A Beginner’s Guide To SEO For PR Pros

SEO and PR were once two marketing fields that had very little in common.

Fast forward to 2020 and you’ll notice that these disciplines no longer operate in a vacuum. Today, they complement each other and can help your organization establish a strong online reputation.

So how do you leverage SEO to shape your organization’s online image?

There are many ways to do this. You can request for backlinks from every press mention. You can even structure your links the right way when you’re pitching to a journalist or influencer.

These are just a few examples. 

In fact, you can get as creative as you want. However, in order to come up with SEO strategies to complement your PR efforts, you need to understand how search engines work.

Below, I’ll explain the basics of SEO and dive into on-page and off-page SEO tactics.  Once you gain a better understanding of SEO, you can come up with a variety of tactics that can supercharge your PR efforts.

Let’s begin!

What Is SEO?

SEO stands for search engine optimization. 

It’s the process of optimizing your site so your web pages appear on search engines like Google, Yahoo, or Bing. 

Boosting your website’s visibility on the search engine results page (SERPs) has many benefits. By ranking higher up in the SERPs, you can increase qualified traffic to your site which can give your company more:

  • Brand exposure
  • Website traffic
  • Sales
  • Revenue

…and PROFIT.

 But to improve your search engine rankings, you’ll need to know how search engines work. 

How Search Engines Work

Search engines like Google identify and rank sites by crawling, then indexing these websites.

Think of a search engine like your local library.

1. Your library is constantly looking for new books to add to their collection. Search engines do the same thing. Instead of books, they’re constantly finding new websites to add to their databases. This process is known as crawling.

2. Before your library adds any books to their collection, they may enquire about the book’s title and subject matter. Once again, web crawlers perform the same activity. They scrape information about each web page so they have a better understanding of what the site is about.

3. Once your library adds a book into their collection, they’ll place the book under the correct category so they can be easily found. The same occurs with search engines. Search engines organize all the websites in their database under certain categories or terms. This process is known as indexing. 

Search engines like Google consistently re-crawl and reindex sites to give the searcher the most updated results. The way they index and organize your site can change over time if you develop your site, add new or remove existing content.

So what happens when somebody enters in a search term?

1. Here, the search engine pulls up different websites that are compiled in their database (and not the whole internet). 

2. Search engines then return relevant sites in a specific order. Here’s an example of Google’s results from a search query.

There are a number of factors that determine website ranking on search engines. They follow an algorithm that dictates the order and ranking of sites. 

Why Do Some Websites Rank Better Than Others?

A search engine’s algorithm is extremely complicated. 

Let’s use Google as an example. The simplest way to explain how Google ranks a website is to look at the concept of voting. The more votes a website has, the more likely it can rank at the top of the SERPs.

For example:

If you wanted to make money with Fiverr, you’d enter a search query like this.

google search box

You can see here that my article on ‘How To Make Money On Fiverr’ is at the top.

fiverr google search results

My site has the highest number of votes out of all the relevant sites on this topic.

How do I achieve website votes?

A website vote is simply a backlink; when a site links back to your website.

For example:

Niche Pursuits gave my article ‘How To Make Money on Fiverr’ a vote, when they gave me a backlink here.

link from other websites

But the reason why ‘How To Make Money On Fiverr’ ranked the top position for this term, was because it had 83 backlinks!

number of links or votes

It’s these backlinks that boosted my search engine ranking to the number #1 spot.

However, backlinks are not created equal. 

Larger and well-known sites carry more weight and voting power than a backlink from a new emerging blog. That’s why the more quality backlinks your page has, the better it can rank!

high authority links vs low authority links

Remember, other search engines have different ranking factors. Some will focus on content quality or user experience instead. Make sure you understand which search engine you’re optimizing for. 

Understanding the ranking factors for the search engine you want to rank for, is critical for success.

What Is On Page SEO?

On Page SEO is the process of optimizing your website’s content and code. 

There are two parts to on-page SEO:

  1. The User Experience: Optimizing the formatting and display of your website’s content so your readers get the best website experience.
  2. Code Optimization: Improving your website’s code so that search engine crawlers can easily crawl the HTML code and other aspects of your site. 
increase search traffic with on page seo

The best thing about on-page SEO, is that you have complete control over it.

Everything that occurs on your site, like your:

  • Source Code
  • Website Content
  • Internal Links

… is your responsibility.

Making sure that everything on your website is in the best condition before you implement off-page SEO techniques like link building, is a smart move and arguably the best decision for your site’s SEO.

On Page SEO Tactics

Here are 5 on-page SEO tactics you can begin implementing today.

