Walking the Thin Line Between Public Sector PR and SEO

Good PR is based on good content, and Google rewards good content with higher search engine rankings. Based on that mentality, it stands to reason that the news sites that have really good content–the type of well thought-out, compelling pieces your audiences read and respond to–are the ones to target with your PR efforts, right?

The answer is “maybe.” Like many things in life, the relationship between public relations (PR) and search engine optimization (SEO) can be complicated, particularly when it comes to working with sites that cover federal, state and local, and education news. Some of these news sites do a great job with SEO, while others leave room for improvement. Their readers may be your target audience, but they may not offer the SEO value that gets your stories noticed on the first page of Google results.

The question, then, is how do you balance good coverage with good search engine rankings? To get the answer, let’s look at:

  • Why PR and SEO are both important to public sector marketing
  • What Google looks for in a site
  • How well the top public sector news sites perform from an SEO perspective
  • What this means for your public sector PR efforts

Why are PR and SEO both important to public sector marketing?

When our public sector clients come to us for PR, they’re often trying to achieve one or more of the following goals:

  • Increase sales and revenue
  • Raise awareness about their company and its products
  • Establish themselves as authorities in the public sector

Regardless of the goal, our job is to tell their story in a way that resonates with their target audiences, portray them in a favorable light, and help them get noticed in a very crowded field. We do that through content creation, thought leadership articles, interviews, news stories, and more. 

SEO is also built on content, specifically:

  • Easily-digestible, navigable, clearly written and compelling content based on relevant keywords and phrases
  • High-quality, informative content that shows value to the reader beyond just being self  promotional
  • Content that is easily readable across multiple devices and shareable via various social media channels
  • Content that offers unique value–i.e., not duplicated or copied across multiple sites that could end up competing with each other for search engine attention

As it turns out, those are the same qualities editors are looking for, which makes public sector PR and SEO go hand-in-hand. That means putting PR and SEO together increases your chances of getting your company, executives, and products noticed.

What Google looks for in a site

However, not all public sector news sites are equal in the eyes of Google’s ranking criteria. Some have a higher domain authority–a metric that indicates a site’s potential to rank well against others within Google’s index. The higher the number (from 1 to 100), the more likely it is that the site and its content (and, as such, your content) may appear higher in Google’s search results.

Domain authority is influenced by a number of factors, all of which come back to the type of high quality, in depth, timely and relevant content featured on the site. This type of content drives more readers to the site, which influences other technical aspects that play into a site’s domain authority ranking. 

Key indicators of a domain’s ranking potential that can be measured include:

  • Total number of inbound links: This is the total number of links from external sites to the news site with the content. Backlinks from higher quality–and therefore higher authority–sites are generally more powerful than links from sites with less authority. 
  • Total number of referring domains: This is the number of unique external sites that link to the news site with the content. Multiple links from the same website count as one referring domain.  
  • Total number of organic keywords: This number indicates how many keywords the site ranks for within Google’s top 100 results. Existing search performance is a clear indicator of a site’s ranking potential. 

How the top public sector news sites rank

We took a look at the top public sector news publications our clients care most about to gauge their SEO value-based domain authority as the primary metric. The research was broken down into two categories: government news sites and education news sites.

We were surprised by the results. As it turns out, some of the publications that our clients consider very important to their target audiences are not as authoritative when it comes to search as others, while some smaller publications tend to perform better than expected.

Government news sites:

Good (under 40 domain authority score)

  • Government CIO
  • Government Technology Insider
  • Executive Mosaic
  • WorkScoop

Better (40 - 60 domain authority score)

  • ExecutiveBiz
  • Route Fifty
  • StateScoop
  • ExecutiveGov
  • Inside Defense
  • GovInfoSecurity
  • Meritalk
  • FedTech Magazine
  • StateTech Magazine
  • Defense Daily
  • GovConWire
  • Military Embedded Systems
  • Carahsoft Community Blog
  • WashingtonExec
  • TechWire
  • Cyber Defense Magazine
  • CyberScoop
  • Inside CyberSecurity
  • Government Matters
  • Government Procurement (NIGP)

Best (60+ domain authority score)

Note: highlighted publications score particularly well, with domain authority of 75 or above.

