The SEO factors that matter to PR pros today (and will still matter in 5 years)

Online, PR and SEO share a lot of similarities.

Your #1 objective is to increase visibility. You pitch stories, drive mentions, and increase awareness around a brand or product.

The same goes for SEO, except in this case, you’re trying to increase visibility in Google (because, well, they’re a monopoly).

It’s true that SEO has gotten more complicated in the past few years. But the good news is that a lot of the PR-based fundamentals still apply.

There are just a few key areas to pay extra attention to, that way your efforts will still drive results one, three, and even five years from now.

Here’s where to start.

1. Make sure your mentions actually get links

PR is a wide-encompassing role. But if there was one metric to judge success, it’s press mentions.

There’s only one issue.

Getting press mentions and actually getting links from them is two very different things. The bigger the site, publication, or journalist? The harder it is to do both.

And it means you’re not getting the credit you deserve, because backlinks — not mentions — are the currency of the internet, acting as votes in your favor.

So getting mentions but not links mean you’re only driving a fraction of the traffic or sales you should be (if all links were included).

When I work with a big client who’s had a good PR presence, I always know that unlinked brand mentions will be a gold mine.

This might sound basic on the surface. However, after working with hundreds of brands and PR professionals, I can guarantee you don’t have a simple process in place to sweep up unlinked mentions on a regular basis after big pushes.

Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to find unlinked mentions like this in under five minutes:

Many tools can help here. I like to fire up the “Popular Content” section inside Ahrefs, and then highlight “Domains Unlinked” based on the domain I’m looking for:

Now, you can export this list to find all of the websites that mention your brand name, and follow up with the journalist or blogger who wrote each.

If possible, try to make the pitch that they’re shortchanging readers by not providing a helpful link that will provide their readers with extra insight.

2. You drove links, but pages are broken on the site

Ok, so you reclaimed the brand mention link that you rightfully deserved. Well done!

However, the next step is to make sure the actual linking URL is still live.

This sounds obvious and trite, but it’s actually a huge problem. That’s because your client’s websites evolve over time. They may have had a redesign in the last year. Or maybe they changed the landing page content to reflect that latest campaign (and not the one you worked on a few months back).

The point is that your client’s site probably has dozens (if not hundreds) of 404 errors — or ‘Page Not Found’ — that render all of your page links useless.

Don’t believe me?

Again, fire up Ahrefs, look up your site’s “Backlink profile,” and then click on “Broken.”

I did this exact step for Muck Rack, and guess what I found?

The very first broken link was from Forbes — an amazing press mention and backlink like this time — that’s pointing to a broken page on their site.

(Editor’s note: Thanks, Neil! We fixed this broken link!)

In other words, one of the links on this page:

Was linking to this one:

And the result? Zero value.

In this case, you should do two different things:

  1. Either build that page back up with content that resembles what was originally there, or

  2. Create a 301 (or permanent) redirect from that page URL to the new ‘Research’ page that presumably took its place.

That way, you’re able to salvage links that you did successfully drive, even if the site’s objectives have changed or evolved in the last few months.

3. Reputation management

You and I both know how PR works.

It’s relatively easy to pitch big campaigns from big, reputable brands. Every journalist or blogger will latch onto a story like that.

But small brands or ones with reputation issues? It’s going to be an uphill battle.

Think about it this way. What if you had to drum up interest for the latest Holmes & Watson movie?

On the surface, it should be easy because you’re dealing with some big stars. But then, you look at the reviews:

Ouch. Controlling this narrative isn’t exactly going to be as easy as you originally thought.

One potential solution is to focus on reputation management, an area of SEO that concerns itself more with dominating key search engine result pages (SERPs) — even if they’re using your own brand name.

That way, you can ‘control’ the message by having multiple sites within the top half of the page (where everyone’s eyeballs are going to look).

Savvy PR pros can replicate this same strategy with microsites for each major campaign or sub-brand.

So you can start by creating similar content around the same subjects to occupy at least two positions within the first few results.

Then, you can also take advantage of Google’s other properties, like YouTube, that also now get included in each SERP.

For example, check out the first ranking site for “martech trends”:

Next, scroll down a little and you see Search Engine Land (owned by the same parent company as Marketing Land):

Oh wait, just under that, you can find the MarTech Conference site, owned by — you guessed it — the same company.

If you’re looking closely, you’ll notice that each headline is basically the same formula, too. Do you know why? Because each page is basically promoting the same offer:

Basically, you’re trying to monopolize search engine results with your own brands or favorable content.

It’s not easy. But it is incredibly powerful. And it gives you a better shot at controlling the narrative to circle back, making the first few tips here insanely easier to generate.

Get these three PR-based tactics right and the answer will almost always be “yes”

It’s true that SEO has become more difficult and sophisticated in recent years.

But from a PR standpoint, many of the same rules still apply:

  1. Get (link) credit for all of your brand and press mentions.

  2. Make sure those links are driving value by syncing up with the correct pages on your websites.

  3. And control the narrative through reputation management to make the first two steps easier.

These are all SEO tactics. But they’re tactics that will remain relevant no matter which decade we’re talking.

Because each one aligns with the fundamental question Google’s constantly trying to answer:

Does this page or website clearly answer what someone’s searching for, and does this brand or site deserve to rank (based on quality and votes) higher than the alternatives?

Neil Patel is the co-founder of Neil Patel Digital. The Wall Street Journal calls him a top influencer on the web, Forbes says he is one of the top 10 marketers, and Entrepreneur Magazine says he created one of the 100 most brilliant companies. Neil is a New York Times bestselling author and was recognized as a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 30 by President Obama and a top 100 entrepreneur under the age of 35 by the United Nations. Feature photo via Unsplash


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