Lee Odden

Pull PR – Combining SEO and Public Relations


Many companies narrowly define PR activities online solely as blogger relations when in reality, online public relations is so much more. To me, internet based public and media relations encompasses gaining editorial exposure on the web with sites like blogs of course, but it also leverages web based technologies, networks and platforms for developing and maintaining more efficient communication with the media. And by “media” I mean traditional media with an online presence as well as other influencers – be they bloggers, power social news users or social networkers.

Communication efforts might happen online, but the media exposure outcomes may be in print or the web. The question arises, if the connections are made and maintained online using online PR and social media tools, but the exposure is offline, is it still online PR? I say yes.

Earning editorial visibility on the web as a function of public and online media relations efforts is entirely congruent with the idea of optimizing content for better web visibility. For the most part, you can’t “manufacture” editorial based visibility and the commensurate traffic. You earn it.

An example of the disconnect is when companies demand specific traffic increases within defined time frames. Those situations aren’t typically good candidates for online PR and especially SEO. Certainly, there are some short time frame traffic possibilities with social media and viral content promotion, but specific traffic forecasting for a short time frame SEO project is unrealistic. Advertising is the most viable option for those that need traffic “yesterday”.

Anyone demanding traffic has a few other issues to deal with first anyway. Traffic is a proxy to other important metrics like leads and sales. The same goes for search engine rankings. The reason improvements in rankings and traffic are desired is to achieve another business outcome. Unfortunately, some businesses continue to get hung up on the” means to an end as the end”.

One of the big issues some bloggers and most journalists have is finding great story sources. In many cases, deadlines approach pretty fast and it can be difficult to find sources that fit the story angle. Optimizing news content knowing journalists are searching can be a very effective tactic as part of an Online PR strategy.

The key is to make it easy for consumers and journalists alike to find your message on the channels and in the format they prefer. This is true for content whether it’s text, images, video, audio or interactive. If it can be searched on it can be optimized. Read more about DAO or digital asset optimization for more info on that topic.

Rankings on search engines can carry just as much weight (or more) with online PR efforts as getting covered in a prominent blog or online publication. As a result, increasing numbers of public relations firms are making efforts to incorporate SEO into their offerings. I’m happy to say M&O-TopRank has been at this since 2001. 🙂

There are many ways in which SEO tactics can be used for PR outcomes and vice versa. According to a study by Bulldog Reporter/TEKgroup International, 64% of journalists report that they use either Google or Yahoo! news services and nearly half of all journalists reported visiting a corporate website or online newsroom at least once a week. Search is a significant channel for finding these news sources.

The fundamental benefits of optimizing news content include:

  • Makes it easier for journalists researching stories to find you
  • Expands company branding footprint on the web
  • Contributes to proactive search results reputation management
  • Helps fuel the sales pipeline

How is optimizing PR and news content different from optimizing content for lead generation or making sales? It has to do with the target audience. The needs of a journalist are different than a consumer. A journalist writing a story needs verifiable information, easy to find contact information, examples and any other information that will help them write the story. Consumers are typically focused (depending on their stage of the buying cycle) on finding information, solutions or purchasing.

Here are some of the different types of news content that can be optimized as part of an Pull PR program:

  • Press releases / news releases
  • Online op-eds / letters to the editor
  • Online news rooms and media kits
  • Corporate site PR content
  • Blogs
  • Reports / white papers
  • Webinars / demos
  • Email newsletters
  • Interviews (coach interviewee on keywords)
  • Podcasts / Internet radio shows

While the optimization of news content in conjunction with blogger and online media relations can be the one-two punch for an online PR program, it is the addition of social networking that serves as the knockout.

Social networks like LinkedIn / Facebook and increasingly, microblogging platforms like Twitter can be leveraged by journalists to find subject matter experts in a very short period of time. Here are articles by a TV reporter and a newspaper reporter on this topic.

That means companies need to invest in not only monitoring social media, but also developing profiles and participating on social communities. If you don’t give, you’re not going to get, so it’s important that any efforts at social networking with the media are transparent and give value.

Giving to get, transparency, conversation and participation are key concepts when it comes to an online PR program that involves not only blogger relations but also the search engine optimization of news content and engaging with social media/networking communities.

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. “If you don’t give, you’re not going to get…”

    Absolutely Lee. Many SEOs and marketers don’t get the giving part, therefore they don’t get. Also agree with your points on companies demanding specific traffic increases. Rankings and traffic are meaningless if they don’t lead to specific business outcomes.



  2. spot on…as usual ! going to forward this one around the office…

  3. Thanks Steve and Adam

  4. I agree with you. As a matter of fact, I do myself almost the same with PR
    Great Article

  5. Hi Lee,

    Inherent with the optimization and use of social media platforms is the issue of spam. As social media platforms continue to expand into other verticals marketers are going to be left with 2 choices.

    -target as many people in as many platforms as you can
    -focus on the niche platforms

    Either way there is not going to be a way to stop the continuous influx of spam. This, I think, is the real problem. But of course, this is another topic 🙂

  6. well maybe it’s kinda related coz it is engaged online 🙂

  7. What a great primer! We’re launching an innovative new website and are searching for a boutique size PR firm in/around NYC that can offer exactly the services you describe above. Any recommendations?

    The site is RealMemories.com. Real Memories is the only website completely dedicated to online custom framing & personalization of customer’s digital photos. For up to half the cost of a typical retail frame shop, customers can upload their photos, choose a frame and personalize it with a caption, and using the Real Memories exclusive “Make Your Frame” tool, preview their entire creation before buying it. Beautiful, high quality custom framing without leaving your house. So far, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

    Would love you comments/feedback on the site and any recommendations on the PR Co. Thanks!

  8. This post is 100% correct. Not enough people see the value in Online PR and what it can do for optimization purposes and more. Thank you for supporting what we discuss on a daily basis!

  9. agreed…. there’s no distiction between PR and SEO – everything we do online is online PR and feeds the Google-god. great piece.

  10. Avatar Diwan Hassan says

    Since I am involved with Public Relations activities in the Bangladesh Agricultural University(BAU),Mymensingh I want to know more about digital public relations.


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