Why don’t all PR firms offer SEO services? The obvious answer a PR firm will give is “because we’re a PR firm” but seriously, do PR people understand how much impact their hard work has on their client’s search rankings?

Do they realise SEO is a £500m market in the UK?

This article aims to flesh out the opportunity for PR firms willing to innovate and offer a service that mixes the expertise of SEO and PR; for my sins, I refer to this service as search optimised PR (SOPR).

What the heck is SOPR?

SOPR can be loosely defined as offering SEO and PR services combined to extract the most value out of any media coverage generated. In the digital world this value can be construed as visits, page views, on-page time and ultimately conversions.

Thankfully I’m not a lone wolf here; there are plenty of articles out there that list how SEO and PR essentially work together to boost traffic to a client’s website. SEO agencies aim to rank you higher on search engines for selected keywords, PR agencies aim to increase your coverage in the media and further establish your company as a formidable player in your market.

The net result from both is more traffic to your little ol’ website.

Why SEO and PR should join forces now more than ever

Google continues to refine its mighty search engine in an effort to offer users the most relevant and accurate results to queries. I’ve blogged about how SEO needs to be approached differently in 2013, in particular mentioning the need for focusing on generating high quality content that people will happily share via their social networks. 

Google is beginning to ignore more and more backlinks from low quality domains. I know companies that have suffered decreases in search traffic to the tune of 50% because of this. Google will continue down this path and there’ll be many more similar case studies to come.

Scary stuff, but in the long run it’s beneficial for us all as we get to use a more responsive and helpful search engine. 

What’s needed? The answer: backlinks from high quality domains that people (and Google) trust. SEOmoz’s Open Explorer gives insight into how trustworthy linking-in domains are, and it’s always the major names in the media that appear at the top of the stack.

To illustrate this point, consider the below screenshot which shows the domain authority (basically a scale of 1-100 showing how well Google will rank a site) of five major media sites in the UK. 

SEOmoz Open Explorer

What this means is that any media coverage you get on these sites will send a shed-load of people to your website. I’ve experienced this personally, the BBC article about peer to peer lending caused a mass of visitors to our site, it was by a country mile the highest amount of visits we’ve had in a single day.

External links to your site from media monsters like this are gold dust.

Six tasty services SOPR agencies could offer

Tasty services 

What might a SOPR agency offer to its clients? The list is not exhaustive by all means but the menu of delicious SEO and PR goodness agencies could offer might include: 

1. Links from high quality domains that will significantly boost your search ranking

I can’t hammer this point home enough. It’s all about high quality sites linking in to your site. Well networked SOPR agencies will be able to liaise with the media sites that have the domain authority (power) to transform your search traffic and ultimately add to your bottom line.

2. Optimised press releases to boost rankings for specific keywords

Press releases that use links with anchor text containing keywords the client wants to rank for. Note: this must be done in a meaningful way. If Google see any keyword stuffing in press releases they’ll send the heavies round.

A helpful article on this is Mark Jackson’s press releases and search engine optimization

3. Coverage specific landing pages to increase conversions

PR isn’t all about press releases. For those articles that get published after PR people have chased journalists around the clock it would be a shame if they did not work equally as hard.

Landing pages can be created and ranked to receive traffic from media coverage to maximise the relevance of what the reader has just consumed to what they’re now seeing on your site. End result: an increase in conversions.

4. Case studies with real, measurable results proving ROI

Bingo! Analytics is one of the best and unique features of online marketing; it gives us the facts and figures to prove our work. PR folk can make use of this and show campaign KPIs such as visits and conversions to add real numerical weight to their pitches.

5. Traditional on-site SEO

If you hire an expert in the field of SEO it makes sense to extract as much value as possible. Marketing their core services (e.g. a website SEO audit) alongside SOPR could lead to a higher monthly service fee and increased year-end turnover.

6. Content marketing and inbound marketing

Hire an expert that has experience in SEO and content marketing and you’ll really be maximising your ROI. The good news is content marketing and SEO (and PR to a certain extent) are heavily intertwined so it’s an easy sell to offer alongside.


What I’m proposing is not a revolutionary concept, indeed there are PR firms already out there offering this.

Take for example Punch who believe they are “the first agency, globally, to offer truly integrated PR, Social Media and Search (SEO)”. The point is they are few and far apart, and from experience of dealing with various agencies it seems a very reasonable suggestion that PR and SEO agencies should join forces.

The combined package offers clients a more effective SEO and PR service as every single ounce of ranking power can be extracted.

As of today the internet has at least 14.52bn pages meaning ranking power has become a commodity that needs to be utilised in the most efficient way possible. SOPR might well be the answer.

Other helpful resources

Do you think SOPR agencies make sense?

What are your thoughts? PR people, can you see the opportunity? Are you already offering this, if so how is it going down with clients? 

SEO folk, fancy seeing yourself working for a PR firm? Or are you wanting to learn PR to offer this alongside SEO? Is it possible to be an expert in both fields?

Simon Hawtin

Published 14 February, 2013 by Simon Hawtin

Simon Hawtin is Marketing Executive at RateSetter and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

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Comments (12)

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Michaela Clement-Hayes

All true Simon. I deal with in-house PR and it's essential to combine PR with SEO and Social Media if you want decent results.
Press releases especially need to be cleverly crafted so that they have the correct level of keywords in without becoming nonsensical due to 'keyword stuffing'.
I've been saying this for years - now I know it has a name and I can call myself an expert in SOPR!

over 5 years ago


Nick Stamoulis

Some PR professionals have the contacts and "ins" that us SEO people only dream of getting over time. That's a huge advantage to your SEO program! Being able to connect with industry leaders, reporters, bloggers, etc gets you one step closer to placing powerful content with quality links.

over 5 years ago

Simon Hawtin

Simon Hawtin, Marketing Executive at RateSetter

Michaela: thank you for your comments and good to see your onside. Agree totally, a lot of novices will think to inundate their releases with keywords but this is not the way to do it. Glad you like the term SOPR!

