Research: The integration of SEO and PR


30-second summary:

  • Experts have told us for a few years that SEO and public relations (PR) need to merge
  • Are SEO and PR really integrating “in the wild”?
  • In case you too searched the web about how this and found nothing considerably valuable, here are some answers for you
  • Founder and CEO of Organic Growth, Kevin Carney surveyed 184 SEO and PR professionals across brands, agencies, and consultants
  • Dive in to discover more on the state of SEO and PR integrations in the industry

We’ve been hearing for a few years now that SEO and public relations (PR) need to merge. The primary reason given is that they have similar goals, as well as similar strategies and tactics. It is sometimes argued that some aspects of SEO are PR, in an age when publishing has become comparatively low-cost. So much so that anyone can become a publisher, and due to the advent of content marketing, brands now have to.

I searched the web for information about how this integration is going, or not. I found nothing I considered to be of value on this topic. So I decided to create this article after collecting information from SEO and PR professionals to get a clear picture of our industry.


I created a survey, then used Help a Reporter Out (HARO) to reach out to SEO and PR professionals. This resulted in 78 survey responses. I waited a month, went back to HARO, and got 91 more. I then shared my survey in a few SEO and PR groups on Facebook, which resulted in 15 more. I got 184 survey responses in total.

When I started I had arbitrarily decided I wanted 200 survey responses but decided to stop at 184 rather than do another round of HARO or Facebook group outreach.

Of course, all surveys have some level of bias

In this instance, the bias occurs for the following reasons:

  • I designed my survey with my preconceived notions of what questions mattered most
  • I looked for people in nooks and crannies of the internet where I felt it would be easy to find willing participants
  • People who took my survey self selected

Does this mean my data is flawed? No more than any other set of data collected via most surveys, but it is possible that had I surveyed only SEO folks, or only PR folks, that I would have gotten different data, and I just want that stated upfront. I believe my data is relevant, but by no means is it the final word on this topic.

So, is this integration of SEO and PR happening?

In a word, yes.

So now let’s look at the charts whose underlying data lead me to believe this is true.

Initial questions were very objective

This first set of charts show the answers that were pretty cut and dry, and not so much a matter of opinion.

The breakdown of survey participants

Survey participants categorized themselves as representing brands, representing agencies, or being consultants who represented various clients. Below is the breakdown.

As you can see, it’s a pretty good split with agencies slightly outnumbering brands.

SEO and PR integration survey participant categories

Do agencies publish articles about SEO and PR or SEO vs PR?

I was personally curious what percentage of agencies feel the topic of PR and SEO or PR vs SEO is important enough to publish articles about. It was surprisingly few.

Content publication stats on SEO and PR or SEO vs PR

What percentage of participants have one integrated team?

A lot more than I expected: 71 percent to be precise.

SEO and PR are not one integrated team

Do firms without one integrated team have both SEO and PR?

To my surprise, the answer tends to be, “no”. Team sizes within this group tended to be smaller, which likely accounts for this.

Within this group, 35 out of 52 companies had teams of three members or fewer, which means only 17 companies had teams of four members or larger. Only four companies had teams of more than 20 people.

SEO PR integration team data

For firms with two teams, how closely do they work together?

While this includes only 16 firms, I do not see a strong pattern here. Perhaps this is due to the small data sample, or perhaps the question is too subjective for everyone to have a common understanding of how close “closely” is.

Stats on team integration

The following statements were completely subjective

I asked the survey participants to rate how much they agreed or disagreed with a series of statements about PR and SEO. Every statement was rated on a ten-point scale where 10 means strong agreement and one means strong disagreement.

Can SEO be separated from PR?

As you can see, the bulk of participants feel they can not.

They can not be separated

What is the primary focus?

I was thinking that some firms put PR ahead of SEO and consider that SEO supports their PR efforts, whereas other firms put SEO ahead of PR and consider that PR supports their SEO efforts.

I was expecting these two charts to be mirror images of each other and I am surprised that they don’t.

What surprised me the most is not either chart by itself, but that they do not mirror each other. I had thought the two questions were opposites of each other, which to me at least means the charts should be mirror images of each other.

While there is a pretty strong consensus shown by the “We do SEO” chart, this is not shown by the “We do PR” chart.

Are SEO and PR equally important?

There is strong agreement with this idea.

SEO and PR are equally important

Are PR and SEO separate functions?

There is a consensus leaning to “no”, they’re not.

They are separate functions across the industry

Is link building the PR of SEO?

In the spirit of full disclosure, this is something I believe to be true. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe there are good and bad forms of link building, but I suppose there are also good and bad forms of PR.

That this statement was shared with the participants reflects a bias of mine. Having said that, I consider participant responses to be validating.

Link building is the PR of SEO

In closing

The SEO-PR integration is happening, and so far has happened more than I expected would be true.

My next thought is “What does this all mean?”

Should we change the way we’re doing what we’re doing as a result?

For this, I’m interested in feedback from readers. What do you think?

Kevin Carney is the Founder and CEO of the boutique link building agency Organic Growth.


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