For small businesses with finite marketing budgets, choosing between either SEO or PR may be a discussion that you have had. This guide sets out the differences between the two, and helps you to understand when you should prioritise either SEO or PR, and the situations where it is beneficial to pursue a combination of them both.

What's in this article

    What is PR?

    PR, or Public Relations, is the strategic communication dispersed by a company designed to cultivate, maintain or change their public perception. PR is a controlled process managed by those within a company, and primarily involves securing coverage within the media. As defined by Polish PR Agency All 4 Comms, “PR aims to ensure a good image and acceptance of the company’s actions in relation to a specific person, group of people or brand.”

    What does PR involve?

    Typical PR activities include press releases, interviews, speeches, website and social media content as well as actively promoting brand awareness and event management. To maximise the success of PR, businesses need an intricate understanding of the interests and concerns of the targeted media outlets. Successful PR agencies should be acutely aware of the ‘ESG’ of their clients, which is to say that they should keep a real time understanding of the environment, society and corporate governance of the industries that their clients operate in.

    What is SEO?

    SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, is the art of optimising and growing your website so that it appears at the top of the search engine rankings, helping to deliver a greater quantity and quality of website traffic.

    What does SEO involve?

    SEO typically involves three primary categories, these being:


    Improving the technical health of your website is a vital part of an SEO campaign. Your website technical health from an SEO perspective involves helping search engines to crawl, understand and index your pages, ensuring people can find your website.


    On-page SEO involves ensuring the content on your website is suitable and relevant for the search terms that you are trying to rank for. By ensuring your content is well structured and relevant, you can set the foundations needed to rank higher and earn more relevant traffic from search engines.


    Off-page SEO activities refer to securing coverage and links from other websites that link to yours. You can either secure these through manual outreach by contacting website owners directly, or you can search for content opportunities using platforms such as Whitepress.

    How to choose between SEO and PR

    The primary challenge we are asked when discussing small business digital consulting is how best to spend a finite budget. Whilst successful SEO and PR can both bring significant positive returns on investment, they both can have high associated costs, especially early on in a campaign. These high costs can mean many small businesses think they can not benefit from both SEO and PR. However, this is not necessarily the case. 

    A digital PR campaign can help to secure links from other websites, a vital part of off-page SEO. One of the benefits of pursuing PR over manual link building is that it can be a more scalable and cost-effective solution. If your press release is picked up by multiple different outlets, you could secure links from a variety of different sources at no cost. In comparison, if you were to try to secure these links via manual outreach or through purchasing a link, these costs could quickly start adding up.

    For small businesses with finite budgets looking to benefit from both SEO and PR, we recommend the following:

    1. Ensure the technical health of your website is optimal. You wouldn’t build a house on dodgy foundations; similarly there is no point commencing with a digital outreach programme of SEO and PR if your website is not being crawled, indexed or understood correctly. By commissioning a website building agency such as ourselves to perform a thorough website audit, we can ‘get under the bonnet’ and ensure that your site is being understood by the search engines.

    2. Similarly, you need to ensure your website content is relevant to the search terms you want to be found for. By ensuring your website content is relevant to what you hope to achieve, you maximise your chances of delivering a successful and profitable campaign.

    3. Link building is the hardest, and often most expensive part of executing an SEO campaign, especially if you are prioritising manual outreach or purchasing links. By focusing on digital PR instead, you can aim to kill two birds with one stone. Not only will you help to shape the impression of your business, you can also stand to benefit from links from media outlets who share your content. 

    A successful PR campaign can work hand-in-hand with an SEO campaign to deliver relevant and organic links from other websites such as media outlets and industry-niche publications. By using this combination of PR and SEO, you can seek to maximise the returns on your investment. If you have a finite budget to spend on link building, prioritise creating relevant and interesting content that will be of interest to the media outlets that you would like to secure coverage from. PR can be difficult, especially if you have no experience or contacts within the industry you are targeting. In these situations, working with specialists in the fields of PR, SEO and web design will help to deliver optimal results.

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    We are a digital agency specialising in Web Design, Development, Concrete5 and digital marketing, based in London & West Sussex.

    We make digital simple. Our purpose is to simplify your frustrations in digital and solve the challenges you face to help make you more money and progressively grow your business or organisation.

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