As public relations experts, we work hard to secure mentions for our clients in the news and other media. I don’t have to argue that people are acquiring more of their news from online sources. And as more and more people get their information online, they do so in one of three ways:

  1. They read, see, or hear it on one of their favorite news, blog, video, or podcast websites
  2. They are referred to it by someone else through a medium such as email or social media
  3. They locate it in the search engines

The third way brings up an interesting question. Are PR agents prepared to help  their clients be  discovered in the search engines? Because if the “public” is moving online and the search engines are one of the main ways they discover new information, an expert in public relations must now become an expert in search engine results. But it doesn’t have to be a huge adjustment. In fact, many PR pros are already doing one of the toughest parts of search engine optimization, they just don’t know it. Let me explain…

There are two parts to every search engine optimization (SEO) strategy: onsite optimization and offsite optimization. Onsite optimization, or maximizing the target website characteristics so that it is properly categorized by the search engines, can get a bit technical but nothing a quick visit to WooRank won’t fix. Offsite optimization, however, can be much more difficult but is extremely important to achieve proper rankings. Offsite optimization is all about acquiring backlinks. Backlinks are those little blue links you see all over the web that take you to a new website when you click on them. The more backlinks a website has linking to it, the better it does in the search results.  And not just any backlink either, as the quality of the website where the backlink is located determines the value of that link. For example, a backlink pointing to your website from a newly created blog is worth nothing compared to a link pointing back to your website from a major online property such as The New York Times online.

Backlinks are the currency of the web when it comes to high rankings in the search engines. The more you have, the higher you rank. So search engine optimizers are always working hard to increase the amount of backlinks that point to their client’s website. Therefore, SEO is all about securing content and backlinks on somebody else’s property (blogs, websites, articles, etc). Now here is something that PR experts are already good at, although they are not looking to secure backlinks so much as their client’s information in the story. But as Google becomes more efficient at defeating unethical tactics used in the previous years by SEO experts and only awards backlink points to prominent blogs, news articles, and social media accounts – SEO specialists will better understand – and value – the media pitching skills of public relations experts.  The reverse is also true. Public relations agencies should ensure they know at least the basics of SEO to take advantage of the fact that major websites are already publishing their content, and hopefully, their client’s backlinks.