PR, SEO and content marketing – it’s all going in the same direction

Recent debate surrounding whether Google has killed off the PR agency sparked some very lively debate within the worlds of PR and SEO. As these two disciplines are now more entwined than anyone would care to admit the question really should be ‘Has Google killed all PR and SEO agencies?’

Recent updates to Google – with some having a significant impact, others less so – seem to be less about link building strategies and more about creating quality content that people want to share. And, although you wouldn’t expect us to say any differently, this puts PR agencies at the front of this brave new world of creating content that brands own, earn and pay for. Why? It’s in a PR agency’s DNA – telling stories that are entertaining, interesting and relevant to a specific audience, which that audience wants to tell others about.

The way in which all consumers can now be journalists, and any brand a publisher of news, has created both greater noise to cut through to reach an audience, but also a greater number of platforms and media in which to tell a client’s story. The challenge should be relished.

There are two key changes Google has made that tactically could trip up a PR agency; distributed press releases with overly optimised link text and large-scale guest-posting campaigns (i.e. guest blogging) with keyword-rich anchor text links.

As an agency, we’d always felt simply firing out a press release stuffed with keywords and hoping for pick-up was kind of like walking around a supermarket blind folded and hoping to pick up the ingredients for your favourite dinner. A press release is the means, never the end. Meanwhile, the way in which agencies work with bloggers has changed. Long term relationships with smaller, more influential groups are being cultivated as opposed to a pile ’em high approach of years gone by.

Fortunately what Google seems to be at least partly favouring [there are always exceptions] in search results – creating useful, interesting content that people will want to share – is what most agencies were already doing.

What’s more high domain authority sites tend to be the same reputable news sites that clients have always wanted to appear in anyway. So encouraging links within the copy of a piece of coverage is becoming more than an added bonus for our clients, it’s an integral part of securing coverage.

However, these links [which only make up a modest part of the SEO puzzle] are hard won and there is no short cut, as Interflora found out to their peril earlier this year after being put in the mother of all Google sin bins. More than 150 links on regional news sites all in the form of adverts caused a rankings slide.

While there is an element of poor judgement in this case, there is more than a degree of sympathy from us. We’ve taken the decision to build a new Smarts website [launching in two weeks!] after some our own links [undertaken by a third party and unbeknown to us] saw us put on Google’s naughty step.

We’ve learnt a lot from that experience. But there’s so much more to learn from all sides. So rather than all this talk of killing the PR or SEO agency why don’t we all learn a little from one another instead.

After all, in SEO, PR, content marketing or whatever you want to call itm we’re all heading in the same direction for the time being at least, aren’t we?

Rebecca Scully is managing director at PR agency Smarts.

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