Article

Louise Findlay-Wilson
Louise Findlay-Wilson 2 September 2020

PR: The Future of Search Engine Optimisation

How can you develop an effective long-term SEO strategy for your ecommerce business when the algorithms are always changing? Susannah Morgan, Deputy Managing Director at Energy PR, explains why traditional PR is the answer...

SEO is hard to keep up with.  Best practice changes constantly as the search engine algorithms are updated and improved. 

Search algorithms are designed to find what users are looking for.  They started off relatively simple and grow with complexity over time as they are tweaked to do a better job, meaning there used to be more opportunity for people looking to rank “unnaturally” highly to find and exploit weaknesses in the algorithms, but that’s getting more and more difficult as time goes on.

Once upon a time it was all about backlinks, but whether they were legitimately sourced or not was of no real concern.  The SEO power of a small number of high-quality backlinks could easily be replicated by an enormous quantity of low-quality backlinks, and so an entire economy sprung up revolving around paying someone to paste links back to your site on every website on the internet that had a comments section. 

These days, while high-quality backlinks are still extremely powerful, spamming is penalised.  The intention behind these algorithm tweaks is to make sure search engine users searching, say, “Pet Shop Boys discography” find the Wikipedia page for the Pet Shop Boys’ discography, and not a pet food website that just so happens to be managed by a marketing team that are funnelling so much cash into their SEO backlinks as to be competing for irrelevant clicks.  

While that change may result in fewer monthly website visits for Pets R Us, the extra clicks they got previously were from people who never wanted pet food in the first place, so really it’s a good thing for everyone.

And that’s the bottom line really, SEO algorithms are in a constant state of evolution specifically to help users find what they are actually looking for.  While there might be a few tricks you can play to short-circuit the Robots.txt right now, eventually the algorithm will get wise, and you might even be penalised for trying to cut corners. 

While lots of SEO agencies and even their clients still talk about SEO in terms of “hacking the system”, the reality is modern SEO efforts are just about earnestly generating a usable site that is useful to the people using search engines to find what they need.  

So, after you’ve genuinely made a great website with a usable layout, how do you go about improving your SEO by leaps and bounds with regular activity and high-quality backlinks without cheating in some way?  The answer is, with PR.

Historically PR was all about leveraging the news agenda to get a journalist to do your marketing for you, getting eyes on your company and products packaged up in what feels like a third-party endorsement. 

Modern PR is still like this, but with news outlets going digital, it’s also about boosting traffic to your website and vastly improving your Google performance with extremely high-quality backlinks.  It can also be leveraged for blog and social content, and the philosophy of PR can be used to improve other elements of online marketing.

For example, you can implement the third-party-endorsement philosophy of PR by writing up successes as case studies, and prompting happy customers to leave Google reviews, which massively boosts your SEO.

Media relations provides a great opportunity to generate really powerful backlinks to your site, but just like with traditional PR, you need to make sure there is an onward chain or “sales funnel” from there.  On your blog it’s well within your power to make the next piece of relevant content easily accessible from the last, you’re missing a trick when each page just links back to the homepage.

PR can also serve as the foundation to broker partnerships, either with likeminded brands or with suitable influencers.  Partnerships with vegan bloggers for example, could be a great opportunity for a plant-based food company to reach their intended audience.

The other great thing about PR, when compared with black-hat SEO, is that it is relatively low risk and simple to implement, provided you dodge some common missteps.  

These missteps include having no long-term strategy, lacking focus, being inconsistent, getting your tone of voice wrong and limiting your activity to too few communications channels. 

The trick to avoiding these missteps is to have a solid plan, be authentic and get under the skin of your audience, applying the philosophy of PR to all the communications channels open to you.

PR really is the only future-proofed SEO strategy, because it generates real backlinks, true endorsements and authentic interest in your business.  If you’re not using PR as part of your external comms toolbox, you’re missing a trick more now in the digital age than ever.

For more information about how to kick-start a PR strategy to benefit your ecommerce business, visit - https://www.energypr.co.uk/expertise/driving-your-e-commerce-businesses

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