Which Is More Valuable: PR or SEO?

September 14, 2023

If you’re interested in improving the reach and reputation of your brand, it’s reasonable to consider both public relations (PR) and search engine optimization (SEO) campaigns. But which of these strategies is more effective?

PR vs. SEO: An Introduction

PR and SEO are typically considered separate strategies, even though there’s considerable overlap. PR is about generally boosting the visibility and reputation of your brand, improving relationships with customers and the general public.

SEO is all about increasing your brand’s visibility in search engines by increasing organic rankings, which can be done with a combination of onsite technical improvements, content development, and link building.

In a way, SEO is PR. It’s a way of increasing your company’s visibility, and through the mechanics of most SEO strategies, it’s also a way of improving your reputation. On top of that, any good PR for your business is likely going to have a positive impact on your search engine rankings.

Still, can we claim that PR or SEO is superior to the other strategy?

The Question of Value

Before we can decide which strategy is more valuable, we need to understand what “valuable” means in this context. Both strategies have costs and benefits, and we want to consider both when comparing them. We also want to compare these strategies as closely as possible, even though each is accomplishing a somewhat distinctive set of goals.

Accordingly, we are going to look at the downstream effects of both strategies and primarily focus on the overall return on investment (ROI). In other words, we want to know the measurable benefits of each strategy when compared to the costs.

The Case for PR

You could make the case that PR is more valuable than SEO.

  • Omnichannel potential. SEO, by definition, is all about optimizing for search engines. But PR can influence many different channels simultaneously. Your PR strategy can influence people on search engines, social media, and even people totally disconnected from the internet.
  • Reputation and disposition. SEO is mostly about generating organic traffic, while PR cares more about how people feel about your brand. Organic traffic is useless if people aren’t buying what you’re selling, and you may not need more organic traffic if people are seeking out your brand naturally.
  • Influence on purchasing decisions. People are much more likely to make a purchasing decision with a brand they know and trust, even if Google is pointing them in a different direction. In this way, PR can trump SEO in terms of value. Most people who practice SEO also optimize landing pages for conversions, write content to demonstrate thought leadership and participate in other tactics that are designed to influence purchasing decisions. However, PR does this by definition and is arguably superior at it.

The Case for SEO

You could also argue that SEO is more valuable than PR.

  • Initial investment. Getting started with an SEO strategy doesn’t require much time or money. As long as your site is being indexed by Google, you can start by simply creating a few pieces of onsite content. At larger scales, SEO can get expensive, but your initial investment doesn’t have to be much.
  • Organic traffic and search intent. SEO is a strategy designed to capitalize on people conducting organic searches; in other words, mostly people who have never heard of your brand before. Search marketers strongly consider search intent as an element of their SEO strategies, giving them the opportunity to reach people based on their current mindset or a specific stage of the buying cycle. This leads to the cultivation of much more targeted strategies.
  • Long-term growth potential. Arguably, SEO also has more long-term growth potential than PR. After a few years of steady investment, you could generate massive volumes of organic traffic for your website.

The Synergy Element

Obviously, there are unique advantages associated with each strategy. But we also need to acknowledge that each strategy positively influences the other. A better approach to PR is going to earn you more backlinks, help you generate better content, and ultimately boost your search rankings. And a better approach to SEO is going to earn you much more public visibility and a better reputation. These strategies are synergistic, and they’re at their most valuable when they’re working together.

The Bottom Line

If you crunch all the numbers and dig into the details of PR and SEO as they specifically relate to your company, you may be able to come to a confident conclusion about whether one is truly superior to the other. But for most brands, the right way to think about this problem is to consider PR and SEO as equally indispensable for improving the visibility and reputation of your brand. Only by wielding both of these tools together can you reap the full advantages of both.


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