What is SEO and why do you care?
We often get asked why search engine optimization (SEO) matters for public relations. It’s a great question, and one that demands we scrounge up some Google history so we can better understand how the world’s most popular search engine works.
What used to matter to Google..
When it comes to getting your website to rank first on a Google search page, many factors come into play. Google has an ever-evolving algorithm that decides which website is the best match for a specific search term or phrase. Google also has crawlers – little bots that catalog a website – that determine the health and relevance of a website.
Once upon a time, the algorithm was much simpler. Your website just needed to have the desired search term – the more saturated the better – and a bunch of websites linking back to your website. Unfortunately, this resulted in people landing on a lot of spammy sites that had a competitive search term repeated over and over again in the content and hyperlinks.
Today, it’s become much more sophisticated — and much more competitive.
What Matters To Google Now..
To rise above the rest, your website must be optimized and maintained. All content must be original and organic – meaning you can’t simply repeat a key phrase over and over again, and now the amount of websites linking to your site means nothing if those sites and links have little value.
For a link to have value, they must be a “followed” link. Unfollowed links — links with essentially zero value to Google — are commonly found in forums, comment sections and profiles — basically places on external sites where it is easy to add a link to your website. Followed links are often found on websites, blogs and in articles.
For a link to have value, it must also be coming from a website with value. Today, the major search engines use many metrics to determine the value of websites such as trustworthiness and popularity.
This makes editorial links in articles from credible news sites to be some of the most valuable links when it comes to getting your website to number one. Of course, other links – even no follows – do play a role in giving your website a well-rounded backlink profile. Having a healthy site that is regularly updated is key as well.
What’s the Connection Between Public Relations and Search Engine Optimization
But for the purposes of this blog, I would like to focus on the link between public relations and search engine optimization. I have done both and, in my experience, they both cross over a lot. The goal for search engine optimization is to get your website to number one on Google’s organic search engine results page for specific search terms. To accomplish this you need to acquire high quality backlinks and optimize your website. With public relations the goal is to manage the relationship between the public and an organization by utilizing communications, including online channels. While public relations is much more overarching when it comes to the goal, media coverage and managing the company’s website content is huge in public relations. While backlinks are always the main goal of SEO, getting editorial coverage with reputable news outlets often results in valuable backlinks that elevate the organization’s value to Google.
The goals are not exactly aligned, but a lot of the techniques are similar such as blogging, pitching writers and website maintenance. The outcome is also very similar in that your website is receiving more backlinks regularly that improve its search ranking. If you have a good public relations team, then you are getting constant exposure in news outlets and those outlets are linking back to your site. In addition, the exposure helps people find your website, increasing traffic and the likelihood that someone will link to your website.
So which is right for your business? Well, if you are a company that is less concerned with its relationship with the public and more concerned with showing up as number one on google – a good example might be an accounting firm — then you may just want to get SEO services. If you are a company or organization that wants to build its relationship with the public including improving your search engine results I recommend a PR company with experience in SEO.