The Trouble with PR Links

By: Guest | February 14, 2012 | 

Today’s guest post is written by John-Henry Scherck.

He apologizes today’s post isn’t very romantic, but he hopes it woos some PR hearts. 

There has been a great deal of chatter in the search community about PR vs. SEO, or how PR campaigns can supplement the link building done by SEO.

The idea that a PR campaign can take the place of an SEO campaign is simply not true.

Having PR and SEO initiatives are great for your business and PR teams can generate tons of links to help boost your rankings. But the links PR produces don’t normally retain value over time.

Don’t get me wrong, I will take a powerful link any day, but when you get a link from a CNN or a HuffPo (or any site that publishes content non-stop) a lot of the value the individual link passes to your site diminishes over time.

Google has made big efforts to let users know their algorithm promotes new content, and recently rolled out a “Freshness Update.” All other factors being equal, links from fresher content are more valuable than links on older posts – especially on websites that publish a lot of content.

To get a little technical: When your link is on the homepage of a notable website, a ton of link juice (i.e. ranking fuel) is flowing into your site. Link juice hits the homepage and trickles down (it’s very Reaganesque) to the rest of the site and through its outbound links. When your link is on the homepage it is awash in a sea of link juice.

As time goes on and your link moves into the site’s archives the link rapidly loses value because it is not situated on a part of the site that has a lot of inbound links. A two-year old link in a Gawker post is still a solid link and will help build overall domain authority, but it’s nothing compared to how powerful it was when it was first published.

If you want to rank, it’s not enough to have only inbound links; you need your links to have anchor text with your keywords. When I am link building for my company’s site, instead of getting branded links (i.e. Digital Third Coast) I always shoot for links with keywords such as Chicago Internet marketing.

But asking for links with keywords can start an awkward conversation when you are dealing with established publications. I have heard of editors no longer interested in covering stories because anchor text was requested. PR links can drive traffic and the stories themselves can be a huge benefit in terms of exposure and branding. However, they rarely contain the targeted anchor text crucial for ranking. Journalists and editors are aware of SEO…and most of them are not interested in helping you outrank your competitors.

Static (SEO) Links Vs. Blog Post (PR) Links

In order to maintain competitive rankings you need powerful links on static web pages. Because their value doesn’t rapidly diminish over time, links from those boring niche directories are key when it comes to achieving rankings. A PR team is going to find links that build your brand, drive traffic, and promote your business. An SEO is (hopefully) going to build links that will get your site ranking well and retain value over time.

Finding the Balance

SEO has changed a lot in the past few years – now you must earn your rankings. You need a high quality site that truly deserves the number one spot, not just the site with the most inbound links with targeted anchor text.

If your company doesn’t connect to other businesses, promote content on the web, engage in social media, or involve itself in the community, does it really deserve to outrank your competitors?

Link building shouldn’t focus only on SEO, or on PR. You need to find a healthy full circle approach to marketing that covers your bases and helps your company increase its inbound leads, solidifying its brand.

Having a PR team is great, and hiring an SEO agency is a solid move, but having a PR team that works in conjunction with your SEO agency is one of the most beneficial steps you can take to grow your company’s overall web presence.

John-Henry Scherck is an Organic Web Strategist with Digital Third Coast (Twitter), a leading Chicago Internet Marketing Firm. When he’s not building links, formulating strategy or doing keyword research he enjoys cooking and wasting time on

  • Where is @LeoWid to fix this buffer button 😉

    Sorry that was off topic, but I hate link topic seo posts, maybe because I hate linkbuilding 😉

    • DTCchicago

      @keithbloemendaal Link building can be rough, I know your pain all to well 😉

      • @DTCchicago Not so much that it’s “rough”, but that too many people call looking for SEO, you know “I need some links” kind of calls.

        • @keithbloemendaal@DTCchicago Actually, we held @LeoWid off on fixing the buffer button because we were making some changes to the site, but I’m ready for him now, so we’ll fix it. 🙂 thanks for the reminder.

        • DTCchicago

          @keithbloemendaal Well, that’s an unfortunate side effect of hack SEOs that lack tact. Trust me, if I sent you a link request – it would be “an offer you couldn’t refuse” – because I would entice you with some quality content that would add to your site. Unless you just aren’t accepting guest content, then I wouldn’t bother you in the first place 🙂

        • @DTCchicago @keithbloemendaal Yep – there’s a big difference. We get pitched often for guest content and it’s clear when they are just looking for the link.

          Don’t get me wrong, we’re happy to provide links for great content, and to someone who is interested in being a part of the community, but when it’s someone who just wants to post a bland article for the SEO, we kindly decline.

        • @Lisa Gerber @DTCchicago @keithbloemendaal It all comes down to a properly executed pitch, eh? 😉

          It’s interesting to see how attitudes about link-building have changed. I remember the first slew of link-exchange requests that came across in my blog comments. It was painfully obvious what they were doing. It felt – and was – slimy.

        • DTCchicago

          @jasonkonopinski @Lisa Gerber @keithbloemendaal Blerg… link exchanges make me cringe. It’s funny, you still seem people asking for them today, but any moderately experienced SEO will tell you that link exchanges will weaken your SEO. I wish the SEO-hacks of the world would read up a bit before asking for links that will hurt everyone involved.

        • @DTCchicago @jasonkonopinski @Lisa Gerber Actually, I am talking about people that call me for an SEO package and they think all that means is they are buying links, usually links are the last part of my SEO programs because most sites need way more work before even getting to that point….

          I don’t sell links, I provide digital marketing solutions…..

          “Direction, not intention, equals destination.”

        • DTCchicago

          @keithbloemendaal @jasonkonopinski @Lisa Gerber I will admit that I am a link heavy SEO. I love links. I like building them, I like creating content that earns them and I love the payoff that they provide. For me, link building and achieveing rankings and conversions is like a big puzzle… or a trip to Vegas.

          However, every client that comes through the doors of Digital Third Coast has their website examined with a fine toothed comb. SEO is not just link building. On-site SEO is a huge piece of the puzzle… that’s why it can be very difficult to work with clients who refuse to change certain elements of their website (like iframes – note to anyone getting a website: never ever ever ever use iframes!)

  • HeatherTweedy

    Great, concise post about the difference between PR and SEO. Wonderful to read a post that had a PR & SEO instead of PR vs. SEO approach! When a cohesive strategy is built, everything should work well with each other.

    I think the desire to be all things to a client can lead many a PR pro astray towards the path of over-promising. Plus, short-term PR “SEO” provides that instant gratification (since the client doesn’t see the long hours spent getting online coverage) that can be so appealing.

    • DTCchicago

      @HeatherTweedy Thanks for the kind words. I was also pretty sick of the PR vs. SEO posts… which lead me to write this post. I love working with PR (and social media) teams to develop a cohesive strategy. I find the real trouble is when one pr/marketing/seo/social media professional tries to present themselves as a jack of all trades (only to find out they are a master of none) ^jh

  • Love the thinking here John-Henry. I don’t see PR and SEO an either or option but more of a collective, holistic approach to building brand, rank, traffic etc. Thanks for sharpening the pencil!


    • DTCchicago

      @MichaelBesson Thanks Michael! I’m glad you agree.

  • crestodina

    Excellent post. I was actually on HuffPo today. A link would have been better than chocolate, but like chocolate, it wouldn’t have lasted long. 🙂

  • TaraGeissinger

    I love the fact that you didn’t pit SEO against PR in this post! I Co-Founded an online press release distribution website that was designed around best SEO practices. I’ve found that the visibility clients receive from having their well-optimized press releases hit the front page of Google can be just as valuable to their bottom lines as having the story picked up.

    The key — as always — is to publish quality content that you can proudly stand behind. I see too many traditional PR firms not publishing their releases online because they don’t see the value (SEO!) and on the flip side, too many SEO firms using the system to publish “news” that doesn’t really matter.

    I am excited about this post because there IS a happy medium. SEO and PR do work well together. It’s all about visibility! And, like you said, neither of them should be your only focus. The best link building campaigns are diversified and centered around quality content.

    • DTCchicago

      @TaraGeissinger Thanks for your kind words! You are exactly write, the key is to ALWAYS publish quality content, but it can be hard for SEOs to drum up that level of engagement in a client. Just three years ago an SEO could sit down with a list of directories, submit to a couple hundred and outrank a client’s competitors… it’s just not that simple anymore. There needs to be engagement on all fronts. A PR team is great for establishing those connections and helping publications essentially create great content about their clients. I work in conjunction with PR teams for several of my clients and their rankings, traffic and web presence are blasting on all cylinders!

      ps: I am happy that you believe in the happy medium as well! ^jh

  • I love how (for lack of a better word, sorry veggie Gini) “meaty” this post was while still being easy to digest. Thank you for providing a great post!

  • Kat4PR

    SEO has changed so much recently and it’s slowly getting really complicated. Great article! Many thanks for sharing

    • ginidietrich

       @Kat4PR It really is getting complicated. I like creating consistent content because it reigns supreme, even with the constant changes.

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  • aboutucomm

    I strongly believe that seo and social media goes perfect and they improve Public Relations.
    Thanks for sharing!!!

    • ginidietrich

       @aboutucomm You’re welcome!

      • aboutucomm

         @ginidietrich Thank you very much!Awsom blog!Please feel free to visit to my blog or to find me at Twitter!/aboutucomm and facebook!!! 

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