Don’t invest in PR if all you want is an SEO boost
Around one in every 10 small businesses that approach us want to see if we can boost their search engine rankings. If you’re hell bent on building links in order to bump yourself up to page one of Google, we’re not the PR agency for you. Here, we shall endeavour to explain why…
First off, it’s worth mentioning that press coverage does have a positive influence on SEO. Mentions and links to your website from authoritative, reputable sites is a top-three factor in Google’s ranking system (according to a search quality senior strategist at the company).
Online articles that feature your business will often include a hyperlink to your website and, even if they don’t, Google’s algorithm recognises mentions as ‘implied links’ anyway.
But the SEO benefit of media coverage is just one of several that come from a solid gold PR strategy. Too many small businesses overlook the more obvious one (probably because it’s harder to quantify): trust and credibility in their brand. People ultimately engage with and buy from brands they are familiar with and, therefore, trust more. Being cited in the press, particularly in publications that are well-respected and read by your customers, helps grow awareness and highlights your expertise in your sector (top tip: if you’re not sure what kind of thing your audience reads, watches or listens to, ask them!). A 2021 report by WSJ Intelligence, looking at how B2B buyers make buying decisions, confirmed that trust and confidence in a brand is enhanced by ongoing media exposure. More than two thirds (68%) of decision makers say they trust content about brands more in business news or trade media sources than they do content from brands directly or on their websites.
Why is this important? The same survey found that when considering who to buy from, only 17% of companies evaluated more than four providers during their search, and by the time they’d whittled their list down to make a final decision, the vast majority were making a binary choice between two prospects.
Especially where large sums of money are involved (B2B) buyers will go for the safe option, every time. And ‘safe’ tends to mean the best-known.
So, to have skin in the game, you need a powerful, instantly recognisable brand.
But gaining credibility doesn’t happen overnight. Warren Buffet famously said it takes 20 years to build a reputation (and just five minutes to ruin it). While that’s slightly overstating it, PR is certainly a long-term investment.
So a rush of media mentions when you’ve got a zeitgeisty new product or service to shout about, and then going quiet, isn't going to cut it. You need to achieve a steady and consistent presence year round.
Good PR people know how to keep the coverage coming in after the initial flurry from first-to-market hype, celebrity attention, or a successful seed funding round.
They can hijack the news agenda with well-crafted reactions packed with media-friendly sound bites, as well as setting the news agenda, by finding real-life stories from within your customer database, mining your user data for insights, or writing surveys that bring trends to life. And they’ll keep your voice and message consistent (an important component of brand building).
You’ll need to be patient and willing to commit, as you’re unlikely to see hard returns on your investment in the short term.
Over time, though, you’ll start to see a snowball effect. Online coverage is the gift that keeps on giving when you share it with your customers, social media audience, stakeholders or potential investors.
Stories that appear in one publication can get picked up by other media – especially if you’re proactive and help repackage the story to fit a journalist’s specific requirements. For example, a story that’s run online with a photograph of a case study has been picked up by a broadcast journalist. Broadcasters need willing interviewees and an interesting location to shoot in, one that reflects the story that’s being told. What can you offer?
And, as your reputation as a trusted spokesperson on a relevant topic builds, and you begin to develop relationships with journalists, you may start being sought out to give commentary on news stories of the day without having to offer.
None of this will harm your SEO strategy. On the contrary, accumulating press mentions will enhance your authority in the eyes of Google and likely drive more traffic to your website. But investing in a PR strategy and committing to seeing it through means understanding its real value and setting your expectations accordingly.