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2013 will be the year that SEO PR breaks into the mainstream

6th March 2013


Now – fellow PR pros – don’t beat me up for saying this, but I think that the vast majority of PR people really don’t get SEO. I made this point a few months ago on eConsultancy and, as you can see by the comments, a few of the usual faces defended the industry saying that general understanding is on the increase. I do agree that more and more of my peers are catching up and I predict 2013 will be the year SEO PR plays a bigger part of  an agency’s credentials. Some agencies have had a basic SEO offering, such as press release distribution for many years. What I think most have missed is just how widely their day to day efforts can improve the online visibility of their clients’ websites and how to maximise the traffic that they send there. I think SEO is an essential component of marketing but historically some PRs have belittled it. I set my business up in 2011 because I felt that PR agencies were missing a massive trick by not measuring the full SEO impact of their travails. This view was reinforced with the sheer ease at which my PR agency was spanking  thousands of well established PR agencies in the SERPs for a wide range of competitive search terms.  While we were not “number one in the Google search” for every term, we have front page visibility where it matters These competitor sites, with well-aged domains and link profiles that had been built up over years were quickly caught within the first six months of trading.  Now my company’s website sits very visibly across a good broad range of high search volume search queries generating lots of new business (thank you very much Google and my chums at PushON, SAScon and SEO Outsourcing who have taught me about good and – importantly – bad practice). In my mind SEO PR is broader than just press release distribution. SEO PR improves online visibility using a range of marketing communications, public relations and social media techniques. SEO PR builds links and social shares, driving traffic and improving our clients’ search engine visibility.  More importantly, driving traffic that converts.  The challenge for PR is to understand how public relations impacts upon online visibility (there is a bit more to it than merely links and shares) and how to measure and track the impact.  Not easy especially if there are other agencies contributing to the marketing mix. It took me a good four years to really, really get the measurement side of SEO PR to a point where it is presentable to a client, and I must thank Simon Wharton for mentoring me and being so generous in sharing some of his vast knowledge with me.   While there are countless books and blogs on the subject matter unfortunately learning SEO PR is something that is self taught.  There aren’t really many courses on the subject, and if there are I’d suspect they will become known in the comments on this article. If I have one tip for anyone wanting to fully understand SEO PR it would be to buy a domain, set up a Wordpress blog with Google Analytics and start playing with it.  Posting comments, fiddling with meta data, building links, checking rankings and really getting to know Google Analytics properly. If you employ young people with an interest in digital stuff then cut them some slack and let them experiment on their own domains. Then get some training.  Lots of it. What next for SEO PR? As I write this blog post the Interflora SEO penalty is unfolding and at the heart of the problem seems to be dodgy links from newspaper advertorials. A wide range of newspaper websites have been penalised for effectively selling links. Some might say that this undermines SEO PR as their domains are less authoritative. On the other hand I would argue that the Interflora crisis strengthens the hand of PR.  A PR link is earned, not bought.  While some sites will be penalised there will always be thousands of websites that won’t sell links, won’t get penalised and will still link out if the content is right. I believe that 2013 will be the year for SEO PR because Google is constantly reviewing its Penguin and Panda updates.  It is gradually tightening the net on manipulation. More and more SEO companies are becoming very accomplished at what I think are PR tactics and as manipulative link building gets found out, SEO agencies will change and adapt and encroach on the turf of the PR. It will be the SEO companies that innovate before the PR agencies.  In 2013 we will see more and more PR agencies buying SEO firms and increasing their competency that way. For that reason alone 2013 will be the year that SEO PR breaks into the mainstream James Crawford is managing director of PR Agency One a full service PR agency based in Manchester

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