you if you’re working with an agency with both PR and SEO capabilities. The closer your PR and SEO experts work, the more they’ll learn from each other and enhance each other’s potential.
- Create and promote multifunctional content. Content is a big piece of both SEO and PR, so create multifunctional pieces of content that can be used in the pursuit of multiple strategic aims simultaneously. It’s a great way to maximize the value you derive from each new piece of created content.
- Implement recursive learning. There’s a lot that PR experts can learn from SEO experts, and vice versa. That’s why it’s a good idea to encourage recursive learning, so your people can learn from each other and continue to develop their skills. Cross-training people across departments is a great way to start.
When you learn to see SEO and PR as linked and mutually beneficial strategies, you’ll be in a much better position to see better results in both areas. These are independent strategies in terms of vision and execution, but they’re too complementary to remain stuck in silos.
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