Did you know that as many as 93 percent of online experiences in 2016 began with a search engine? And because 94 percent of those searches started on Google (for mobile users), the Californian tech giant could quite easily become the sales team that drives your business. In this world where digital storytelling is all about including the right keywords so that an organisation’s brand story stands head and shoulders above the clutter, is public relations working in synergy with SEO to maximise an organisation’s visibility?
Amazon discovered how to do this a decade ago when it used a strong SEO strategy to establish a stronger online presence than all its brick-and-mortar rivals. In India, test prep company Online Tyari used the same SEO approach to build its brand, reaching 5 million users and establishing its complete domination over this market.
How good SEO makes better PR
While it may not be immediately apparent, both PR and SEO specialists are in fact driven by the same engine—quality content. Just like PR has to tell a compelling brand story, only high quality, relevant digital content can ensure top SEO ranking. This is no longer just about the right brand voice or keywords, but also about building powerful narratives. This is why Amazon did not just focus on SEO, it also developed innovative content in the form of informative blogs and original podcasts. These improved both search engine and brand visibility.
In this way, when done right, SEO and PR can work together to create the most impactful kind of brand visibility. However, content has to be well liked, and even respected, for SEO or PR to succeed.
And just like how good SEO increases the reach of PR storytelling, good PR can amplify content to improve your SEO ranking. After all, nothing improves search engine visibility like good PR that facilitates cross linking from respected ‘influencer’ websites. That’s why PR and SEO don’t just have similar goals, they are also interdependent. And if PR is all about earned media and third parties talking about a business, SEO is in fact the best avenue that PR professionals can use online to optimise their coverage.
Enter the digital CMO
Yet despite the interdependence of PR and SEO in digital storytelling, PR professionals and SEO experts still have to gain knowledge of the other domain in order to evolve the best program for their organisation. There must also be the realisation that good content is at the heart of the success of this collaboration.
The ‘digital’ CMO will now need to set joint goals for PR and SEO. Organisations will no longer be able to view PR as ‘traditional marketing’ and bifurcate SEO as ‘digital marketing’. In the future, marketing will have to be a vibrant confluence that combines both areas and unique skills.
But SEO and PR alignment becomes more complex when a company has a diversified business or multiple brands. While aligning the marketing goals of such an organisation has never been simple, the need to integrate a single strategy for SEO and PR increases complexity.
In this digital world, the very idea of a well told story is changing. PR professionals now have to skilfully build the right keywords into a campaign—from its messaging to press releases. Innovative stories will have to both mobilise an organisation’s ‘Google’ sales team and retain its audience’s attention. An organisation must unify its messaging, combining innovative PR storytelling with the precision of SEO research to have a consistent brand voice.
The synergy between PR and SEO also finds resonance in the changing role of the CMO. While in the past it has often been said that CMOs are more likely to lead digital transformation as compared to CIOs, a recent Gartner survey even predicts that CMOs will outspend CIOs on technology in 2017. So Apple’s Philip Schiller, who is among the most influential chief marketing officers in the world, does not just think about fact sheets or brochure, he is also credited with iPod’s initial click wheel interface. Clearly, if in the past, the role required a deep, rich and varied marketing experience, there is now an intersection of new skills. The CMO for the digital age will have to be a skilful marketer and a savvy technologist. Organisations that succeed in achieving this mix will tell the most impactful brand stories.