PRmoment Leaders PA Mediapoint PA Assignments PRCA PRmoment Awards Winners North Creative Moment Awards 2024 PR Masterclass: AI in PR

The impact of AI on digital PR and SEO

Digital PR, link building and SEO are fields that sit on the precipice of change - keeping up with the latest updates has long been part of SEO success. On Tuesday this week Google started rolling out updates to their search engine in the US that incorporates AI into its search organisation and, as you can imagine, these changes will necessitate a dramatic rethinking of how we approach Digital PR.

So, to try and understand how to best keep up with these changes, we reached out to seven PRs for their views on AI’s impact on this field, and their advice for success going forward.

AI can help make linking more nuanced

Nikola Vujic, marketing director at Veza Digital: “Technology has really shaken things up in my field over the last few years. With over a decade under my belt in search engine optimization, I've had a front-row seat to see how artificial intelligence has disrupted link-building and public relations.

“By using AI to gather and interpret more digital signals, agencies can better spot opportunities that serve client needs. Rather than just counting links, the goal is to get links from reputable sites that showcase expertise and trust. AI also has the potential to make linking more nuanced while streamlining the process.

“Going forward, I advise making use of AI's capabilities to keep an eye on industry discussions, carry out analysis, and safeguard reputation. Give monotonous duties to AI so you may concentrate on creating strategic, expert-building content. Consider linkages as an outcome of a strategy that emphasises establishing connections and establishing authority rather than as a goal in and of themselves.”

Quality over quantity…

Sophie Moore, planning director at PR agency Bottle: “The intersection of AI, on-page SEO and digital PR is a Pandora’s box right now, with Google tinkering at the lid for us marketers.

“The search engine is experimenting with SGE (Search Generated Experience, which is quick AI-generated answers appearing at the top of search). And its most recent core update in March ran with extra bite, removing a whopping 45% of web content from SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) deemed low quality and unoriginal.

“The impact of said tinkering on organic traffic will reveal itself but, in the meantime, onsite, we need to be creating seriously good, original content. That’s helpful content optimised for topical authority (tip: look at relevant, long-tail keywords) and content that’s on steroids (tip: think 10x). It’s a focus on quality, over quantity.

“Quality over quantity also applies to offsite link building. To further fuel Google E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness) which contributes to web page ranking factors - don’t pitch-spray to hit big volumes, earn high-quality links, link high-authority sources.”

… but AI is generating a huge quantity of content

John Campbell, head of innovation at PR agency ROAST: “AI has had a huge impact on all aspects of SEO, the search engines themselves launching features which use AI such as Google’s SGE (Search Generative Experience), to OpenAI’s Chat GPT which have made it easier and quicker to create content. For teams responsible for organic traffic, the first action is to gauge the impact by tracking where SGE results appear. Then, you can start to produce high-quality content and PR campaigns, which are often the sources of SGE results.

“Search engines are also having to deal with more spam websites with AI-generated content. The worry for link building will be the temptation to place links on such AI generated sites, a short-term gain but leading to longer-term risks.

“The upside for digital PR teams is to use AI tools to decrease costs and time to production of campaign content, quicker to website assets, and generate images and video content used in campaigns.”

Focus on the quality of content more than ever

Rejoice Ojiaku, SEO manager at PR agency Nelson Bostock: “AI has changed digital PR and link building by improving our ability to pinpoint and connect with key influencers and media outlets efficiently. Machine learning algorithms now have the capability to sift through massive data sets to predict which content will fare best, tailor outreach efforts, and fine-tune strategies for optimal impact. In terms of SEO, AI tools assist in honing keyword strategies, generating content ideas, and automating tasks such as backlink analysis, thereby streamlining the SEO process and enhancing results.

“Regarding the influence of AI on search, AI-powered search engines are becoming more adept at understanding user intent and providing more tailored search results. This advancement necessitates that PR professionals sharpen their messaging and content to match closely with what AI algorithms consider relevant, directly influencing SEO and link-building tactics.

