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One of the most common questions we get from our clients, especially in the sales process, is “how can PR affect SEO?” Let’s get one thing straight: PR alone is not a comprehensive SEO or link-building strategy. That said, there are plenty of ways PR coverage can impact SEO in a positive way. And because we understand the importance of defining the ROI of PR (especially for you data-driven SaaS marketers out there), we now more than ever find our efforts tying into those of the SEO team on a regular basis.
From working to secure natural, editorial backlinks in publications with a high domain authority, to ensuring contributed content has at least one target keyword phrase, SEO is an important part of our PR strategy for any client.
Now, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of how the two intersect, shall we?
Search engine results for target keywords
Before we get to backlinks, I want to take some time to talk about mentions (regardless of if they have a link, or not). The more stories that exist about your company, the more search engine results there will be for your branded (or non-branded) keywords — this matters for a few reasons:
- Passing the sniff test: Results in Google help you pass the “sniff test” with potential customers, employees, partners and investors (I know, not an SEO benefit but it deserved to be said). Sarah Bird, CEO of Moz, often talks about SERPs as an extension of your brand. If you care about what is on the homepage of your website, shouldn’t you care about what is on the first page of Google for your brand?
- Building authority with Google: Mentions help you build your authority with search engines. Search engines use context clues to associate websites with topics. So, the more stories that exist about your brand, especially in connection with what it is you do as a business, the more Google will understand you to be a reliable source on that topic. For example, the more times BLASTmedia is mentioned alongside SaaS PR (and other software and media relations-related terms), the more likely it is to boost our ranking in Google for those terms (and yes, Google is smart enough to associate a linkless mention to BLASTmedia.com).
- Coverage begets coverage: Journalists are people too and they use Google, just like the rest of us, to research their stories. Articles that contain a target keyword, and show up in search, can help you get discovered by media contacts working on an on-brand story topic. For example, if I were writing a story about “content localization,” I might stumble across a story on the topic written by SaaS brand Smartling’s VP of Marketing (which ranks on page 1 of Google for the term) and decide to reach out to Smartling for more info.
- Lower your cost-per-click (CPC) on pay-per-click (PPC) ad campaigns: While findings to support this theory are mixed, some SEO experts claim up to 80% of users ignore paid ads, choosing instead to click on organic results. Put simply, the more search results you own for your keyword terms (branded or otherwise), the less, in theory, it will cost you to win those clicks.
Backlinks in coverage can improve your website’s Domain Authority
Natural, editorial backlinks from credible, third-party sites have the power to improve your website’s Domain Authority over time. ️ ️ ️Say it louder for the people in the back!
Ethically earning those links is harder than ever — and PR can help. And no, I’m not talking about press release links from a newswire service (read my post about how press release newswires aren’t much help on the SEO front).
When a journalist at a publication with a high domain authority decides to write a story about your company and links back to your company’s website in that story, your website reaps the benefits of being associated via backlink.
Reminder: Backlinks are an incredibly valuable outcome of a holistic PR program, but they shouldn’t be your #1 KPI.
Domain Authority is measured on a scale from 1 to 100. Typically, Domain Authority above 40 is considered “average,” DA above 50 is considered “good,” and anything over 60 is “excellent.” When we look at coverage across the agency, we see the average domain authority of media coverage for our clients is 61. More important than just considering the ranking, though, is considering it in comparison to your own website. Take BLASTmedia.com, for example, our DA is 42. So, we would benefit from a link in any publication with a DA higher than 42. PR Daily, for example, has a DA of 70.
There are a million factors — many of which Google will never tell us about — but at the end of the day, in addition to DA, the more relevant the publication’s website is to your industry, the more valuable the link will be in the eyes of the search engine (which is exactly why trade media is still an important part of a SaaS PR program).
Don’t discount the power of no-follow links
More often than not, your coverage will include a link back to your website. In fact, across the agency, we see about 57% of the coverage we secure for our clients contains a backlink. But, that doesn’t mean every single backlink is going to be a do-follow link (which typically are assumed to have more SEO power).
BLAST already did a full dive into the difference between do-follow and no-follow links, so I won’t go too in-depth, but I will say both link types are valuable. And, while do-follow links are indeed a direct signal to search engines that your site has quality content, and should be associated with the topic being linked from, potentially boosting your site’s ranking for that topic in the future, no-follow links have their place in a link strategy, too.
A no-follow link can still send traffic to your website, it can still result in a form fill or a lead, and most importantly, it could result in a do-follow link in the future! Check out this case study from our client Moz on how a single no-follow link resulted in a do-follow link, web traffic and ultimately top ranking in SERPs for a certain phrase.
A word of caution: While we’re happy to ask publications if they are willing to link back to our clients’ websites in articles we have secured, it is imperative to be respectful of publication guidelines surrounding backlinks and do-follow vs. no-follow. Sometimes the answer is no, and that’s okay. No backlink at all is better than a spammy one.
If you’re not investing in PR as part of your SEO strategy, you’re missing a piece of the puzzle that has the potential to boost your SERP rankings and Domain Authority in the long run. While it’s not a quick fix to winning for a target keyword phrase or boosting backlinks, considering 57% of B2B marketers say SEO has the biggest impact on lead generation it’s well worth the effort.
Still wondering, “can PR affect SEO?” Reach out to BLAST to discuss how we can build a SaaS media relations program to support your SEO goals.