This is a great question, and one which many SMEs that have never traditionally used PR struggle with, because they tend to get it confused with marketing (which is primarily about selling and promotion, whether it’s on a website or not).
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) on the other hand, is new to the majority of business owners out there.
Some have a grip on it, for others, it’s a bit like the Emperor’s New Clothes – they don’t know exactly what it is, but don’t want to appear totally ignorant of it either.
What do we mean by PR?
Public Relations (PR) is about getting your company and brand ‘out there’ as widely as possible, in a completely positive way.
It’s about getting the pubic to understand what your company and its products and services are all about.
There are many ways to do this, but most commonly, businesses conduct PR by emailing press releases to websites, guest blogging, updating social media channels or engaging in media relations (liaising regularly with journalists and editors).
Positives of online PR
PR can be very lucrative for a company when carried out correctly. The main benefits are that it can:
- Position the company as an authoritative voice in the sector
- Identify awards for the company to enter and boost its profile generally
- Improve customer relations by providing various ways to communicate directly with customers (blogging, social media pages etc.)
What do we mean by SEO?
SEO is different. It's about getting search engines to pick up the pages of a website or blog.
It involves some ‘behind the page’ technical know-how, along with some more obvious techniques, such as inserting keywords into website copy and blogs, writing metadata, and keeping content fresh and unique.
Again, SEO can be extremely beneficial for a company – if it is done well. The benefits include:
- Boosting a website’s rankings in search engines
- Targeting local as well as national/international customers
- Increasing traffic to the website as a whole
Now imagine if you had the benefit of both online PR and SEO!
There’s obviously some overlap between these two approaches – both use words and content to achieve their goals, for instance, and are essentially aimed at boosting a brand by helping it to reach as wide an audience as possible.
But, there’s one obvious distinction -SEO is about writing for search engine optimisation, whereas PR is appealing to specific audiences.
Neither approach would be 100% effective on its own – in today’s web-based world, it really has to be a combination of both to make waves.
Many PR agencies have, in fact, recently woken up to the realisation that digital PR has more or less overtaken traditional print-based PR.
Press releases are no longer the number-one method of promoting a client’s products and services. In the digital age, a guest blog post (such as this one) can often be a far more effective option.
That’s because guest blogs are better at targeting specific audiences, and provide an easy way to gain insights into the effectiveness of each post – how many times it is read and by whom etc.
Print media (or radio/television for that matter) just can’t provide those type of in-depth statistics.
Another bonus of guest blogging is, of course, receiving backlinks from relevant websites to your own website. This is another crossover with SEO, as many regard link-building as an exclusively SEO activity. As this example shows, in reality, there is real overlap.
Surprisingly, there’s an interesting – and I think rather bizarre – debate that says the reason that those working in PR and SEO haven’t just converged and started working together, is because the people are completely different personality types.
For instance, PRs are considered creative, and a bit extrovert, while the SEO personality is supposedly more of an analytical and practical type… and never the twain should meet.
Hmm, personally, I reckon the fact they’re not working together right now is more to do with the fact that management, in a lot of cases, just hasn’t seen the light yet.
I really believe that, in order for a company to get maximum benefit from both SEO and online PR opportunities, it’s essential to combine the disciplines.
As for specialised SEO and Online PR agencies – if they want to survive in this online age, they should definitely put those personality differences to one side and start chatting.