1. Primary Keyword at the Beginning Of a Title Tag

keyword at start of title tag example

Including your target keyword at the start of your title tag can help search engines identify the topic of your webpage within the first milliseconds recommend you use Yoast to set up your title tags.

2. Page Title in H1 Tags

Google crawlers will look at the information contained within HTML tags, so make sure your page title is contained within <H1> tags.

For example: 

  • To format this title tag, make sure you add the <H1> heading tags in your blog post’s code editing area. 

It should look like this.

3. Primary Keyword In Your URL

According to a Google Roundtable session in 2016, having a primary keyword in your URL can help you boost your ranks on the SERPs. While it’s a relatively small ranking factor, I recommend you add your primary keyword to all your page’s URLs as part of SEO best practice. 

Here’s an example of how I include the primary keyword into my URLs.

4. Shortening your URL

Search engines tend to favour short and clear URL structures because it adds clarity to your page and requires less time to crawl through your sitemap.

length of url

5. Providing Unique Content

Search engines try to reduce the number of duplicate content in the results as much as possible. This way, the same content cannot rank for the primary keyword twice. If Google detects the same content repeated on many sites, only one of those pages will rank. Unfortunately, you can’t predict which one it will be.

That’s why you always want to provide unique content and avoid duplicate content.

avoid duplicate content

If you want more on page SEO tactics, have a look at my ‘Ultimate On Page SEO Checklist For 2020.’

What Is Off Page SEO

Off page SEO consists of SEO practices that happen outside your website.

These practices are intended to boost your search engine rankings, like building backlinks to vouch for the quality of your content. In fact, building backlinks is the most critical and at the heart of every off page SEO strategy.

Unlike on-page SEO, you don’t have complete control over your off-page SEO. Activities like link building are heavily dependent on other people linking back to your content. 

So how do you improve your off page SEO?

By consistently implementing link building strategies and tracking any links built.

You might not have complete control over your backlinks. But you can implement proven link building strategies to boost your chances of attracting high-quality links back to your site.

Off Page SEO Tactics

1. Competitor Backlink Analysis

Instead of competing with companies that spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours developing a link building strategy, you can steal their existing strategy.

Begin by:

  1. Making a list of all your competitors
  2. Analyse their backlinks.  

Use Ahrefs’s Site Explorer and enter your competitor’s URL. Click on the backlinks title and view all your competitor’s inbound links.

AHREFS backlinks

Export the list of URLs and work backwards. Think about how and what your competitor must have done to gain that backlink. The more you work on this process, the better you’ll understand how to gain the backlinks.

2. Strategic Guest Posting

Guest blogging remains one of the most popular yet effective link building strategies. While it’s much harder to earn a genuine guest posting link placement in 2020, it’s still worth doing.

To begin:

1. Identify websites where you’re going to publish your content. Ideally, these sites have high domain authority and traffic.

To find these sites you can use footprints like:

  • Keyword + “guest blogger”
  • Keyword + “guest article”
  • Keyword + “write for us”
how to find places to publish your guest post infographic

Add all the viable sites into a list.

2. Qualify the list by running them through Ahrefs. Go to Ahrefs Site Explorer and add the website you want to check. Repeat the process until you have the DR of every site.

3. With each website, reach out and contact the blog manager to see if they’re interested in your guest post.

3. Clean Up the Web

Many websites online have thousands of links which can easily break and stop working. This can hurt the website’s SEO and reputation. 

You can turn this problem into an opportunity by finding broken links and informing the blog manager. Not only can you replace the broken link with your back-link, but you’re adding value by informing them of a problem and building a relationship with the blog manager.

To begin:

1. Define a Target Website. The best sites are generally from personal blogs and small organizations

2. Find the Broken Links. Check My links is a useful Chrome Extension that can help you find broken links on a page. 

Check My Links Broken Link Example

Alternatively, you can enter the website into Ahrefs and sort based on 404 not found backlinks.

Referring pages lifehacker

3. Contact the blog manager and inform them about the broken link.

Rounding Up  

Ranking well on the SERPs can ensure a reliable stream of website traffic and sales.

But instead of viewing SEO as a distinct category, PR pros should look at ways PR can work with SEO to spearhead brand awareness and exposure. 

To begin, understand the basics of SEO. With foundational SEO knowledge, you can see how SEO works and recognise situations where it can amplify your PR efforts. 

While every search engine is different, learning the basic fundamentals of how search engines work and how their algorithm functions is a great way to bridge the gap between two fields.

Remember, an integrated digital landscape is the future of PR, SEO and the digital marketing suite.

Outcompete your competitors by learning more about SEO.

Start today!

Cover photo by Jay Mantri on Unsplash