In the past SEO, content marketing and PR have all lived on separate islands fending for themselves, offering different opportunities and solutions. Thanks to Google’s Penguin and Panda algorithm updates, not forgetting the millions of bloggers out there who love to keep telling us, it’s no secret that times have changed and that SEO, content marketing and PR are falling under the same umbrella.
So how does this all work?
In brief, SEO and PR now have almost identical goals. Gaining earned media, as well as creating informative, engaging and relevant content that’s suitable for the target audience. SEO has moved beyond just link building and nasty black hat techniques. The days of SEO footers, link farms and hidden content are well and truly a thing of the past.
Previously I’ve written about creating interesting content including interactive infographics and how they’re great at engaging audiences. Reaching out to relevant journalists to get these placed has been a fascinating experience with some being featured on The Guardian and further afield. Now it’s time to look at how PR and SEO are evolving together.
Times are changing
As a content manager, I’ve seen my particular role move further away from SEO and more into the PR world. Establishing relationships with key influencers and making friends with journalists and editors across the media has become a necessity. The line between PR and SEO is so thin now it’s hard to see the difference.
It’s about much more than just trying to win guest posts and getting articles placed though. The media can provide you with fantastic opportunities for PR stunts that can be done offline, with rewards being brought online.
Let me show you some examples.
As I’ve mentioned previously, one of our clients has one of the least glamorous businesses around – car parks. Creating engaging content is a key focus for us to help them achieve their overall objectives. We’re always plotting and planning, creating ideas for articles and cool new interactive content, but it was time to move beyond this. We sat down with the client, spoke about what we’ve achieved so far including rankings and traffic, and decided to put some ideas on the table.
Whilst the existing work we were doing for them was good and the results were great, it was time to try something different.
Bonkers for conkers
Along came the ‘Bonkers for Conkers’ PR stunt. The concept was simple; create a promotion where drivers using various car parks in Manchester and Leeds could pay for their parking using conkers (horse chestnuts). Following the promotion, the conkers would then be donated to a local nature reserve.
This may seem like a pretty crazy idea, but the rewards were incredible. We started out by creating a press release featuring links to the client’s website as well as important keywords, and sending it out to several local media outlets. This was just the start.
Following publication in the Yorkshire Evening Post, online and offline, the story was picked up by the national press. Articles were featured on the websites for the Daily Mail, Manchester Confidential, The Metro and many more. It then gathered even more pace with coverage from the BBC, ITN, TIME.com, Fox News, and various news outlets across the world. It went truly viral.
The results saw hundreds of new visits and links to the Town Centre Car Parks website, thousands and thousands of Tweets and Facebook comments, and an increased awareness of the brand.
Fight the power
Following the success of the ‘Bonkers for Conkers’ campaign, we ran another PR stunt for the same client. Leeds City Council recently introduced new evening and Sunday parking charges throughout the city (previously free) causing outrage in the local area.
Our response was to cook up a PR stunt that could ride the wave of this news story. Using a hashtag titled #welovefreeparking, we offered drivers the chance to park for free at one of TCCP’s car parks during evenings for a week prior to Christmas as a “Christmas comes early” style idea. Not only that, £1 for every car taking part in the promotion was donated to the Teenage Cancer Trust charity.
Press releases were sent out to local media outlets, blogs and websites, with visitors encouraged to visit the TCCP website where they would pick a date to attend and fill in a simple form to access free parking.
Whilst this promotion was on a much smaller scale than the previous campaign, it still used the media to link to the TCCP website driving additional traffic, increasing authority, increased brand awareness and social media interactions.
What’s the return?
For this particular client, the return was sizeable. For something of minimal cost to the client, they received an incredibly large amount in return. As well as receiving an incredible amount of traffic to the site at the time, year on year visits to the TCCP website have pretty much doubled. This has resulted in higher search engine rankings and an incredible improvement in season ticket sales across all of their car parks, one of their main objectives. Not only that, the brand awareness has grown with a large social presence additionally.
SEO, content marketing and PR are closer than they’ve ever been before. The goals are incredibly similar and the processes are identical. Here are some of my tips if you’re thinking of putting together a new campaign:
- Use current affairs to your advantage: Current affairs can be ideal to latch on to. Our examples of using the environment and local news as our angle proved to be a success. They may not relate to your business or client, but they can help to meet your objectives.
- Measure: Keep track of everything you’re doing. If you get an influx of traffic when something is published through a particular media outlet, make a note of it. Use annotations on Google Analytics to note the referral when you see spikes.
- Make it interesting: Nobody wants to see the same things they’ve seen hundreds of times. Make sure your ideas are original and you’ll see an amazing response.
- Value: Make sure that what you’re creating or doing is of value to people. Whether emotive or practical, it needs to hook them in. Our solutions were to offer free parking in a city centre – it was a low cost to the client, but fantastic for consumers.