  • Government Technology
  • Defense News
  • Military Times
  • Defense One
  • Governing
  • Air Force Times
  • Government Executive
  • NextGov
  • Breaking Defense
  • Army Times
  • Nextcity.org
  • FedScoop
  • GovLoop
  • Navy Times
  • Infosecurity Magazine
  • Marine Corps Times
  • GCN
  • FCW
  • Federal News Network
  • Federal Times
  • Homeland Security Today
  • Washington Technology
  • Defense Systems
  • American City and County

Education news sites:

Good (under 40 domain authority score)

  • Education Technology Insights (both Higher Ed and K-12
  • STEAM Universe
  • Today's Modern Educator (both Higher Ed and K-12)
  • School of Business Affairs (primarily targeted toward K-12)

Better (40 - 60 domain authority score)

  • School Administrator Magazine
  • District Administration
  • Tech & Learning
  • University Business
  • eCampus News
  • EdScoop (both Higher Ed and K-12)
  • Community College Daily
  • EdTech Digest (both Higher Ed and K-12)
  • Spaces4Learning
  • HigherED Tech Decisions (just a tag on My Tech Decisions)
  • K12 Tech Decisions (just a tag on My Tech Decisions)

Best (60+ domain authority score)

Note: highlighted publications score particularly well, with domain authorities of 75 or above.

  • Education Week
  • Inside Higher Ed
  • The Chronicle of Higher Education
  • Converge/Center for Digital Education (both Higher Ed and K-12)
  • EdSurge (both Higher Ed and K-12)
  • THE Journal
  • Campus Technology
  • eSchool News
  • EducationDIVE (Higher Ed and K-12)
  • EdTech Focus on Higher Education
  • EdTech: Focus on K-12

Domain authority doesn’t tell the whole story

After reading those lists, you might be tempted to say “let’s just target the publications that have 60+ domain authority scores.” But here’s where things get murky.

Let’s say you want to get coverage of your latest product announcement, but none of the highest authority sites cover new products. In that case, you'll be better off targeting a site that’s more likely to run your news, but may have a lower domain authority.

Yes, you can still target the higher authority sites–but is it still worth being covered in those sites if you can’t talk about the things that are most important to your business? It might be, if one of your goals is to simply establish yourself as a leading authority on a specific type of subject matter. But it may not be if your primary goal is to increase sales of your new product.

Therefore, it’s not enough to simply look at the numbers and target the sites that tend to have higher domain authority. There are a number of different factors that need to be considered, including:

The site’s readership. Where are your target customers and prospects going for information? Ideally, higher domain authority sites will have the readership you desire, but there’s also a strong chance that sites with lower domain authority may attract more of the kinds of people you’re trying to reach.

The type of content the site accepts. If your goal is to present your executives as thought leaders on a particular topic, you’ll want to target your PR efforts toward publications that accept authored articles or executive profiles, regardless of their domain authority. Likewise, if you’re launching a product, you’ll be better off targeting sites that are interested in receiving product news.

The site’s ability to drive leads. If your goal is to drive leads, that higher authority number becomes more important because it indicates a site that will likely get more attention in Google searches. In this case, you’ll probably want to look more closely at sites with higher domain authority. 


When it comes to balancing public sector PR and SEO efforts, there are no clear-cut answers. Sometimes you’ll be able to find a site that checks off all of the right boxes–high domain authority, on-point target readership, and an editor who’s willing to accept whatever information you’re pitching. But that’s not always the case. More often than not, you’ll have to make a decision on which news site to target based on your goals and the type of message you’re putting forward.

Ideally, you’ll be able to get that message in front of the right audience, on the right site, and still get your content noticed by Google. But doing that on your own can be dicey. It’s better to have the support of a team that works closely every day with public sector news editors and understands how to gauge the SEO value of their sites. Our teams can help you navigate that thin line that exists between PR and SEO, so that you’re getting the best possible return on your public sector marketing efforts.

Let’s talk.