Search engine optimisation (or SEO) is a hot topic in the PR industry. Does it sit within our remit? Should we be hiring external agencies or getting someone in-house? And what does it all really mean to me and my clients?
Earlier this week, I attended the PR Moment’s seminar on ‘the intersection of PR and SEO’. Here are just some of the key points that I took away.
How PR and search teams can help each other
Laura Crimmons, founder of Silverthorn, explained to us the three pillars of SEO: technical, content and authority. And authority is the bit that is relevant to PR.
The top two factors to help a site appear high in search rankings are content and links. So, when creating content, PRs should ensure that it is optimised to help with this.
We also need to be thinking about creating content that is worth journalists including a link to. Earn the links, give them a reason to include it (and this point soon became the theme of the day, as you’ll see later in this blog).
So, how can teams work together to improve SEO?
- SEO can help brand teams name products.
- SEO can help PR measure the impact of their work.
- PR can impact search interest with content ideas.
- And all teams should share data between them for better insights.
We can get there by speaking the same language, Laura explained. Which means “speaking in terms they [other teams] understand but also terms they care about”. Knowing what matters to other departments will help you to connect with them.
Why PR should own link building
Next, Rich Leigh, founder of Radioactive PR, explained why PR teams should own link building.
To put it simply, PRs should know what will get coverage… it’s our job. And therefore if we are thinking about link building as part of this, we should see some success. But, Rich emphasised, we need to give journalists a reason to link.
He also explained how tracking and measuring links can provide valuable data. His agency tracked all coverage earnt over a period of time and looked at which had links, allowing them to generate a links-to-coverage percentage.
One way this can be used is to see when you might be best to send campaigns out. For example, are more journalists away in the summer and your coverage is typically lower? Less coverage might mean fewer links so it could be better to do this campaign in the autumn. You can also use the links-to-coverage data to report to clients and pitch to new ones.
“Good PR teamed up with sound SEO can make a massive impact on what your client wants to see,” Rich said. And if you want to learn more, Rich has helpfully shared his slides.
Using GSC to improve your PR and SEO
Andrew Smith, director of Eschermann, looked at Google Search Console (GSC) and how it can help PR teams.
As explained by Google itself, “Search Console tools and reports help you measure your site’s Search traffic and performance, fix issues, and make your site shine in Google Search results.”
Andrew explained that you should use this to ensure all your content is crawlable by Google… “if you’re going to be creating good content, you want to make sure it’s not sitting somewhere obstructed by technical issues.”
He also explained how Google now sees no-follow links as a “hint”, so still provide some value to your SEO efforts. Certainly worth noting.
You can use GSC in conjunction with Google Data Studio (GDS), a free tool that helps create dashboards for reporting and monitoring. You can connect data sources such as Google Analytics and social media (although some connectors you have to pay for).
If you haven’t at least had a look at it yet, you should…
How Vodafone uses Google Data Studio
Nick Wilsdon, search product owner at Vodafone, also gave an insight into the links between PR and SEO.
“SEO will not eat your [PRs] lunch because you understand brand messaging – that’s where PR can add value,” he said.
We understand the key messages and key audiences, so can provide real value to SEO campaigns and help to ensure a cohesive message across all channels.
Moving on to GDS, Nick shared a clever tip of how they create different reports to present to different stakeholders. People will be seeing data they understand, want to know and can use.
Giving journalists an incentive to link
Continuing with the theme of the day, Rebecca Brown, content director of Builtvisible, discussed why we should give journalists a reason to link.
But first, she looked at just some of the reasons it is so hard to gain links. For example:
- Some publications have a link policy so journalists cannot do so.
- As the press is under more scrutiny, some are hesitant as linking somewhere is like citing a source, so they need to trust you.
- Some journalists are measured by the time users spend on their page, so linking elsewhere is counter-intuitive.
Before you send out a piece of content, ask yourself why would a journalist link to this, but also why wouldn’t they, Rebecca advised. PRs need to understand what gains links, not just what gains coverage.
Giving an SEO agency perspective, Rebecca also shared just some of what goes into researching for a link-building campaign, adding that PRs don’t need to know how to do this but do need to know what to ask of SEO agencies or teams.
Rebecca also advised on not asking for a link just to the homepage. If you can, do something creative. Perhaps create a bespoke landing page with extra information or interactive elements.
But it doesn’t have to be a big and expensive new page you create. You could also add extra information and downloads to your client’s current webpage.
There were additional speakers and plenty more covered at the event, so this is just a snippet of what I took away. Thanks to ALL the speakers for an excellent’s day’s learning and to PR Moment for arranging it.
Summing up, the important points for me are, as the media is increasingly digital, it is essential that PRs are considering SEO and that it is integrated into your strategy.
We also need to be earning links, not just building them (and most certainly not buying them), giving journalists a reason to link to our client or company… as I’ve mentioned once or twice in this blog!
Finally, content is key to SEO and this is where PR teams can really add value, with creativity, understanding of key messages and strategic vision.