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The Overlap Between PR & SEO – Chris Dickey // Visably

Episode Overview: A core fundamental to PR is about increasing a brand’s visibility using content and a variety of other marketing methods. Naturally, SEO and PR share similar goals in that respect. Join host Ben as he speaks with Founder and CEO of Visably Chris Dickey about the overlap between PR and SEO and how to improve search visibility utilizing and combining methods from both of them.

Summary

  • Link building is an essential part of PR, but specialists can facilitate brand and product discovery within search by focusing on potential touch points on the first page of search.
  • PR specialists can start increasing their visibility by auditing, and optimizing for, SERPs. Keyword research is integral to the process, and specialists can gain assistance in keyword discovery by subscribing to Moz.
  • Increasing collaboration between PR and SEO is vital to succeeding in a multichannel landscape, where their disciplines and practices can be best used together to significantly boost visibility online.

GUESTS & RESOURCES

Ben:                  Welcome to The Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host, Benjamin Shapiro. And today we’re going to talk about improving your search visibility. Joining us is Chris Dickey who is the founder and CEO at Visably, which uncovers impactful brand visibility strategies across all your target keywords.

Ben:                 Chris is a veteran marketer whose career has spanned public relations agencies, large and small, in-house marketing direction and publishing. And Chris ended up pivoting his PR agency and founded Visably using PR to create powerful brand visibility where SEO and SEM tactics were falling short. Okay. On with the show. Here’s my conversation with Chris Dickey, the founder and CEO of Visably. Chris, welcome to The Voices of Search podcast.

Chris:             Hey, thanks for having me.

Ben:                I’m excited to have you as our guest. Rumor has it you’re off in the wilderness somewhere in Wyoming. It seems like you’re hunkered down in a pretty safe and beautiful place.

Chris:            Oh man. You know, rumor is actually slightly off this time. I am somewhere in the wilderness in Montana. I’m in Glacier National Park. I’m impressed that our connection is as good as it is.

Ben:              You sound great and must be nice being up in the mountains. What is it the big sky country? Am I making that up?

Chris:           Yeah, they do call it big sky. Yeah. I’m literally sitting on the banks of the Flathead River. Canadian border is just a few miles north of us. It’s an incredible place to hang out for a few weeks.

Ben:              So let’s talk a little bit about how you got to this point. We’re going to focus mostly on your career, but you started off working in agencies. You’ve worked in PR and now you’re the founder and CEO of an SEO focused tool. Talk to me about that path. Give us the rundown.

Chris:           Oh my gosh. I can tell you, in all honesty, I never expected or had on my career radar that I would be a tech entrepreneur. I’ve always been a marketer, I’m a career marketer. I’ve worked in-house. I’ve always worked with a lot of early lifecycle companies. I just enjoy that challenge and being that very materially involved with decision making.

Chris:            But over the years, in the last, I think 13 years, I’ve always been in agencies. The last 11, I’ve been running my own agency. And when I say agency, I work in PR, public relations. And so public relations is typically like this qualitative kind of soft, storytelling discipline. And we are absolutely storytellers and we are absolutely using third parties to tell our story and leverage those audiences. But at the end of the day, we’re still beholden to those metrics and how we perform and what we do, we have to come back and tell our clients how we move the needle for them.

Chris:           And so that process is really what led me on this journey towards search as a PR practitioner. It was several years ago, we won this national award in a major national magazine for our client. It was essentially the pinnacle of all pinnacle kind of PR placements in that category for the entire year. It was a qualified, huge PR hit and it was around a product launch. And at the end of the day, I came back and checked in with that client a couple of months later, and I said, “How is that product doing?” And they kind of hemmed and hawed. And they said, “Well, it’s really not doing that great.” And at the end of the day, we looked back and we figured out that PR hit, that big win, that big award that we got from this massive national media outlet wasn’t productive. It wasn’t driving sales at the end of the day.

Chris:            I kind of had to scratch my head and figure out what the heck is going on here. And I just happened to have this eureka moment where I pulled up my browser and I typed in, “Best sleeping bags 2017,” because that’s when it was. And it was a sleeping bag that we had won this big award for. It was a Gear of the Year award from Outside magazine. And it was on the second page of search. So obviously for your audience, that’s a no brainer. I was like, “Oh, well, no one’s going to see that.” For the PR profession, that was kind of a new thing. We really don’t think about our PR showing up in search and at the same time, I looked at all these outlets for best sleeping bag 2017 that were showing up at the top of search. I’m like, “Man, they’re killing it. And we don’t have a single mention in any of those.”

