PROs should be way out front of SEOs, says Joshua Lachkovic Hotwire

A few months ago, I went to a Search London meet up on the subject of entrepreneurship and content marketing. As with any comms industry event you go to, there was the natural “my discipline-is-better-than-yours” posturing and so there were the odd jokes against PR, advertising or anything that wasn’t SEO. The only problem of course, which the SEO industry has known for a long time, is that SEO is no longer a technical discipline or dark art; it’s about content, outreach and the way you interact with the public.

As marketing and communications disciplines distort and new terminology evolves, many people you speak to rightly say: “We already do this, we just package it differently”. While technical elements of SEO are still something that not everyone would be expected to know fully, the whole idea of gaining natural, authoritative and editorially led links, is something PROs should be aware of. Replace “links” with “coverage” and you’ve just found our modus operandi.

Why on earth isn’t the PR industry out way in front when it comes to SEO?

Econsultancy has been leading the change for over a year, but apparently, it still needs reinforcing. Last month, Tom Foremski for ZDNet successfully trolled the PR industry when he asked if Google just killed PR agencies. The answer was no, in fact, if anything, it helped them and I, like many others in the industry, took the bait and was quick to respond.

In the aftermath, the problem hit me: We felt the need to respond. It should have been such a preposterous claim that we just laughed it off rather than responding in-depth. The problem is that despite the similarities among activities and strategies between PR and SEO, we don’t seem to recognise it.

Search is evolving with each year.

In 2014, if smart watches enter the mainstream it will have a big effect on the way we access information. With services like Siri, we’re already relying on vocal interactions to search things online. With Google Now, we’re absolving responsibility of actually searching for something. And these trends will only expand. In fact, this personalisation of search, is what will be the most dramatic shift.

The PR industry should not be playing catch up with SEO best practice and at the minute, it feels like it is.

We include SEO as part of all levels of training here, so that an understanding is in place whether this is your first week as a graduate trainee or a director. In the same way that social has now become something that we all should understand as second nature, the same is true of SEO.

As search and the way we access information online evolves, those that are left behind when thinking about SEO now will be even further behind in years to come. We need to get to the stage when Foremski’s article never would have seen the light of day, because until we do, we’ve got some catching up to do.

Joshua Lachkovic, digital marketing executive at PR agency Hotwire