Not so long ago people would have called you crazy for suggesting that PR and SEO could be friends. After all, SEO was all about gaming the search engine algorithms to push your websites higher than they deserved to go. You did this by finding loopholes in the system. For example, you wrote lots of guest articles without really caring about the quality, just so that you could backlink to your website. Or you used strange language constructs that didn’t flow, but more closely matched what people were likely to type into a search engine.
In other words, you would do what would make Edward L. Bernays, the little-known father of PR, roll over in his grave. After all, PR is all about reaching out to customers and creating positive relationships with them, something these tactics absolutely did not do.
A modern era
With the latest Google tweaks, such as Penguin and Panda, that has changed. They’ve made a lot of the practices to boost your standing less effective where they haven’t eliminated them entirely. What’s more, they’ve made it clear that Google is on the warpath to irradiate any future tricks found to manipulate their algorithm once they find out about them. That means that sooner or later all your hard algorithm cracking work will be rendered useless.
And so people have started looking at alternative strategies to boost SEO more in line with what Google wants, and what Google seems to want is to bring SEO and PR far closer together, as good PR practices now boost SEO as well.
This has served to make the two friends in a number of ways.
Content is King(dom)
The first way the two practices have come together is that they now both require something to ‘sell’. They both need good content. That, in itself, is not enough (content isn’t king, it just gives you a kingdom) but without it, neither will get anywhere. After all, it doesn’t matter how hard you push something, if people don’t want it, then they’ll go looking elsewhere.
For that reason, SEO has swung around to the PR way of thinking and has started creating better content rather than large amounts of it. For obvious reasons, as there’s already more than enough content on the internet that is little more than other websites regurgitated and that’s not really what people are after. What they want is high-quality and original content that tells them something new. And it is that kind of content that will draw traffic as well as push you up in the Google ranking.
Admittedly, this has made it harder for many websites. After all, getting people retype what’s already on the internet just with different links could be accomplished by average freelancers or bloggers sitting at home. The quest for new ideas and new content, on the other hand, is both a far more labor-intensive and costly enterprise. Therefore don’t be surprised to see many mom and pop sites go under in the months to come, even as companies with the manpower and the resources to compete continue to expand their influence.
The internet really is no longer the land of milk and honey.
The Social Media Alliance
Through the before-mentioned Google tweaks, PR and SEO have come to agree in another area and that is social media. Again, it has been SEO that has changed directions here, as suddenly likes, shares, and re-tweets matter to them as these now also affect ranking in Google search algorithms.
For that reason if you want to rank well you’ve got to boost your social media profiles. That alone might not be enough, however. After all the spending on social media advertising, last year increased by 33.5% even while the percentage of new users climbed by a little under 5%. That means that each dollar spent will have less value.
The way many companies are trying to sidestep this is by looking at jumping onto trends before other people do, in the hope of riding the wave and getting greater attention for their content than they otherwise would have. There are a lot of tools for this now so be sure you use them, as many allow you to not just look at trending topics overall, but also per category and industry.
The Referral Relationship
In PR, the drive to create good press has always been an important one and now SEO has joined them in this regard as well. This is because referrals from high-quality websites have become a fantastic way to boost your rank in Google. But as cold-calling is (and never really has been) a very effective technique, more and more companies are aiming at building and maintaining long-term relations with high-ranking websites including the newspaper.
Here as well a slew of new tools are also available to websites – the most interesting of them is possibly Help A Reporter Out. Here journalists can state what kind of source they need for an article and then companies can offer their services, in return for a link back and – possibly – a longer term relationship, which can be beneficial to both sides.
What Google is pushing for with their algorithm changes is to make it so that if you want to stay ahead in the SEO ranking system you have to actually give users what they want. Do this successfully and you will rank high, fail and you’ll slide down as the algorithms get tweaked against you.
And as they make these changes, the customer gets a better user-experience on the Google search engine, making the company’s reign at the top even less unassailable. In effect, it’s like a ratchet that will constantly wind up more tightly and thereby twist SEO and PR closer together until one day they aren’t just friends but they are one and the same. I can’t help but wonder if that means that in some years that means I’ll be writing articles about in which ways SEO and PR still differ?