In our new eBook, Measuring PR Impact, we set forth a structure for measuring PR based on Brand, Digital and Bottom Line Impact. A significant portion of PR’s digital impact is related to search engine optimization, but understanding how PR efforts can contribute to higher search rankings is a challenge for many organizations. Here are the details of our approach and some advice for measuring SEO impact whether you use TrendKite or not.
The SEO Impact of PR
When someone is looking for a product like yours, you want to be sure that they find your website. That’s what SEO (search engine optimization) is all about. The higher you rank in Google and other search engines, the more likely you are to attract visitors. (Do you ever go past the second page of Google? We don’t either.) Public relations can significantly impact your search rankings. Media mentions are great for SEO, but mentions in some publications pull more weight than others. One link from a highly trafficked and respected website can move the needle when it comes to search. Links from less popular sites still help, but not quite as much.
We should point out that while most links are great for SEO, Google looks at some links from low domain authority sites as toxic. These “spammy” links can actually hurt your ranking, so if you discover them, be sure to disavow this kind of link so that they don’t work against your SEO efforts.
To understand how PR impacts search, you need to be well-versed in domain authority and backlinks.
Domain Authority is a scale that was developed by Moz. Each website is scored on a 100-point scale that predicts how well a website will rank in search engines. A long-established publication with high traffic, useful content, and frequent audience engagement will have a high Domain Authority. Links from sites with high Domain Authority will boost your ranking, so naturally, you’ll want to target publications with a high score. When you are putting together your pitch strategy, take a look at the publications in your field with the highest Domain Authority. It shouldn’t be the only consideration, but it is an important metric to keep in mind.
Backlinks are a kind of currency when it comes to digital brand impact. Getting more of them, on sites with high Domain Authority should be a priority for PR professionals. Mentions are great, but without backlinks, the impact is hard to measure PR's influence on search results. Besides, you want people to hear about your brand and then do something about it. Backlinks are crucial to SEO because if important publications and authors in the industry are talking about you, Google sees this as a sign that your content will be of use to searchers. This applies not only to websites, but to social media posts and influential blogs as well. Relevant backlinks are a key factor in Google’s ranking methodology. (This is why when you do a search for “Disneyland,” the first organic result is Disneyland’s official site, not the blog I wrote about my trip.)
When it comes to SEO, mentions can be more or less helpful based on a number of factors. We like to consider them in terms of Good, Better, and Best.
Good (Mention) - Someone says something positive about your band, but doesn’t provide a link. The person who reads it may gain a better impression of your brand, but they’d need to be motivated to do the work themselves to visit your site and learn more.
Example: ACME software is a useful tool for HR folks.
Better (Backlink) – There is a positive mention of your brand and a link to your website, social sites, or content is included. This makes it much easier (and more likely) that the reader will engage.
Example: ACME software makes my job easier.
Best (Relevant Anchor Text) – The best-case scenario happens when a positive mention includes a link using relevant anchor text for a term you want to rank for.
Example: ACME human resources software speeds the employee onboarding process.
How good, or great these links are depends on both how they are structured and the domain authority of the referring site, so when you track your SEO impact be sure to keep an eye on both. (Our eBook includes a handy spreadsheet for doing exactly that.)
A deep understanding of how PR impacts SEO can have a big impact on your communications strategy. Of course, it isn’t the only thing you should worry about, the other parts of the funnel matter as well, but it should be a top of mind concern for both driving your activities and measuring PR's impact.