If you’re a PR company and you have no idea about SEO then you’re missing a huge opportunity, because many would argue that PR now equals SEO.
What do I mean by this? In days gone by, a lot of SEO work was about ‘gaming’ Google’s search engine.
Essentially Google’s PageRank algorithm could be boiled back to adding up the number of links a page received in relation to any given keyword. There were any number of tricks you could use to push your results higher; submitting pages and links to online directories and press release sites, buying links, through to just making sure that pages were crammed with your important keywords.
However, inch-by-inch Google has been actively working to identify and counter these methods of gaming. Recent updates to Google’s search algorithms — named the Penguin and Panda releases — have de-emphasised some of these traditional indicators in preference to emerging signals like social shares. However, it has also moved against some of the “black hat” tactics of the past, and now penalises the ranking of companies it believes have tried to game their search engine results.
Most recently, Interflora found its website disappear from search engine rankings because it was deemed to have paid for links. It didn’t even do so, in a manner that might be perceived as particularly underhanded, rather it bought editorials in a large number of respectable outlets including UK newspaper websites. Google not only penalised Interflora, but also the newspaper websites themselves.
Explaining why this was happening, Matt Cutts, who heads up Google’s search engine ranking team, explained that the search engine kingpin was cracking down on all artificial indicators of a website or page’s quality and popularity. He advises those who want to improve their search engine results to focus on getting real, organic links and shares of their website and pages.
In other words, if you want to do SEO then you have to do PR. And you can probably break that down into two types of PR — getting your story into external media outlets, hopefully with a link, but perhaps even more importantly creating great, interesting content on your own content channels that compels other people to link or share those with their social networks.
That in itself has enormous benefit to a company’s marketing, but it is now increasingly backed up by the double whammy of positively influencing search results.
As such, it would seem compelling for PR professionals and agencies to have a reasonable understanding of SEO and how your PR initiatives impact that area of marketing. I would suggest it needs to be an element of PR measurement and metrics and you should be selling it as a benefit of your work to stakeholders and clients.
Or else if you can’t be bummed on the upside, realise that a mistake like that of Interflora could be incredibly damaging — Interflora’s ban likely cost the company millions.
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