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Digital strategies are dictating PR campaign tactics more than ever: Almost two-thirds of communication industry experts agree that digital marketing and PR tactics must be used more collaboratively.

I agree, but despite the great digital rush, B2B marketers must also remember to make use of "brain engine optimization" (BEO). Successful PR campaigns depend on a mix of digital and analog strategies to boost brand awareness.

Communications agencies that resort to fake earned media strategies are rare, but they exist. Recently, a well-regarded London PR firm attempted to financially compensate a freelance tech journalist in return for featuring its clients. That highlighted harsh realities surrounding the link between PR firms' and journalists' "cheating" in their digital strategies.

Such scenarios present the perfect opportunity to shine a spotlight on how communications professionals can use successful SEO tactics to gain coverage without risking their reputation or credibility.

1. PR and SEO are intrinsically linked

Most B2B marketing teams recognize the value of SEO. Organic search accounts for over half of overall website traffic, research has found. Clearly, SEO should be at the forefront of B2B online strategy.

It all starts at the content generation stage, whether you're creating a blog post full of relevant keywords on a company website or making sure paid visibility is up to scratch. The benefits of an effective SEO strategy—when executed well—are clear.

PR strategy should also include a focus on keywords for every content format, including press releases, articles, blog posts, and even social media posts. That doesn't mean jamming content with keywords to the point where it makes no sense. Instead, PR professionals should carefully craft copy that ties a B2B organization to keywords within its industry or links it to a market theme.

B2B organizations' consistently appearing on authoritative third-party domains and having their organic content rank high due to SEO can demonstrate industry leadership. Journalists are busier than ever, and they no longer have time to evaluate who is the best organization from each industry. That is where features on a "Top X" list can help organizations stand out as a top competitor in their respective industries—with the added benefit of reaching potential clients.

Although SEO is important, it's also important to think closer to home and optimize your natural search engine: the brain.

2. Don't forget the power of the brain

Continual advancements in the digital world each week have made it easy to forget what really drives most B2B sales: people.

Fully 68% of online experiences begin with a search engine, according to 2019 research. But searching begins far before a consumer looks at a screen: As with B2C experiences, all B2B customer experiences begin with a preliminary internal memory search, followed by queries on a search engine.

As a result of the mere-exposure effect—also called the familiarity principle, or cognitive resonance theory—the brain favors things that are familiar, even if that familiarity is subconscious. Brands that are more memorable are more likely to be trusted—and that is where mental cues come in.

PR professionals can take advantage of mental cues to build brand recognition and reputation online in the same way SEO and backlinks do, even before the need to purchase arises. Such brain engine optimization (BEO) helps link memory recall to a search on Google.

But how can PR professionals ensure that traffic is being directed back to the site? That's where backlinks play an essential role.

3. Embedded backlinks tie PR placements and digital marketing together

Backlinks are links that direct online traffic from one website to another website. All major search engines consider backlinks to be "votes" for a specific page—indicators of high-quality content that has the support of other websites. Google considers authoritative backlinks as one of the most important signals for ranking content, which makes it a vital part of any SEO strategy.

The ability to dominate search results via keywords is important, but ensuring clickthrough straight to a company's website is also a vital goal for any SEO-driven PR campaign. That's why PR copy should include backlinks to relevant pages on company websites. Clickthrough from backlinks in organic content can be tracked through UTM codes, marketing platforms such as HubSpot, or website analytics tools such as Google Analytics.

High-quality links begin with high-quality content. Content that is genuinely interesting, useful, and original can score credible backlinks and help organizations keep a good ranking on sites such as Google.

PR professionals can engage directly with journalists to place earned media content in target publications to build brand awareness through thought leadership and ensure that embedded backlinks provide a clear route for company websites to be visited by a highly relevant audience.

* * *

In this digital era, SEO is communications professionals' bread and butter. Media outlets are now on most online platforms, creating a great opportunity for B2B organizations to make use of SEO and backlinks to increase digital lead generation and brand awareness.

However, PR and marketing professionals should not forget the influence of brain engine optimization. Comprehensive SEO tactics can help B2B communications professionals make the most of BEO to enhance marketing efforts and ultimately create a more memorable and successful B2B brand profile.

More Resources on SEO and PR

How to Position Your B2B Brand for Search: Garrett Mehrguth on Marketing Smarts [Podcast]

How to Make Public Relations Drive SEO

How to Use Media Relations to Drive SEO [Webinar]

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SEO, Backlinks, and BEO: Three Pillars for Stronger PR and Brand Awareness

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image of Jamie Kightley

Jamie Kightley is the head of client services at IBA International, a B2B PR agency serving global technology clients.

LinkedIn: Jamie Kightley