Want to improve how far up Google your website ranks compared to a competitor business school? Associate Director Stephanie Mullins and colleague Jonny Stone at specialist business education PR consultancy BlueSky Education discuss how PR can help.

Over the last decade or so, Search Engine Optimisation, commonly referred to as SEO, has become a core pillar in the marketing strategy of countless organisations. Broadly speaking, the term SEO refers to process of improving a website or web page’s visibility on a search engine in order to drive more traffic to it. In other words, the aim of the game is to push your website higher up the list that appears when someone Googles something, so that the searcher is more likely to visit your site.

Now, I use the phrase ‘Google something’ because, more often than not, this is the search engine that people are wanting to increase their visibility on. As of July 2020, according to leading market and consumer data provider, Statista, Google’s global market share was around 87%. So, when it comes to SEO, we’re talking in terms of visibility on Google.

There has long been a view that SEO-related goals can only be achieved by niche organisations or expert digital marketers. However, that’s not true. PR plays a significant role in optimising your website or content for search engines. In this piece, I’m going to outline how business school communications teams and PR practitioners can support SEO efforts.

Quality media coverage

The first way in which PR can help to achieve your business school’s SEO goals is through quality media coverage. One of the best ways to improve your Google positioning is through securing media exposure, particularly if that coverage includes a backlink to your website, via a reputable and trusted site, such as digital publication. Google’s algorithm for search engine results has evolved over the years, however backlinks – hyperlinks from one website to another – are considered a key factor for determining where the search engine places websites in its results.

PRs can contribute to search engine optimisation through providing the main avenue for accumulating these links. Google places a high value on ‘quality’ backlinks, so achieving media coverage that places your school in a top tier publication will go a long way in supporting SEO efforts.

Social media

While Google has long said that it doesn’t consider links shared on platforms, such as Twitter and LinkedIn, as ‘quality’ backlinks, social media does play a big role in supporting SEO. PRs and business school comms teams, alongside securing media coverage in quality publications, should continue to share content on their social media platforms, as this practice does benefit SEO, albeit in a roundabout way.

Content shared on wide-reaching platforms, particularly by widely followed accounts such as official business school accounts, or that of senior staff like the Dean, is getting a wider audience. Followers of those accounts are increasingly likely to follow links shared, as well as share them themselves, and so boost traffic to your site, by boosting brand awareness.

While social shares, likes and comments don’t have a direct impact on Google rankings and links shared via social are not awarded the same weight as a top tier publication, they are considered as indicators for Google to rank your site.

Relationships with content creators

As outlined above, whether it’s through media coverage in top tier publications or content shared on social media, SEO requires opportunities for backlinks to your website. So it’s key that your business school has strong and mutually-beneficial relationships with key content creators. Through effective PR, institutions can and must harness the expertise they have in abundance to establish long-term, transactional relationships in which journalists and other content creators can secure expert comment or academic research and business schools can receive the quality backlinks they need to support SEO goals.

While the relationship between PR and SEO hasn’t always been clear, business schools’ communications teams and PR practitioners have a massive role to play in supporting their institution’s efforts to increase visibility. In 2021, as school’s look to market themselves to the first generation of post-COVID classes, SEO will be all the more important, so its key that business schools understand how they can attract as much traffic to their sites as possible.

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