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August 5, 2016

PR & SEO – One “Old-School” Secret to Amazing SEO Results

Author: Valerie Baker

PR and SEO, how one of the oldest marketing tools is breathing new life into the largest change in the last decade.

Is your website “optimized,” are you writing consistently, but not seeing the results you’d like from SEO and just CAN’T seem to edge out your competition when it comes to that ONE term you know you want to rank for (and know will bring in much more business)? Well, it turns out the secret to edging past your competitors, and rocketing to #1 on Google, may be simpler (and older) than you might think.

I had the pleasure recently of attending a seminar by an old friend, Neil Patel, who is considered one of the most knowledgeable people on Internet Marketing. Hell – his website ranks #1 on any given day for “internet marketing” internationally. We started our careers around the same time and connected – and back then I knew he was special, and has gone on to build some of the largest and most successful SEO and Internet marketing-centered businesses in the world. And he’s stayed true to his roots, both staying up-to-date with and concentrating on digital marketing (and primarily SEO). In his seminar he discussed a number of techniques, but one that really stood out is the one that I’m going to discuss and add-to here.

Google (and Other Search Engines) Have Gotten REALLY Smart

We’ve written about this before, most-notably Sammi’s post on Google’s Knowledge Graph, what it is and how it can GREATLY impact your bottom line.  One of the larger take-aways of that post, and the search market and technological progress in general is that machine learning, AI, and other advances are allowing networks like Google to more fully (and accurately) understand entities and their real-world connections.

Again, another correlation I draw here is to our work on local SEO and ratings/reviews on Local SEO – which has overtaken much of our business as so many entities are hyper local, and their search market isn’t the entire country, but 5 miles from their central location. Social networks, IYP (internet yellow pages) and rating sites and directories (along with REAL reviews) are allowing networks and search engines to fully understand real-world entities and businesses.

And both of these things are VERY important when it comes to SEO, but they’re not the whole picture – although they scratch the surface of what’s going on. Major data networks, and the software that is analyzing all of the connections, interactions, and data on them are getting VERY smart so smart in fact, I would argue (at least in some ways) it approaching some kind of consciousness (but that’s a topic for a different post…). But, what this means for your business is that many OLD-SCHOOL marketing techniques can now have a major impact on your business.

Let’s jump back to testimonials and reviews as an example. For years this has been true. Zagat started in the late 70’s and has been THE rating system for restaurants for decades. Diners skimmed it’s pages and subscribed to this service for the best restaurants. Fast-forward to today and Zagat (now owned by Google interestingly) offers a similar service, albeit digitally – and users are still looking for reviews and information on the restaurants they’re thinking of dining at (or turn to it’s “pages” for where to dine next). And restaurants that are better (similar to the old-school published directories) come up first. This is as true as ever with today’s reviews. The more positive reviews you have as a restaurant (and virtually any business) the more likely you’re going to rank #1 for your industry.

But, this goes further. What’s the one item (after general optimization) that can skyrocket your rankings?

Old School PR

Yup. Public Relations, the nearly 100 year-old industry and idea created by Edward Bernays, nephew to Sigmund Freud, is – Atilus would argue – the greatest single tool in anyone’s arsenal when it comes to SEO.

Side note: Edward Bernays was a VERY interesting character: He felt this manipulation was necessary in society, which he regarded as irrational and dangerous as a result of the “herd instinct” that Trotter had described.[2] Adam Curtis’s award-winning 2002 documentary for the BBC, The Century of the Self, pinpoints Bernays as the originator of modern public relations, and Bernays was named one of the 100 most influential Americans of the 20th century by Life magazine.[3]

Check out his Wikipedia, or watch this amazing documentary some day, it’s absolutely AMAZING the impact he and his Uncle had on the 20th century, and Edward’s impact on American culture and consumerism …

Public Relations, is the process and industry that has grown up around getting companies and individuals publicity, by working hand-in-hand with the press. Many of our clients are fairly new to marketing, and have made a big leap from start-up to successful business, and PR has either come naturally (as a matter of their success) or, because they’ve made the leap straight to digital, it hasn’t been a part of their marketing mix at all. In many cases our clients find PR to be a marketing tactic only employed by the largest companies looking to sway or mold public opinion. But, this is simply not the case, and PR – at every level – can make or break a company’s digital marketing goals.

