PRs expect SEO income rise, but is the knowledge there to support it?
For this reason I ran a rough Survey Monkey study of UK PRs during May 2012 and, although it garnered 100 entries, the responses were interesting, especially as a quarter (23 people) took the time to fill the optional comments box.
In brief, there appears to be at least some recognition and factoring in of SEO into existing PR campaigns, but that SEO still sits outside PR on the whole rather than a core part of it.
My concern, however is that while 71 per cent of respondents said they expected their income to rise from SEO in the next 12 months, less than half (42 per cent) were able to accurately identify inbound links as the strongest element that influences search ranking on Google, with 35 per cent believing on-page optimisation was the main signal. This suggests that an educational process will still need to take place for PR to fully “own” SEO.
PR should own SEO
I’ve said before that, whether agency-side or in-house, PR should own SEO as part of the wider marketing mix. Why? Because they’re the ones creating content, generating links from external influential sources and managing social media channels, an increasingly important signal for search engines. They’re also used to analytics and reporting, therefore can adapt to generate strategies that will help domains rank higher.
As someone who has attended and ran workshops at the Brighton SEO conference, I know first-hand that SEO companies are trying to adapt to become more like PRs and there will be an inevitable merging between the two. While PRs come up to speed it makes sense for SEOs to partner with PR agencies (as some are already) rather than allow their work to be cannibalised by PR in the coming few years.
More than half (55 per cent) of respondents said that currently their clients view SEO as either “critical” (12 per cent) or “important” (43 per cent), so it is something that’s very much in the ascendancy.
What PRs think about SEO
Here is a snippet of the comments; more will appear on my online PR blog going forward as I cover this survey in more depth:
- “Even at the very best agencies, with smart people, most of the staff don’t get the intricacies of search and how clever PR can make a massive difference in this area.”
- “It’s not understood at all by PR people. I feel like PRs selling SEO are a con.”
- “We as an industry don’t understand as much of it as we should. However, clients don’t seem to associate SEO and PR. So, they’ll pay for an SEO agency to ensure marketing outputs are optimised, key words bought etc., but when it comes to PR content, they will still insist on crap press releases and other overly verbose guff that does nothing for SEO yet is only ever likely to deliver value for the business in a SEO context. Twas ever and thus.”
- “PRs don’t know the SEO value of what they already do. Just asking for a link to the right page is incredible powerful to SEO. Most PRs say that they can’t get those links, but never ask for them. They should. Not just to home pages either – to deeper category and product pages!”
- “PR’s understanding of SEO is abysmal. And so is SEO’s understanding of PR.”
An important caveat is that the survey was pushed on social media – Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – therefore respondents are already heavily active in online marketing. There are many PRs who are barely active at all and therefore this survey could be merely a straw poll of online-savvy PRs at the tip of a search-illiterate iceberg of PRs.
There’s a Darwinian struggle going on. Smart PRs who haven’t done so already will clue up on SEO and integrate search strategies into their PR and social media campaigns to avoid missing the boat. Those that do not won’t be able to offer the full remit of PR services required in the era of the Social Web. Where do you stand?
Figure 1: Percentage of PR fee income directly related to SEO
Figure 2: What aspects of search are you already engaged with for clients?
Here are some of the tweets we have had in response to the post so far:
— IP SEO (@ip_seo) May 22, 2012
— Ged Carroll (@r_c) May 22, 2012
— James Poulter (@jamespoulter) May 22, 2012
— Chris Field (@Fieldworks) May 22, 2012