Both SEO and PR need to obtain earned media, both are built on the backbone of relevant, newsworthy content. Both are evolving into content-orientated practices. SEO professionals are finding themselves creating content and reaching out to online influencers, like popular bloggers or community sites, and those PR people worth their salt are scouring Google Trends and Adwords for keyword research that will give their clients the necessarily reach.
Of course, some PR agencies are afraid to venture into that territory. They’ve either been burned by an unscrupulous third party supplier, or they prefer to cling to the familiar – traditional press releases with a few links thrown in for good measure. Others feel that SEO is simply not part of the job description. However the crux of SEO is not fancy code. Extensive site audits, copywriting, content marketing, building relationships and keyword research are closely related to what traditional PR professionals have been doing for years! The two disciplines are naturally converging.
The reason? Google’s controversial equation of press releases as “advertisements” and taking direct action against paid for articles and press releases in June last year sent many of us reeling, but it was actually a positive for the industry – stories written editorially, featuring links to rich or informative content, are valued the most by search engines. Furthermore, any consumer can now be a journalist. Any brand can be a publisher of news! Which means that there is a lot of clutter and noise to cut through, but also a greater number of platforms and media in which to tell your story. Coverage and endorsement need to be earned – even in the web space.
SEO is no longer about building links, but about creating quality content that people actually want to share. PR agencies are at the forefront of this – telling stories that are entertaining, interesting and relevant is deeply engrained in a PR agency’s DNA. The high domain authority sites are the ones we’ve been pitching to for years anyway – relevant bloggers, reputable news sites. PR and SEO have to work together to define, evaluate, and reach out to social influencers, and to generate the content that will change perceptions and create awareness about the client in the online world.
PR professionals may have far-reaching media lists, but SEO experts have lists of external web and blog targets, taking a more complex look at an external site’s page rank, unique visitors and Alexa rank. The SEO pro knows how to leverage the space for optimal traffic, but it takes PR expertise to build the relationship and analyse the angles needed to appeal to readers.
On-page content (its relevance, usefulness, and sharability) is the primary focus of the new Google algorithm. It’s a joint concern for PR and SEO. SEO has to ensure the viability of the metadata, the terms, the silo-ing of the web page itself, but PR still has to ensure that that content passes the “So what?” test. It’s no use if readers are finding your content, but not finding it engaging.
The new press release
PR veterans will tell you about the days where they hand-delivered or faxed their releases to editors’ desks that were already piled sky-high with paper. That then gave way to overly optimised releases stuffed with keywords and links. Both methods are now a thing of the past. Adding random keywords and links to a press release and hoping for optimised coverage is about as effective as throwing random spare parts into a cardboard box to build a car. New releases are vehicles for information, not links, including rich multimedia assets, social channels and pages on the client’s website. Free whitepapers and video tutorials inject an element of interactivity into a release that just can’t be ignored.
Avoiding disjointed messaging
There’s nothing more agonising to a PR person than conflicting messages. It’s no use having both a SEO and a PR pros if they aren’t working to the same editorial calendar or strategy – ultimately it will leave your audience confused about the brand.
Maintaining the balance between branding and building traffic
I recently heard a great example where a low-cost airline had engaged with both PR and a SEO professionals. The SEO company was eager to use the phrases most individuals use to search for the product in question:“cheap flights”. However, the PR professionals knew that the client was insistent on avoiding the association with the word cheap, and always used the term “affordable carrier”. By working together, the two agencies were able to negotiate a strategy that would drive traffic without damaging the brand.
PR and SEO services shouldn’t function as two separate islands of activity. Every PR agency should have a solid understanding of how SEO works and how it applies to their own work. If the agency you are partnering with has SEO experts on staff, partnering with them can reap extraordinary benefits – even if you are not using them to launch a full-scale SEO campaign, their digital savvy will be the key to getting noticed.