“My SEO tip for 2024: focus More on E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness). Google is continuously honing its algorithms to favour high-quality, authoritative content (especially with the March 2024 Core Update). Make sure your site's content is produced by credible authors, supported by trustworthy sources, and regularly updated to uphold its authority and relevance.”

AI for creativity is out, AI to help strategise is in

Jennifer Grey, digital PR lead at PR agency Greenpark: “AI has created opportunities for Digital PRs and link-builders, but also created a few challenges. Journalists are increasingly resistant to AI-generated releases or content, so I’d avoid using AI for creativity - ChatGPT is developing its own tone of voice, so it’s easy to spot!

“Where AI can be helpful is in terms of testing pitches and creating media lists. Requesting a list of publications which cover certain specific topics from ChatGPT or Gemini can throw up new contacts, and you can use tools such as PRophet.ai to easily test what the reception to a pitch or topic area is likely to be before you go to market.

“SGE could impact the number of impressions of third-party content, leading to less eyeballs on coverage. However, high quality and relevancy backlinks remain an important part of the Google ranking factors, so prioritising backlink acquisition from top tier industry publications remains a key factor of competitive SEO strategies in 2024.”

Optimise for conversational voice search

Clare Jones, the Outreach Manager for Custom Neon: “AI has transformed digital PR and link building by optimising content outreach and enhancing the efficiency and precision of these processes through data-driven insights. Tools like ChatGPT also offer Topical Authority Generator tools, which will quickly create a topical authority map, outlining key areas and sub-topics to focus content around. This content strategy plan ensures comprehensive coverage of your niche area.

“AI-driven search algorithms prioritise content authenticity and user value, pushing businesses to create high-quality, original content. This shift demands that digital PR and link-building strategies focus more on genuine user engagement rather than solely on SEO metrics. So, marketers should place additional emphasis on the importance of E-E-A-T (Experience, Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness). Expert-level studies, industry-specific news, location-specific projects, and statistical data-driven content are ideal for demonstrating knowledge and credibility, with up-to-date, original content providing not only a strategic way to obtain high-quality organic backlinks, but also boost brand strength.

“One key SEO tip for 2024? Optimise for voice search by incorporating conversational keywords and natural language in your content. As voice-activated devices become more prevalent, adapting content to the conversational queries of voice search can significantly boost visibility and user engagement.”

Human ingenuity is still the secret sauce

Isa Lavahun, search PR strategist and trainer at Digital PR Services: “AI in digital PR has been a fascinating development over the last 18 months but, it won’t be duplicating my expertise anytime soon! It's a powerful tool, don't get me wrong. It helps me identify high-value link prospects, brainstorm content ideas, and personalise outreach - a real time-saver.

“But here's the thing: AI can't replace the human touch in building relationships, which is the heart of PR. And, with everyone using AI, link building campaigns will need that extra something to stand out. Think about it - if all creatives and marketing teams used AI for ideas, wouldn't everything be the same? It's about differentiation. Yes, it gives us the data and saves time but as far as I’m concerned, human ingenuity is the secret sauce for ANY link-worthy content.”

Even before bringing AI into search engines, the days of tricking SEO algorithms with ‘hacks’ to avoid having to create valuable content have become a distant memory. The rise of AI tools has made creating large amounts of content quickly almost effortless - so much so that the internet is now being flooded with AI generated web pages which may seem to have enough value to perform well in search rankings.

Introducing AI into the search should almost be seen as a countermeasure - yet another attempt for search engines to really figure out what content actually has true value and is worth being seen by the user. If the advice from PRs above has one common thread, it’s in ensuring you keep a human touch and create original, quality content that is for the audience, not just the SEO algorithm.

You find our previous discussions on how AI has impacted PR here, covering: Chat GPT tips, AI press releases, AI PR measurement tools and how AI has impacted PR ethics.

If you enjoyed this article, sign up for free to our twice weekly editorial alert.

We have six email alerts in total - covering ESG, internal comms, PR jobs and events. Enter your email address below to find out more: