If you’re anything like me, you may have grown a bit tired of hearing the word “pivot” this past year. As much as I’ve grown weary of the term itself, I still get excited about the pivot toward integrating SEO with PR trends. Here are a few of the trends I’ve noticed, along with my thoughts on where I think we’re going.
All of a sudden, publications have fallen in love with SEO
About 10 years ago, when I started writing for major media outlets, I’d get some quizzical looks. “Are you link building?” was one of the more frequent questions I was asked. Comments such as “We want to stay focused on creating great content” or “We can’t be too concerned about SEO tactics” were also common.
Nowadays, I’ll get at least one inquiry a month from a major publication seeking help optimizing search traffic. These outlets not only seek to better understand SEO, but they highly prize contributors and journalists willing to adjust their writing style to accommodate traffic optimization. In addition to scoring initial viewer hits, publishers are increasingly looking for their content to serve long-term readership needs, months and years after publication.
One of the main reasons I invested in Relevance was because the company combined the strategies of thought leadership with SEO and PR. To hit the sweet spot where all three overlap, you have to publish consistent source content that offers helpful thought leadership. And that content will need to be written in a way that it is optimized for SEO.
Journalists increasingly rely on search to get their job done
In the past, journalists were typically given more time to conduct research and hit deadlines than is the norm today. Writers often used that time to research an industry in-depth, deciding along the way which pieces of information to keep and which to discard.
Showing up on third-party lists and having your own content chart high are obvious wins for anyone hoping to achieve industry leadership. In addition to potential clients, though, you’ll also come to the attention of journalists writing about your industry. While they will be expected to cover the major players in any space, they won’t have time to evaluate all of the options. That means being featured on these “top x players” lists is key.
When we implemented a search strategy for my company Calendar, we focused on charting in the top 3 for searches that included the phrase “top calendar apps.” Not only did this article chart in the top 5, but results at that time also included list pages from other companies.
In 2020, our company received more than 100 free mentions simply because someone sourced an article where we also received a mention. This boils down to free PR. Your company can benefit as well by incorporating the idea of “influence by search term” into your thinking and strategies.
New SEO strategies require patient and thorough testing
As any new PR strategy takes off, you’ll want to make sure the technical aspects of your SEO are all in a good place. Any reliable SEO expert will tell you straight up that you can’t know everything about how Google manages its algorithm, but do the best you can to test effectively to see what changes drive better search results.
Additionally, it’s a good idea to test out different approaches to make sure you are doing all you can to optimize for SEO. You’ll want to conduct split testing to figure things out, just as you would with any other paid strategy.
Many marketing strategies will conduct split testing but without including search, typically because an SEO expert has been blinded by the one way they engage in best practices. Intent-based strategizing, along with split testing, can help confirm that the steps you’re taking are yielding the results you were hoping for.
In addition to making sure you have conducted a full technical audit to make sure your house is in order, remember to review your site thoroughly. You’ll want to make sure it, too, has been optimized for targeted search terms.
Limitations on in-person events will increase digital strategy budgets
Much as we all might wish otherwise, the Covid-19 pandemic still presents a huge challenge to holding in-person events. The money is moving toward anything digital that looks like a reasonably viable alternative.
Prior to the pandemic, event companies were more or less obligated to split their budget between a lot of different marketing and sales strategies. With attention swinging more and more to the digital realm, there has been a commensurate interest in aligning PR with SEO strategy. No one wants to host an online event that doesn’t show up in search.
Hub-and-spoke models will be differentiating for brands that dominate
I noted earlier how important it is for thought leadership, PR, and SEO to play well together. Using a hub-and-spoke model is one of the best ways I know to establish a base of solid content all pointing at the term/topics you hope to own. A winning brand will consistently build out a hub-and-spoke model with groups of content pointing at the target of owning specific topics on their site.
As they do so, these brands are simultaneously seeding their industry with quality content that points to these sources. When everything aligns as it should, the results can surpass all expectations.
As I’ve implemented these strategies, I’ve routinely been amazed at how fast a company can show up in search results for competitive terms and begin to own them.
A combination of natural link-building and surgical methods will be best
Recently, the head of communications at one of my favorite payroll companies told me he’d spent a certain number of dollars creating some whitepapers. All the publications contained solid data, and others had begun linking to them.
I love seeing brands implement inbound techniques, but my friend’s company needed more than just this start. It had to apply a layer of SEO surgery on top. Google needed not only to index the credible links pointed in his company’s direction, but it also needed to see an area of placements that provided a consistent pattern of offering expertise in that field.
Combining organic links with what you say about yourself yields the best results. When what you say about yourself matches up with what others say about you, the content on your site will seem that much more credible.
PR tools will soon be used the same way we use search
Many companies have already implemented Semrush or something similar, but not nearly as many have a PR strategy that plays nicely with these tools.
When I learned that Prowly had been acquired by Semrush, I was glad to see that an SEO tool had branched off into helping companies with PR as well. In 2021, brands that are adept at both PR and SEO are going to see their rankings increase significantly.
In the wake of all that happened last year, I’m hesitant to make many predictions. One I will hazard is that, even after in-person events resume, audiences will hold fast to their digital lives. Companies that intentionally integrate SEO with their PR will reap huge rewards.
Credibility will be critical in a landscape marked by a heightened lack of trust. When your online footprint mirrors the messages being put out by your PR team, you’ll score points for integrity. Your existing clients will be reassured, and prospective clients will get an extra nudge to sign on.