Lee Odden

Conversational Thoughts on SEO as a PR Tool

SEO and PR

After 10 plus years in the SEM business, it’s a bit of an understatement to say that the nature of SEO is constantly changing. Those changes involve both the search engines refining the way they sort and display search results as well as consumer search behaviors. A simple example would be a year ago, searching Google would return mostly web pages in the search results. That same search today might include videos, news items, images or blog posts – now commonly known as Universal search.

In addition to web pages, each of these types of information comes from a different database. This presents opportunities for companies to gain search visibility not only with high ranking web pages, but with other digital media as well. Changes with search and ranking criteria are constantly being fine tuned and improved by the search engines.

Because SEO is a constantly changing industry, moreso than PR or direct marketing, and because it’s so easy to publish content online, there can be issues with SEO misinformation. For example, a person reading an article six months ago about a public relations topic can be pretty confident that topic is still relevant and accurate today. In another situation, a person reading an article about search engine optimization from six months ago might have a great degree of uncertainty as to whether that information is still current and accurate.

As a result, companies that are not dedicated in their purpose to SEO can become outdated in their information. People that work for PR firms, ad agencies or interactive shops that are tasked with performing SEO as an additional task to their responsibilities, don’t typically have time to develop and test. Staying on top of what’s new and current is very difficult as they’re tasked with other responsibilities such as writing code, designing graphics or writing press releases, in addition to search engine optimization.

As a result, misinformation of agency account teams and clients can occur. For example, I was recently on a teleseminar with a VP from a company in the PR industry who was adamant that keyword meta tags were instrumental for SEO. It has been arguable for several years whether keyword tags are used at all and search engines like Google have indicated as much. They’re certainly not as important as the vast majority (if any) of other signals used to sort web pages in the search results.

Even companies that have dedicated in-house SEO staff are unlikely to have internal budgets to perform robust experimentation to stay on top and ahead of what’s new. Certainly, they will be in a better position than a company without dedicated search marketing stuff, but not in the same spot as an agency solving SEO problems for a variety of situations, companies, CMS platforms and industries on a daily basis.

As a result, it can happen that internal or external clients are given advice that used to be true, but simply isn’t true now. Implementing bad advice can produce unintended results or simply, no results at all. This does not bode well towards the expertise and credibility of SEO as a whole.

However, there are SEO agencies that dedicate a substantial amount of time to what’s current in the industry, search engine functionality and how consumers search for information whether it be universal, personalized, social or standard search, mobile, video, images, etc. If digital content can be searched on, it can be optimized. TopRank strives to be one of those agencies.

Many companies, especially those that invest heavily in their brands, perceive ranking highly in Google for their company names and brand names with as much credibility as having visibility in mainstream media. There are millions of people searching Google everyday, which can exceed audiences on traditional media like TV ads that cost substantially more.

Being persistently visible when people search for a company’s brand names or keyword phrases important to their brand and messaging is very important as a Public Relations outcome. For example, companies that are savvy about SEO and PR, might not only pitch stories to mainstream media and relevant publications for coverage, but also optimize the corporate web site, press releases, blog and other digital communications for keyword phrases relevant to the article that was written about them.

People often read articles and either search for brands and company names on Google to find out more, or they’ll search on the overall topic of the article. Companies that have properly integrated their SEO and media relations efforts will already rank well for those phrases. Consumers that read the article, search Google for more information and see the same company, get a very strong signal about the credibility of that company and it’s brand.

A search marketing consulting company that understands how SEO can be used as a public relations tool will be able to work with PR, marketing and content optimization efforts in order to achieve the ranking improvements that drive both stand alone traffic as well as traffic influenced by advertising or media coverage.

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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. No doubts that SEO comes handy to give your Press Releases and news stories better visibility. Unfortunately sites like PRWeb leave a little room for SEO by prohibiting HTMl editing and tags. The only components that you can play giving your story SEO push is keyword density and anchor text optimization. However, you have more freedom by applying social media optimization techniques to you copy.

  2. Oh my, has any one noticed I stated not two, but THREE paragraphs with, “As a result”. Apparently I like that phrase…

  3. One very good theme in here is that SEO agencies have resources to actually test and know what works and what doesn’t work.

    The disappointing reality is that the vast majority of SEO agencies and consultants never begin a sentence with “we tested x and saw y result; we think this would also work in your situation to generate z results.”

    While the theory of an SEO consultant having the resources to do in-house testing and keep up with market changes is compelling, our experience is that most don’t.

    Those that do can differentiate themselves by publishing some of their results.

  4. Lee-

    Good post. I’m redesigning our site now (day job company) and have thought a lot about how SEO factors in toward PR. Interesting concept and one that will assuredly grow.

    The REAL reason I’m writing though is that, you are right down the road from us! 4284 Shoreline Drive! Someone stop my exclamation! Just a heck of a coincidence. I didn’t know Top Rank was in the area…Cool.

  5. Hey Lee, Great post, I really find Search Engine Marketing, SEO, and PPC all very interesting and fun (mainly because I don’t fully understand it all and I love a good challenge)!! I really enjoyed the layout of this blog and I really enjoyed your writing style, I will definitely be stopping back in to read the next post!!

    Adam Dufresne

  6. I think branding is becoming more of an ancillary effect of today’s SEO. A few years ago (and just a few), a new company might spend ALL of their marketing budget on growing their brand- or most all of it with much less thought on their Internet presence. Now savvy companies realize that showing up on the first page of a search engine could be a big part of growing their brand. It makes me wonder what a company like Home Depot might spend on their online branding efforts. I’m betting a company like them spends next to nothing on their pay-per-click campaigns.

    Nice read, Lee. And by the way, I read every word without noticing that you started three paragraphs with “as a result.” You had to point it out for me to catch it. 🙂

  7. Coincidentally enough, two of the bigger SEO jobs that I’ve landed, were people that got to my site by searching for “marketing firms”.

    It’s a new age indeed. I’m stoked.

  8. Good article as many others in this site.

  9. Although you may consider it an understatement, saying that SEO is constantly changing is worth pointing out and emphasizing, especially for those individuals who are not as familiar with the concept and fundamentals of SEO.

    As you also mention, all levels of individuals turn to the internet to acquire information or references. These individuals should be reminded that fundamentally they must assure themselves as to the credibility and accuracy of the information they decide to use as a reference of project guideline.

  10. Great article! Integrating SEO and PR is such a valuable tool these days and if you can hit two birds with one stone – it’s certainly a good thing! Online press releases are easily ranked and should be optimized to fully maximize the benefit of the release — once more people discover that both can be done simultaneously, online PR will be respected a bit more.

  11. great post i love to experiment with SEO techniques its very complex process to build proper back links and get a high PR not every one get master in it but being a seo its a gr8 experience.


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