Oh I remember the early days of t’internet (cue nostalgic music). Life was easy. You could simply add a links page to your website, swap links with a few businesses in the same industry and bingo – Google instantly boosted you up the rankings.
OK – it was probably never quite that straightforward. But SEO in 2004, when I started, was a doddle compared to today’s complex landscape. Today links have to be earned and the sheer volume of content means only the noisiest get noticed.
SEO can no longer be left to the geeks
One thing that’s become clear over the last few years is that PR is an essential part of your SEO strategy. Links from quality websites still count (a lot) and to get those you need to promote yourself and your business. Does someone get a guest blog opportunity or their article shared because they have the best content? No – it’s because they have taken the time and effort to build a following, reach out to “influencers” and promote themselves.
In the old days, teams of SEO geeks would create link networks and dodgy blogs – and never needed to actually talk to real people. Nowadays, it’s all about outreach, engagement and connections.
PR in the digital age
Of course, PR has changed too. It’s no longer just sending out press releases and hoping for a newspaper or magazine article. Blogs have become super-important and social media plays a huge role.
The big plus is that a PR campaign can continue to pay dividends for years due to the high quality links gained. Yesterdays news is no longer forgotten in the recycling bin.
Get a PR strategy in place
Once you have the basics of your SEO in place – a well structured and properly optimised website, a relevant blog which you update regularly – then it’s time to really get going with PR.
One thing every small business should have is a list of key influencers. These could be bloggers, local business leaders, industry gurus, celebrities.
Make sure you follow them on social media, share their content and interact with them. Then when you have something important you want to pitch to them, they will already know your name and be receptive.
It’s perfectly possible to do your own PR without hiring an agency. You will need to dedicate time to it and be consistent and persistent to get good results. But often you are the person best placed to promote your business.
If you do decide to use a PR agency, then make sure they understand SEO (many don’t). To be effective, you need to use the right keywords within content and link to the appropriate web pages. Make sure they know that high quality links are a priority. And also that paid for content and placements should always use NoFollow links to avoid Google penalties.