Once upon a time, in a pre-integrated era, PR and search engine optimisation (SEO) existed as two distinct entities, particularly in the financial services industry. Rarely were the two spoken of in the same breath. Traditional PR was the popular princess with the hair and the heels, and SEO was the bespectacled frog that no one gave a second look. Now, they’re walking down the aisle ready to exchange vows. What’s changed?
Well, Google’s search results ranking algorithm, for one. It’s constantly evolving. While no one could tell you exactly what it is, we do know that having your title tags in place, meta descriptions optimised and internal link structures organised can only get you so far. Now, to rank well on Google, much more importance is placed on quality of content, relevance and influential people talking about you. Sound familiar?
Then there’s the fact that page 1 of Google search results is the new “the front page”. Building and protecting your financial services brand’s image now requires a new, integrated approach, because it’s become pretty clear that your search results and reputation are directly linked.
Both PR and SEO are, after all, about reaching the right people, making strategic connections and creating visibility for your brand, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise.
We can think of modern marketing activities as divided into two approaches: there’s outbound marketing, which PR falls under, along with traditional advertising. Then there’s inbound marketing, in which SEO plays a leading role. Outbound marketing primarily revolves around creating new demand for your brand/product, whereas inbound marketing taps into existing demand by making your site easily found, letting your customers come to you. Employing both approaches in your integrated marketing strategy gives rise to a decidedly more holistic plan of attack for market penetration.
We’re sure you get the theory by this point … But where to start in practice?
Try these ways to bring PR and SEO together – and you’ll really see a difference.
1. Strategically plan and own your content
Most SEO strategies start with conducting in-depth keyword research and deciding which search terms would be most beneficial for your business, based on relevance to the solution you are offering, search volume and level of competition.
Another way to use those keywords is to inform your brand’s media strategy - including your media angles, editorial calendar and proprietary or commissioned research reports. Knowing what people want to know is key to getting published and quoted in the media - journos and publications only cater to their audiences' interests after all.
Established publications' websites often have solid domain authorities (DA), which means they typically come up as the top search results. Use this to your advantage by including your target keywords in company media releases, and training your spokespeople to use them in interviews. This essentially serves to optimise publishers' content about your company, which helps you be found for those keywords and strengthens your credibility in association with those topics.
2. Build a strong backlink profile
With the shift in Google’s algorithm to a greater focus on quality content, links from external sites count as votes of confidence for your site. These “votes” are heavily weighted to favour links from reputable sources, so getting links from a mainstream news site such as the AFR (DA = 84/100) and The Australian (DA = 89/100) would do wonders for your site’s SEO. Flex those media relations muscles and remember to include links to your content in press releases.
Bloggers and other online influencers are the new magazines and news outlets. They come with huge, highly engaged followings, ready to be tapped into. Engaging in an influencer strategy makes sense from both SEO and PR perspectives since it would help raise your brand’s profile as well as generate strong backlinks.
PR and SEO teams should put their expertise together to pick the right influencers in the financial services industry to work with. Through an SEO lens, influencers can be identified using quantitative factors such as online following, retweet ratios and website domain authority; while a PR lens can be applied to filter the shortlist based on industry intel, alignment of values and strength of existing relationships. Best practice for communication and relationship-building from PR can then be applied to executing that outreach.
4. Know where to place your bets
Through your site analytics, track the quality of visitors from each outlet. From our launch of a fintech app, we learned that even though certain news outlets drew larger amounts of traffic, the average session duration was low and bounce rates high. With our ultimate objective being conversions, engaged visitors mattered more than sheer volume and we steered our focus to publications that might drive less, but higher quality traffic instead.
5. Measure and quantify your PR efforts
Historically, the results of PR have been difficult to track. How precisely can one measure brand awareness? Public sentiment? Tallying media placements, reach and mentions serves to measure potential, not outcomes. Our digital savvy now allows us to put a figure on the percentage increase in branded searches, as a direct result of increased brand awareness, and the volume of traffic gained from links in earned media. Setting goals in Google Analytics gives us the low-down on conversion figures, attributed to each source. Back your hard work up with similarly hard figures.