SEO and public relations both come from a past of scumminess and irresponsible behavior. Since PR is an older industry they've had the time to improve their reputation and establish itself as a necessary marketing component for every company. SEO, on the other hand, is less than 20 years old and is still trying to paint the black hat white.
SEO is starting to look more like public relations. "The truth is SEOs, PR, and others are all talking about the same stuff from a different angle," said Joe Cardillo in a comment on Spin Sucks. SEO and PR tend to keep to their own sides and ways of thinking. In doing so, they miss out on the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone.
Rand Fishkin talked about why we can't just be SEOs anymore. The SEO bubble has popped. There is more to SEO than link building, site architecture and keywords. Search engines are looking at usage data, brand signals, offline data and social signals to determine ranking. Rand encouraged SEOs to recognize this different way of doing SEO and eventually take on these new positions.
SEOs have the chance to broaden the definition of SEO and improve its reputation by combining PR techniques.
4 ways SEO can improve using PR
1. Quality: There is a reason SEOs are sometimes frowned upon. They have the tendency to focus on building links quickly, leaving a gap in quality. This is most evident when using linkbait, such as an infographic with non-reliable sources or a catchy headline to a mediocre article. A poor quality infographic associated with a client's logo can be damaging to their reputation if discovered.
2. Relevant: A completely relevant article to your client doesn't mean it's purely promotional. Customers like brands that are willing to help them, not just sell to them. If your client is a security disability attorney then write an article about social security on a financial website (don't just randomly mention their name like I'm doing right now). Not only should the content be relevant to your client but the blog or website you are publishing on should appeal to your client's audience. Topically relevant blogs increase the amount of link juice to your client's website as well.
3. Newsworthy: Besides self-help articles, SEOs can capitalize on client news. Newsworthy topics include: new products, hiring an employee, winning an award, or whitepapers. Yes, it does take more work to create relevant content on both the SEO's and client's behalf. But Internet public relations is well worth the hassle if it means a greater return on investment.
There are two additional bonuses to using client news to gain links. The first is that news sites typically have a good page rank that will push more link power to the client's site. Secondly, unlike blogs, news sites aren't as dogmatic about original content. Your press release can be reused on multiple news sites without the trouble of writing different content for each. SEOs should double check the sites that picked up the press release to make sure they kept the links.
4. Build Relationships: Many SEO companies have already taken steps toward public relations by hiring online PR specialists to build relationships with bloggers, influencers and journalists. The formula to good ranking in Google comes from a mixture of various kinds of links (directories, social signals and content). Since a link in the content of an article is one of the more influential types of links, making friends with high domain authority sites is key to your clients' success.