Contributed by Eli Schwartz – Director of Marketing APAC at SurveyMonkey
If you have followed Google’s SEO messaging even peripherally you should be aware that Google’s efforts to purge their index of spam means that they have eliminated many of the SEO backlink building tactics (Google applies rankings to website based on the sites that link in to a website) that SEO practitioners have traditionally promoted. SEO at its genesis consisted of paying to be listed in web directories or sponsorships of media websites. Advancements in Google’s search technology led to logarithmic values assigned to all inbound links which transformed SEO from media buying into a more creative endeavour, as even in that dynamic scenario webmasters and SEO agencies were still able to artificially promote a website by reverse engineering the link ranking process and simply buying links from authoritative websites.
Now, Google has advanced to a level where they can recognise patterns of unnatural inbound links and subsequently apply demotions to search engine rankings. The Google algorithm looks for relevancy between a piece of content and its outbound links, and it also examines the theme of a piece of content to other articles on the same website. As a result, this has forced SEO linking to become a exercise of getting other websites to link to the target website on their own volition.
There is a name for this: PR.
The PR Connection
Have a look at an SEO pitch deck, and you will see concepts that typically only appeared in a PR proposal. Old stalwarts from PR pitches such as using free or paid surveys to develop unique data assets for media publication, expert interviews, and even creative product reviews have all migrated into SEO techniques. Additionally, SEO proposals have transitioned from a focus on speed and quantity of results to quality and long term planning, much like PR.
In this paradigm there is a lot that PR and SEO specialists can learn from each other. At the high level, PR can transform their efforts into acquiring an in-text hyperlink in a brand mention article while SEO can broaden their focus from just securing a link to also thinking about how a brand is positioned in a publication.
PR needs SEO
Furthermore, PR agencies need to adopt the SEO agency best practice of highlighting specific webpages that show more details about the pitched idea and how the information on these pages might better help the writer discuss the subject. In the SEO world, the goal is that the writer might find that they are more effective if they just hyperlink the content rather than to include all the details in their write-up. Likewise, SEO agencies must include significantly more data about the brand and products in their pitch for a hyperlink request. Without the pull of money exchanging hands, writers will want to understand more about why they should link to that particular website.
Will PR and SEO merge?
Nevertheless, even with the merging of responsibilities between PR and SEO, clients will likely still not be able to get away with only having one of these agencies. SEO experts are still required to guide a client in how to technically implement the complex web architecture that ensures visibility to search engines, and PR agencies have relationships that spans across media companies that is not just contingent on single personalities willing to give a brand mention. What you can expect to start seeing is more acquisition of SEO agencies by larger PR agencies and PR agencies building SEO practices. Whereas previously there have always been synergies between ad agencies and SEO which left PR out in the cold, this is set to change as Google makes progress in enforcing an organic regime on how links are generated.