(This post first appeared on the CIPR Conversation).
The debate around PR and SEO refuses to go away. However, recent Google algorithm changes seem to have pushed the discussion to the fore again. A common theme is emerging – namely, that, more than ever, high quality, relevant content on trusted, high authority sites is crucial to good SEO – and PR professionals may be better placed to create that content than many SEOs.
Well, not quite. As ever, reality begs to differ. I was particularly reminded of this by Dr Peter Meyers of the Chicago based firm User Effect who has written some excellent blog posts recently on the subject of SEO.
Specfically he points out that: “Every week, without fail, I hear someone ask where they should put their SEO budget – in on-page tactics or in link-building. Unfortunately, there are plenty of SEO companies and consultants lining up to give them the answer – and that answer just happens (“coincidentally”) to be whatever the company/consultant is good at. When you’re an expert with a hammer, you start to think you can nail anyone (wait, that’s not right).”
And of course, these kind of comments could equally apply to PR. If your expertise lies in media relations, then naturally you’ll find it hard not to recommend to a client that a media relations solution is the way forward.
But I agree with Dr Meyers when he says that the honest answer is: “It depends”.
And of course, that is the answer that no client wants to hear. They want “an answer”. Or more specifically they want “THE answer”. That someone is going to take the pain away and deliver the silver bullet solution.
In a similar vein, people sometimes view training as a quick fix. Send someone on an SEO training course and they’ll come back with “the answer”.
Clearly, you have to start somewhere – and for PR professionals, the CIPR already offers workshops and webinars that will provide a rapid fire introduction to SEO basics (as well as other areas of the digital marketing mix such as social media and analytics).
But this is merely the first part of the journey. You can spend your entire life just reading about SEO or attending training workshops. However, there comes a point when you actually have to start doing it.
So rather than waste our energies arguing over whether SEO firms should be doing PR and vice versa, the only real way to find out is as Dr Meyers so eloquently puts it: “Do The F*cking Work.” Sticking with the same core set of skills that may have worked in the past is no longer an option. As I’ve opined before, one trick ponies are going to be a liability. Or as Dr Meyers more colorfully puts it: “One trick ponies make good glue”.
No single blog post or one day workshop is of itself going to solve all your problems. This is your profession and your career. Not only is continuous learning and development a pre-requisite, actually making the time to apply it is mandatory. Even if you can’t immediately find opportunities within your own work to apply these things, then make the opportunities yourself. It costs next to nothing to create your own blog, install Google Analytics and set up a Google Adwords account. Don’t just read about SEO and nod sagely when people stand up at conferences and say that PR professionals COULD have a valuable role in SEO. Actually do it.