Should PR and SEO Stop Dating and Get Married Already?
After 3 years of intense, market shifting Google updates in the form of Panda, Penguin and Hummingbird, I think we’ve landed in a new world. One that can be dominated by PR Agencies partnering up with ‘legit’ SEO firms, if they both understand the rules of engagement and embrace a new reality through fresh eyes.
Think of Google and why it does what it does. In the most basic sense, it’s attempting to serve up ‘the truth’. Plenty of power players in the SEO community have debated this point for many years, and with good reason. However, I’m not talking about the ‘moral compass’ of Google. I’m talking about the rules they lay out which, in their world, represent ‘the truth’ (however corrupt or misguided it may or may not be).
A PR company’s main job is to increase the exposure of their client’s message, brand, product, etc. Obviously, there is more to it than that, but for the sake of this article, let’s agree that more exposure is a good thing for a client.
An SEO company’s main job is to make their client’s websites more attractive to Google so they will climb in the rankings. Much like with PR, SEOs will tell you that it’s far more than that, and it is, but the basic concept is to move rankings up to increase exposure so the client sells more of their goods and services.
Rule #2. Have clean searchable code. (Structure)
Rule #3. Have strong, meaningful links coming back into your site from relevant authority sites. (Popularity)
Rule #2 (Structure) – If you know what you’re doing, it is attainable.
Rule #3 (Popularity) –This aspect of SEO can get tricky and that is why PR agencies are potentially in the driver’s seat.
Rule #2. Have a strong network to which you can expose the story. (Reach)
Rule #3. Make that story stay top of mind for as long as possible (Duration).
Rule #2 (Reach) – One would assume that a good PR company has no difficulty with this.
Rule #3 (Duration)–This is where it gets tricky for the area of PR and why SEO agencies are in the driver’s seat.
Why this works in favor of the PR agencies.
In writing this article, we looked at the digital efforts being put forth by the top 10 PR Firms in the US (according to Odwyer Ranked PR Firms List –http://www.odwyerpr.com/pr_firm_rankings/independents.htm
The trend we’re seeing, emphasized by MWW’s acquisition of Ideation Inc in October of 2014, is that the focus is on persona based content development and social media. Those are powerful, important things. Hubspot’s IPO in October 2014, further supports that the industry is trending very favorably toward Inbound / Content driven campaigns.
But here’s the thing – that’s not Technical SEO.
All of the top PR firms could well argue that ‘content is king’ and it is, but that’s not Technical SEO.
Technical SEO is tech, it’s reverse engineering, it’s studying the algorithm, developing Google friendly content beyond persona and knowing how to push the boundaries without going over them and ultimately, Technical SEO is very hard. I would suggest, this is why the PR firms aren’t including it in their offerings, and for that reason, they are wise not to.
We think there’s a path to complete the puzzle. We’re not rallying against content, social and persona – on the contrary, those are vital, valuable and important. However, if they are not coupled with legitimate, technical research and road map based SEO then, it’s missing the centerpiece.
Imagine if you will a PR Agency in Manhattan. They have a client list of about 50 brands, 20 percent of which are Fortune 500.
This Manhattan agency spends a great deal of time every day conceptualizing, creating, curating and pitching their client’s concepts, creatives, events and news to their network. For outreach, they use a blend of tools with their own personal contacts list. When everything is working, they fire on all cylinders and the end result is the story stays in the media for a full week. Success!
What if the story stayed at the top of the Google search results for just one more week, in some cases doubling duration? What if it stayed there for a full month and in addition had 20 long tail articles ranking for the same topic? And what if the PR Agency also had the ability to run 24/7/365 SEO audits so that big SEO blockers can be immediately identified and removed so their PR has a more meaningful result. And, what if this happened for every single story that came out about that client for the entire year? And, what if many of those pieces had back links pointing back to the client’s website?
More significantly, what if that PR firm did this for all 50 of its clients/brands?
I would suggest…you’re gonna need a bigger boat.
So how exactly might this play out?
Let’s imagine one of the PR agency’s clients was an insurance company which ranks #5 on Google for ‘Insurance Quotes’. In this scenario, the #1 result for that keyword had a back link profile that showed 2 of their top 10 backlinks are on sites for companies with whom the PR agency has a contact. Consequently, the PR agency could write stories with those targets in mind, for the sole purpose of getting a link when published.
Lets see if we can prove there’s a little more than something to this theory.
Over the last 6 months we’ve been tracking the keyword ‘Insurance Quotes’ on Google.
In January 2015, the #1 organic ranking result was Geico.com. However, earlier this year another company took over that #1 position www.insurancequotes.com.
To the uninitiated you might look at their url and think ‘well, it’s because it’s an exact match url!”. However, when you dig a little deeper you start to see something else that is striking about this website – it’s their link profile (and this is exactly what this article is addressing).
Below is a snapshot of Geico.com’s back link profile, sorted by ‘Domain Rating’ – in other words – their most valuable domain links that are pointing back into Geico.com are at the top.
Their 5 most powerful links are coming from Youtube, Plus.google.com, Adobe.com, Pinterest.com, Apple.com (Apart from Apple and Adobe, those are pretty easy to get links) – but this is where it gets interesting.
6 of their top 30 most powerful links are coming from media outlets.
Now, lets take a look at the media back link profile of www.insurancequotes.com.
In their top 30 links (by way of Domain Authority), they have the following media outlets pointing links to their website.
Both sites are doing great with ranking for ‘Insurance Quotes’ – one of them is supported by an enormous traditional media spend, but the other has overtaken them for the keyword ‘Insurance Quotes’ and it appears as though one of the big reasons for that (at least from an SEO perspective) is that www.insurancequotes.com is being linked to by more of the main stream media outlets.
To further support this theory, all of the other big SEO variables are in favor of Geico.com, not InsuranceQuotes.com. (the below data snapshots were taken Aug 24/2015).
Age of domain
Geico.com was first registered in 1997
InsuranceQuotes.com was first registered in 1999
Size of Site
Geico.com has 36,400 pages indexed on Google
InsuranceQuotes.com has 1,510 pages indexed on Google
Overall Number of Domain Back Links
Geico.com has 10,592 other domains pointing links to them.
InsuranceQuotes.com has 1,847 inbound domain links.
Geico.com scores a 71/100 for desktop page speed
InsuranceQuotes.com scores a 50/100 for desktop page speed.
PR agencies have the thing that SEO agencies covet the most; they have the media contacts. The thing PR agencies are lacking is the technical know how to build a process that serves the purpose of SEO, which in turn serves the purpose of PR.
So, as to the question, should PR and SEO stop dating and get married already, the answer isyes. PR and SEO should, once and for all, stop circling one another and take the plunge. I can see virtually no downside to it and only an explosive upside. Like all marriages though, it’s all about who you marry, so court your partner wisely.
Both industries are fishing in similar waters, but they are looking at client outcomes in markedly different ways – and when the penny drops (in my opinion, it’s a question of when not if) the first few groups to truly embrace and succeed in this new reality will have an enormous, first movers’ advantage.
Now it’s only a question of which acronym we settle on: PRSEO or SEOPR? Public Search Relations! Nailed it.