And, as we’ve seen, and as Mr. Patel mentioned in a few of his own posts as well as his latest online seminar on SEO, PR and Branding is one of the largest things a company can do right now to bolster their Search Engine Optimization.

PR & SEO (Public Relations & Search Engine Optimization)

Public relations as it pertains to the online space is pretty simple to grasp, although it’s only really been made possible with the ever increasing power and intelligence of the massive data and computing networks at major search engines like Google.

In the good-ole-days (just a couple of years ago), one of the biggest ways to increase SEO were links – ideally a link from an outside website to your own. This communicated value to Google. Although it still does, the rules are changing.

Here’s an example: Let’s say I’m a cleaning business and one of my clients writes about me on their blog and links back to my website. This is communicating to Google, there’s a relationship between these two entities, give this cleaning company credit because they’re receiving a link from this other website. Search engines also read a lot into the context of the digital relationship (trying to convert that to real world meaning). For example, WHAT EXACTLY did the article say? What words were used? What was the link like? What page, specifically did the link go to on my cleaning website?

All of this communicates meaning and helps bolster my cleaning company’s search engine optimization.

PR & SEO works the same way, however it’s no longer as important to actually receive the link.

Essentially Google and other search engines know who you are, what your company is, what it’s all about, and has an idea of what/where to rank you. They are now watching everything mentioned about you, when it happened, and deriving meaning from this.

And what we’ve found is you may not get the rankings you feel you deserve, unless you start to do some additional PR.

By performing activities that are synonymous with conventional PR (branding activities, community service, media outreach) and receiving the corresponding spotlight these efforts afford (article mentions, tweets, etc.) – Google is able to connect the dots and infer that your company is more active, more well-known and respected for the items you’re attempting to rank for (and associated with in their database).

Real World PR and SEO Example

Let me demonstrate this more simply and also demonstrate how this applies both locally and nationally.

As a backdrop our company and website ( has not been trying to compete locally for business for sometime. There are a number of business reasons behind this, but we’ve concentrated more on ranking State-Wide (we’re the top ranked Web Design Company in Florida) as well as nationally for a number of categories (top ranked for Construction Web Design as well as some other major searches).

We’ve let our local rankings slide as we’ve optimized for these state and national terms. We used to be number 1 for:

But in recent years have slid a number of places and for Fort Myers we were recently ranking #16.

After going through a massive period of depression, where it was nearly impossible to get out of bed, I eventually repaired my finger tips (sore and bloody from constantly hitting refresh on my keyboard hoping our rankings would grow) – and got to work…

YP Portal 

Recently we had the opportunity to work alongside Lee County officials, Young Professional organizations, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, Chico’s and Lee Memorial Health System to create a Young Professional Portal.

Read all about the process and project here, but in a nutshell it’s a place for young people to discover the activities and opportunities Southwest Florida has to offer.

Luckily, our local newspaper – the Fort Myers New-Press (the Fort Myers part is important here) picked up the portal, created a story, documented the efforts, and gave us a mention along with the word “web site.”

Overnight our rankings went from #16 to #7 (literally less than 24 hours), and have since inched even higher to an average of #4.

It’s important to note a few things here:

  • Web Design is hyper competitive with hundreds of competitors in each geographic region.
  • We DON’T actually work in Fort Myers (our office is in Bonita) – this makes it especially hard to rank for local searches because of the preferential treatment businesses receive when their office is physically located in the city they’re trying to rank.
  • Our website is NOT heavily (barely) optimized for Fort Myers
  • All of the other competitors in our space are heavily (technically) optimized for fort myers

PR & SEO Take-Aways

So what’s the bottomline here? 

My next post I’ll outline a complete strategy and actionable list on local SEO, and in particular, how to utilize PR to gain ranking, but for now – here are some major take-aways:

  • PR greatly affects SEO
  • AFTER the technical has been setup (and you’ve determined some keywords are valuable for you) PR is a great place to concentrate on
  • PR can be that magic weapon that helps you rocket in front of your competitors
  • PR can be particularly helpful in a particularly competitive (or digitally competitive) niche
  • If you’re paying attention – you can pretty clearly quantity your PR efforts (and expenses) against results
  • PR is all about relationships and creativity, nothing will ever trump this!

Valerie Baker

Valerie is the Senior Account Manager & Project Manager here at Atilus.

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