Link Building is a discipline that has a ton in common with basic PR. While there are many important differences as well, both are focused on getting the word out about a business, and getting other people to embrace it. Once you understand how closely tied these are you begin to see why these important functions must work together.
Both disciplines apply direct and indirect means of promoting the business. Examples of indirect means that a PR department might use are: press releases, trade shows, and advertising. Examples of indirect means that a link builder might use are: press releases, social news site campaigns (e.g. Digg and Reddit), and a link bait campaign.
All of these things are targeted at broadcasting a message and hoping for good results. While my phrasing of that statement may not seem like a stunning endorsement, history shows that indirect link building does in fact work well for many, many businesses, and it is the best way to build a volume of links quickly, but you need to have the right message that you are broadcasting.
Direct means that a PR department generally uses is getting in touch with members of the media (which can and should include the blogosphere). While a link builder may also choose to get in touch with the media, hopefully your PR department has direct contacts they can leverage and that is almost always the best route to use. Direct means that a link builder might use can be a bit broader. Identifying influencers in media is fair game, as is identifying authoritative web sites, and contacting them.
These targeted techniques are generally oriented around developing relationships with major players and getting them to endorse your organization in one manner of another. Of course, the link builder wants to inspire the person on the other end of the relationship to give their web site a link. This requires a lot of patience and determination, but it is often the best way to get that link from an authoritative site.
Note that there are a couple of key differences between PR and link building:
- PR is not just about the web site. Of course, you could argue this one with me too. If your web site is bringing in lots of visitors who then go to a physical store to buy the product, is link building only about the web site? Maybe not.
- As a consequence, PR is not specifically focused on links to the web site. As a result it does not naturally think about link quality, and where authoritative links can be found, and make that the focus of their efforts.
Personally, I believe that all of SEO is a marketing function. While some may debate with me whether or not technical SEO should be in the marketing department, I do not believe that there should be any debate that the link building team should be in marketing. In the future, you may see companies begin to incorporate the link building function directly into the PR department. As long as it is not seen as a tertiary function, this is probably an OK thing.