Chris:            It was like this moment as an agency owner, I’m like, “We need to pivot what we do around winning that stuff, the stuff that’s showing up at the top of search.” And so we did that. We started auditing the SERPs. We started like a knee jerk, subscribed to Moz and started doing this keyword research. And we presented these keywords to our clients that had this big PR opportunity. There were very valuable, high traffic keywords that their websites were unable to rank for organically anyways. And we started list building, using Google. We started identifying who Google was rewarding with top search placements, the writers and the outlets.

Chris:           And then, one by one, we started flipping these SERPs and it was interesting because we would work on it, we would come back three or four months later, we would check it again manually, of course. And there we were, seven out of 10 organic results are recommending our clients stuff. And it was stuff you couldn’t pay for. And I’m like, “My God, this is gold.”

Chris:            It was just a real moment for us as an agency. We were able to report on it so much better because we were using search engine metrics to say, “Okay, this is how many people who are searching these terms. And this is how many people we got in front of, and here’s the position on the page. And we know approximately where these clicks land dependent on organic position.”

Ben:               So Chris, let me ask you a couple of questions. First off, you’re talking about PR as in having other publications write about you and it’s not necessarily providing SEO value, right? The Outsider magazine writing about your sleeping bag brand didn’t necessarily have a huge business impact maybe with the exception of the couple of days where that’s at the top of outsidermagazine.com website.

Ben:              So when you think about evaluating PR stories within the framework of SEO, I think there’s two things to think about. One is, where are people writing about us and what is that doing in terms of traffic? And two is, how is this helping our overall brand domain? What are some of the metrics that you’re looking at to try to evaluate your PR efforts from an SEO perspective?

Chris:           Well, I’ve got to step back for a minute too, Ben. So I would caution that what we’re doing is called SEO at all. I think SEO is all about your own website and how do you improve the ranking of your website and historically PR’s role has been link-building. We’re professional link builders, we’re going out, we’re getting high quality links. What I would say though, is that at the end of the day, the marketer’s dilemma is always the same. And that is, how do you facilitate brand introduction or product discovery especially within the search landscape?

Chris:            If you look at it through that lens is how do we get in front of a customer where they’re clicking? Then you really shift the conversation from saying, “This is all about my website.” To saying, “This is about every potential touchpoint on the first page of search.” And that’s really what we became focused on was saying, “Okay, let’s look at the SERP, let’s dissect it, understand, let’s look at these informational kind of SERP search engine intent. Let’s look at these transactional results and let’s unveil how a customer is being interacted with within this landscape.” It’s a really predictable click pattern. Like 70% of all the clicks for any given keyword is going to happen in the first five organic results. And then below that, it just kind of trails off to close to 1% by the bottom of the page.

Chris:            Given that real estate, you have a very, very limited amount of real estate to make an impression. Why not focus on every single potential touch point? PR plays a huge role in that. Now leveraging domain authority of another website that already has the domain authority to reach into those upper echelons of very competitive keywords. Great. Let’s do it. But it’s not just PR, we also noticed that there is kind of under leveraged opportunities with the ecommerce and that, especially for our clients, we started saying, “Hey, do you guys even know how you’re performing on the search engines when it comes to your major ecommerce platforms or your major ecommerce partners?” And they resoundingly said, “No. We don’t monitor that at all. We monitor how we’re doing inside of their platforms, but we don’t monitor the inbound traffic.”

Chris:           And so, again, I felt like there’s an under-leveraged channel there and I felt like there’s this big under-leveraged channel with questions. People also ask sort of snippets, like, “What’s going on there? How do we create visibility there?” So what I ended up calling this was the term search engine visibility, and the idea of what’s the likelihood that a consumer is going to discover or find your brand in search.

Ben:              Yeah, it’s an interesting take that PR is not SEO because your job is to get placement on other websites. It’s not necessarily something that you’re optimizing for your own site. And I understand that perspective. I would say that link building and building the brand recognition of your domain falls into the purview of SEO, obviously. In most organizations, there’s a PR team and an SEO team, and hopefully they work hand in hand.

Chris:           They don’t.

Ben:              There’s some debate to be had on what is PR and what is SEO? Why don’t, while I have you talking about this subject, tell me a little bit about how you think of the overlap between SEO and PR. Who’s responsible for what in most of the organizations that you’ve seen?

Chris:           I would sadly say that marketing is heavily siloed. I would say, between the SEM or like advertising team and the SEO team and the PR team, and there’s these gray areas of overlap where SEO is not just taking a look at these technical aspects of how the site’s performing, but also looking heavily at content and what kind of content you’re doing. Well, that bleeds really closely into what PR is. So PR is all about content and all about leveraging third party audiences to distribute your message.

Chris:            So I think, at the end of the day, these teams don’t talk to each other enough. And I think that when you look at search and you look at what’s showing up at the top of search, it’s a multichannel playground. There’s PR hits and ecomm and brand owned websites and there’s advertising, and they’re all effectively competing for the same attention, the same customer clicks. And so why not stack the deck in your favor? Why not look at every single potential touch point to get in front of a customer?

Ben:              So let me ask you a question. Because when I think of PR, I think of getting your products in well known publications and there’s a couple of different reasons why brands should do this. First and foremost, you get eyeballs from the publications readers. Second, hopefully you get a back link. And third, Google looks at their content and takes up place talking positively about your brand in the search results. It seems like PR is essentially big game hunting for link-building strategies. Am I thinking about it the right way? How do you think of PRs’ role and how it affects SEO?

Chris:           Link building is by far the most commonly associated aspect between traditional PR and traditional SEO. We go out as PR practitioners and we get third parties to recognize the value of your content or your products. And they drive people back to those sites. And we, as an agency, do focus on trying to get followed links versus no-follow. And we are tracking as an agency to make sure like, hey, right now in the media realm, affiliate is this huge thing and you get zero link juice for affiliate. So if you’re going to do an affiliate link, which, hey, everyone’s keen to drive sales, maybe you want to make sure that you’re also getting that follow link somewhere else in the article. So that’s traditionally kind of where PR has fit in. I don’t think very many people have deliberately gone out and said, “I want my PR to be actually reaching customers at the top of search.”

Chris:           And I see that as a very powerful strategy on a couple levels. Number one, PR can reach into search results that typically a brand’s own website could never get into. I’ll give you a good example. The one that, me coming from the outdoor industry, I work with a bunch of outdoor companies that you might find at REI or something, is fleece jackets. And so if you looked up the term, best fleece jacket, it’s not a branded keyword that has decent search volume. And you would assume somebody who’s interested in buying a fleece jacket and they’re open to suggestions would use that keyword. There’s not a single brand owned website that shows up within that first page. It’s all media reviews. So if any of those manufacturers want to have any share of voice on that SERP, they’re going to have to do it with PR.

Chris:            And it’s not just stuff like that. You’ll see it all over the place. PR is absolutely dominant in search. And yet there’s almost no deliberate efforts to win PR placements to show up at the top of search. And that’s where I feel like there’s not much conversation right now. And I think, again, to what I said earlier in this conversation is, getting in front of the customer is the ultimate goal. Whether you do that with your own website or an ad or ecommerce or a PR hit, as long as they recognize you exist. That’s what marketer’s dilemma is, is just getting people into their funnel to begin with.

Chris:             So people who are at the very top of funnel searches, like best fleece jacket where they’re not really in anyone’s funnel at that point, creating those touch points and creating that authentic third party recommendation saying, “Hey, I think this is the best fleece jacket or this one.” That’s where manufacturers need to start thinking about, or not just manufacturers, but anyone marketing your product. SaaS is another great example. When you look up, free SEO tools or something like that, it’s all reviews. It’s all these listicles. And a lot of them are hosted on brand owned websites. Still, that’s all PR work. And I know for a fact that from other people in the industry, they get someone like HubSpot to include them on their listicles and it just kills it for them.

Chris:             So anyways, I think you can look through the lens of link-building, but I think there’s a bigger conversation to be had around building search engine visibility, using these third parties to promote your brand.

Ben:                We talk a lot about the SEOs needing to be good cross functional partners. Most of the time that is learning how to talk as a more digital marketer, as opposed to an SEO specialist. It’s buddying up with the engineering and the development teams. Look, you have to move your seat left sometimes. And sometimes you have to move it right over to the creatives, over to the PR teams. Some of the other people that are going to get your content and your brand mentions placed in high visibility spots. We have to all be a little bit mobile in terms of where we’re sitting to make sure that we’re getting the most face time with the people that matter.

Ben:                And that wraps up this episode of The Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Chris Dickey, founder and CEO of Visably. We’d love to continue the conversation with you. So if you’re interested in contacting Chris, you could find a link to his LinkedIn profile in our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter. His handle is Chris underscore Dicky that’s C-H-R-I-S underscore D-I-C-K-E-Y. Or you can visit his company’s website, which is visably.com V-I-S-A-B-L-Y.com.

Ben:               Just one more link in our show notes I’d like to tell you about, if you didn’t have a chance to take notes while you were listening to this podcast, head over to voicesofsearch.com, where we have summaries of all of our episodes and contact information for our guests. You can also send us your topic suggestions or your SEO questions. You can even apply to be a guest speaker on the Voices of Search podcast. Of course, you can always reach out on social media. Our handle is Voices of Search on Twitter. And my personal handle is Benjshap, B-E-N-J-S-H-A-P.

Ben:               If you haven’t subscribed yet, and you want a daily stream of SEO and content marketing insights in your podcast feed, we’re going to publish episodes every day during the work week. So hit the subscribe button in your podcast app, and we’ll be back in your feed tomorrow morning. All right, that’s it for today. Good until next time, remember the answers are always in the data.