Nick: thanks for commenting, the PR guys definitely do have an advantage with getting through to the publishers. This is why the opportunity seems so great for both fields to team up and maximise linkjuice from any media coverage generated.

over 5 years ago

Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith, Director at eschermanSmall Business

Hi Simon - the PR/SEO debate has been going on for ages - people like Chris Lee, James Crawford and myself have been banging on about it for the best part of six years. I don't think the PR sector still yet fully appreciates that Penguin and Panda have given PR a second chance to get in on the SEO game (or at least, the link building aspects).

The theory says that high trust, high authority sites are key to getting value from link building - and given that many of these sites are media properties you'd think that PR people already have the contacts, skills and relationships to get quality content placed in these places - certainly better equipped than your typical SEO person. However, if PRs don't ask for a link (or better, don't provide a good reason as to why a journalist should use the link they provide), then they are missing out on the additional SEO benefits their story placement deserves. Still - things are definitely better than they were - and progress may be slower than we'd like, but it is going the right direction.

On press releases and SEO, I've always thought that was a gigantic red herring. Kelvin Newman agrees - and he knows a thing or two:


But the analytics piece is clearly a key part of the puzzle. Good to see analytics experts like Justin Cutroni bring their not inconsiderable expertise to bear on PR:



For record, the term SEO PR has been around for over a decade. I think Greg Jarboe gets the credit for that: http://www.seo-pr.com/

over 5 years ago

Simon Hawtin

Simon Hawtin, Marketing Executive at RateSetter

James: thanks for your thoughts and also including some further material for the readers. Yes I don't disagree, I'm not the first to touch on this by all means. You'll see that I've linked to articles by both Chris Lee and James Crawford in my 'Other helpful resources' section. It was good to see some material on SEO PR already out there. I did do some searching around for the term SOPR but found very little.

Yes agree press releases can be overdone, and given how easy platforms like PRWeb and PR Newswire are to use the incentive for a quick-win seems too great to ignore for many. I think the key is to make sure it is newsworthy content and content that is likely to get a positive enough reaction to be shared. It's essential to keep in the mind the reader/end-user. Also, like Kelvin says, even if not at the forefront of an SEO strategy there is still link juice to be extracted.

Analytics simply allows proof of ROI, so it's fuel for a SOPR agency to show to clients that they can add to the bottom-line.

over 5 years ago

Simon Hawtin

Simon Hawtin, Marketing Executive at RateSetter

Andrew, sorry...I have no idea why I put James. Long week! Thanks again.

over 5 years ago

Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith, Director at eschermanSmall Business

No problem - I've been called worse ;)

We are in furious agreement - good weekend too.

over 5 years ago


Caroline Scotter Mainprize

Interesting article. As a PR consultant I am certainly building links with SEO experts as I can see that we have complementary skills. But I think I would be making a mistake if I were to sell myself as an SOPR (even if I had the SEO expertise myself).

Don't forget that search engine rankings are not the be-all and end-all. Many organizations have a range of different PR and indeed marketing objectives in which search engine rankings are entirely irrelevant. Not only that, but in some areas, such as media relations, taking an SEO approach can actually work against you. Press releases, for example, are written to interest journalists in a newsworthy story. An 'optimized' press release with a general reader in mind is just not going to be as effective. Witness all those press releases published on PRWeb etc. which have not been picked up and translated into stories anywhere else at all. Maybe they contribute to SEO, but they're not good PR.

over 5 years ago

Andrew Smith

Andrew Smith, Director at eschermanSmall Business

@Caroline - good points. You can always tell when a press release has been mangled by crude SEO. In spite of Google explicitly saying it wants to see links in a "natural, editorial-style context". On that basis, not even sure that those so called "optimised" press releases on PR Web, etc even deliver any SEO value either.

over 5 years ago

Simon Hawtin

Simon Hawtin, Marketing Executive at RateSetter

Caroline: thank you for your comments, and good to hear your network of SEO associates is growing. I think the idea of offering the SOPR service would be a niche offering within the PR world. I completely understand where you are coming from, indeed some companies would not reap the benefit from optimised PR work. However, that said the internet is becoming more and more integrated into our daily lives and businesses too so I think it will be a growing trend. Press releases must put the reader at heart and cause people to link to, share and rewrite gaining linkjuice this way. See comments below to Andrew and link.

Andrew: as above though there is no room for keyword stuffed (junk) press releases. I've been reading that Google's Matt Cutts stated that press releases have no SEO value directly. The value instead comes from the excellent releases that people create articles from, link to, and share via social networks.

If you haven't already have a look at http://www.seroundtable.com/google-press-release-links-16136.html.

over 5 years ago


Adrian Johnson

Anyone any idea how much, if at all, Google penalises the page authority of media websites that have a paywall (FT, Times, NY Times, et al)?

over 5 years ago

Charles Taylor

Charles Taylor, SEO Manager at Costume SuperCenter

@Adrian Johnson - It's not really a penalty. If Google can't crawl a page because of a paywall then none of those pages will get scored with PageRank. If a large section of a site has now PageRank that will have a ripple effect across the whole site - meaning authority that normally would have passed around does not get distributed.

almost 5 years ago

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