Ask any marketing manager, or business owner, what they want to achieve and chances are they’ll tell you they want to see their website occupying the top position on Google. From building brand awareness to generating leads and sales, this is seen as the Holy Grail of digital marketing.

Recognising the importance of SEO strategy, many are willing to spend a large part of their budget on improving search engine rankings, and they frequently look to digital marketing agencies to deliver this. But without a thorough grasp of the processes, they can end up ploughing money into ineffective and costly campaigns.

Perhaps the biggest drawback to a purely SEO-driven approach lies in the fact that it rarely produces the high-calibre content needed to push a website up the rankings, and this is where PR can be a major asset.

Those working in PR are adept at knowing what people want to read, while also being aware of the nuances of style and tone. They create engaging content for brands on a daily basis and can spend years cultivating relationships with media contacts, to ensure coverage for their clients. By securing content on high domain authority websites, particularly if it includes a backlink, they are almost accidentally helping to improve a brand’s online visibility and ranking on Google.

Conversely, SEO professionals can find it difficult to generate strong links, which is the reason why so many agencies fall back on tried-and-tested methods, such as going for a ‘quick win’ on a poor quality website. Link building is extremely time-consuming, and is not always fruitful without an existing relationship with the journalist or blogger. Too many in the industry are happy with sending out a blanket email requesting a backlink, never thinking what value it can bring to the publication and its readers.

More often than not, today’s best digital marketing campaigns involve a blend of PR and SEO practices. Good content, and the ability to pitch to journalists, comes from the PR side, but SEO provides a more strategic approach to link building. This includes understanding the website’s authority, creating anchor text and knowing whether a publication is likely to use follow links. Where content is concerned, SEO experts can suggest relevant keywords and how to structure a piece to generate the maximum organic traffic.

Used together, SEO and PR can achieve remarkable results – but some clients ask if they should invest more in one or the other. While both are an important part of the marketing mix, and the decision depends on their business goals, PR and SEO combined generally offers a more tangible return. A technically perfect site, with an average link profile, will rank lower than an average technical site with a strong link profile. The latter can be accomplished through effective digital PR, so to me, it makes sense to pool more resources into that.

From my experience, elsewhere in the sector, digital agencies are finding it hard to recruit the right PR talent to support their campaigns. Many experienced professionals want to remain at a PR agency, where they have the opportunity to hone their skills. This can result in digital agencies having to rely on graduates or those with little experience, who may find it more difficult to write or place content.

Despite these changes, businesses of all sizes will always strive for online exposure, and now more are beginning to see the benefits PR can bring in securing those prized organic links.


By Martin Harris, head of digital at Tank

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