Digital PR VS. SEO: What’s The Difference?

Ah, the world of marketing acronyms & jargon. There are almost too many to count. To the uninitiated, terms like SEO, SEM, and PPC may sound like tropical diseases you wouldn’t want to catch on your holiday. But to those in the know, each of these terms has a unique set of characteristics. Take digital PR and SEO…

It’s important to recognize the inherent similarities between SEO and digital PR — they both hinge on great content marketing and a compelling brand story. But they also differ — SEO is a comprehensive digital marketing approach, whereas digital PR is largely focused on scoring coverage. Digital PR falls into SEO’s off-site elements, and may compromise of strategies like influencer partnerships, press releases, and guest content.

Most SEO agencies will offer an element of digital PR as part of their service package; look out for agencies who focus on giving value and collaborating with the online community, not cheap link building and ‘SEO tricks’. An understanding of digital PR is a sign of an organic search agency who are looking to the future.

This post will outline the various characteristics of both SEO and digital PR. By the end of this guide, you will hopefully be well-versed in each and how they can help your business get your unique message out there.

Basics Of SEO (Search Engine Optimization)

SEO has been around for years. It’s fundamentally changed in that time (almost done a complete 360), but it remains one of the best ways to market your business online. That’s because SEO actually encompasses a wide range of things — including content, user experience, conversion rate optimization, and other essential disciplines.

On-site content & optimization

A basic website is usually a ‘shop window’ of sorts, offering visitors vital information about your products, services, and company ethos.

Everything you plan for your website should have your customers’ needs in the forefront — and this is where SEO comes in. Optimization will be about including keyword terms you wish to rank for, as well as longer phrases that closely match your customers’ problems and your proposed business solutions.

You will need a collection of editorial content to demonstrate your product’s features and benefits, to address your customers’ hesitations, and to make your name as an industry leader.

Technical SEO & UX

How your site is designed and how easy it is to use will also affect your SEO (this includes sire speed and technical structure).

Think about the various paths your customers’ would take to find the right information and make a purchase. The more effort you put into putting your customers’ needs first, the better equipped you will be for ranking well in search engines.

Search engines don’t want to put bad websites in front of people — it would quickly lead to a sharp decline in users.

Digital PR Within SEO

Digital PR falls into the bracket of off-site SEO and link building, and if it’s done well, will have hugely positive ranking benefits. In the old days of off-site SEO, link building was a relatively spammy undertaking, but things have really changed now.

For new businesses, digital PR can help you get your name out there in the big media and attract influential people towards your brand.  

For digital PR to be genuinely useful, you will need to know your audience well. This is where SEO and digital PR come into their own, helping you develop a content plan that genuinely benefits users. Keyword research, along with social media analysis (with an emphasis on building client personas) can help you get an accurate idea of the type of content you need to create. Audience research will also help you identify where your name should appear in order to attract new customers.

How To Approach Digital PR

There are a few different avenues that might make sense for your brand — guest blogs, press releases, infographics, influencer marketing… the list goes on. The key is to identify what form of PR will bring you the greatest amount of ROI, and focus on that. At the same time, a combination of all tactics is a good way to diversify your online footprint.

Guest blogging is part of a solid PR strategy, and this is a vital exercise in building your digital PR footprint. Guest posts can even bring qualified leads to your business. For example, an in-depth report on your manufacturing process within a leading industry title may be shared widely amongst qualified industry experts. If you compare this to a product placement post in a national lifestyle article, the latter may not prove as valuable to your business in six months time.

Bear niche-relevance in mind when planning your future press releases. It’s always better to appeal to a targeted, niche audience. Journalists are busy — so give them the juicy bits fast.

Native advertising campaigns can also form part of your over digital PR strategy. These may not work for every brand under the sun. However, if you had a product you can relate to a topical news story, you could be onto a winning digital PR campaign. These types of posts mimic newspaper reportage, but include a link to your product or service.

If you genuinely want to position yourself as an industry expert and thought leader, you should also look further afield than article placements on leading blogs. Consider setting up a YouTube channel or speaking at conferences and events — they often make for natural PR opps.

Making The Most Of SEO: Beyond Links

Don’t get so caught up in PR and content placements that you forget about the rest of your SEO strategy.

Your site’s UX (user experience) and UI (user interface) are key to moving up the search engine result pages. You want your visitors to return in the future, so make sure you are creating the best, most engaging experience for their needs. Consider the information architecture of your pages. You could conduct a card-sorting exercise to help you determine which groups of pages and keywords best fit together to create a straightforward path to purchasing.

Gather your research and compare your findings to that of your closest competitors. Competitor analysis and media monitoring tools can help you identify the best topics to write about on your website. You will also need to insert keywords and phrases into your site’s title tags, meta descriptions, and alt tags to ensure that search engine crawlers can identify your site’s purpose quickly.

Gathering social proof will also help your page rank better in the search engine results as people tend to engage with sites that have genuine reviews and users already. For more detailed results, you can use a more in-depth paid tool like SEMRush; ranking data can help you identify any potential room for improvement, including which pages and products need a helping hand from reviews.

Social Media: Where Digital PR And SEO Meet

Social media will form an integral part of both your SEO and digital PR strategies, so learn how to make the most of it.

User-generated content can do a lot to improve your name online. Set up a branded hashtag and photo competition on your Instagram and Facebook account. This is a great way to drum up some free digital PR points for your brand. You can share the best entries on your blog and elsewhere on your networks.

Social influencer marketing will also allow you to spread your name to a new audience. Find popular accounts in your industry and look for sponsored post opportunities you can pay to take part in. Costs for setting up a sponsored campaign will vary depending on the popularity of the account. However, this can be a very affordable way to get your products seen by potentially hundreds of thousands of people.

Which One Should You Invest In?

Both. You need to have a solid SEO foundation that will allow you to explore link building and brand building opportunities in the form of digital PR.

But, you shouldn’t just judge a digital PR campaign by SEO standards and get fixated on links. There are plenty of other ways (brand awareness, partnerships, sales) that you can measure the value and track placement ROI.

You will need to ensure that your SEO game is strong when you first establish yourself as a brand. And, once the foundations are set, you can start to create digital PR campaigns that will launch you to household name status…

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