We’re Not Ninjas, We’re Mutants

There’s always a real sense of ‘change’ and ‘urgency’ in our industry, and there’s nothing we love more than predicting the next advancements. But as we move forward, it seems the rules are becoming increasingly familiar; they’re not new rules at all.

This blog post is a response to a very interesting, timely post that my friend, Clarissa Sajbl, wrote here on State of Search recently, called PR + SEO When Two Worlds Collide.

In this post she cleverly discusses how SEO agencies are beginning to team up with PR agencies to create content that’s good enough to generate online brand awareness, as well as high quality links. Funny that, don’t you think? We’re no-longer happy just with the link; now we want the content of the article to actively promote our clients’ brands.

“I think it’s only fair to say that both industries as a result face the same challenge – to produce attention grabbing and high quality content that is resonating with their audiences. The PR industry is currently facing a high surge in SEO requirements. However, having said that PRs are well positioned to build links since a big chunk of their responsibilities is to build relationships though now matched with online and social media.” – Clarissa Sajbl

Clarissa also mentions that, back in the day, SEOs were not equipped to create great content but had the understanding of its relevance in the online world. But wasn’t it always the PR’s role to create an angle that would get published in the right place? If they can do that better than SEOs, what’s the point in having us? But hang on, if they need SEOs to tell them what constitutes a ‘good place’ to publish something (in SEO terms) then maybe we should all get together and collaborate?

Perhaps we’re missing the point.  Aren’t we being incredibly old-fashioned to be thinking this way? PRs do PR, Journalists write, and SEOs do SEO. SEOs can’t produce content, they need PR people and journalists to do that – is it really that black and white? It is 2013, after all.

We’ve come a long way in the last 18 months and everyone (well, nearly everyone) has finally accepted that we need great content to get great links. But just because the content we are creating is well-written, interesting, funny, useful etc doesn’t necessarily mean that it drives people to our clients’ sites. Many SEOs have worked out some incredibly creative ways to sneak a link into their copy, but so what? I’m not talking about rankings here, I’m talking about good-old-fashioned PR – you write something, someone reads it and as a direct response they visit your client’s site and consider buying something from them.

This leads me to my question: What if links didn’t exist?

Forget links for a moment. What does the content you produce for your clients have to do with their brand? What value does it offer them? If the only benefit is to have the link pointing at their site, with no real reason to click on it, aren’t you missing a golden opportunity? PRs use this opportunity to get real sales and create brand awareness, right then and there.

Try writing an outreach article that has no links in it. How can you mention your client, or the services/products your client provides? Try and adopt the PR’s mindset to create a story around your client.  Then go back and review what you have written with your SEO mindset. If it’s written well enough, the article will add value even if there’s no link in it. If you also add a link, then you’ve got it all!

PR and SEO aren’t colliding – they’re mutating into a new breed

I don’t think the future is about PRs and SEOs teaming up. I think the future is about adapting and merging skills to fit the modern world. I think it’s about creating digital teams that can do it all. We need to be able to think and act quickly, creatively, technically and dynamically. We’ve got nothing to gain from sticking rigidly to our defined roles, and everything to gain from being open to learning more.

This post is ideal for people in PR, SEO or Management roles.

About Ben Holbrook

Ben Holbrook is Head of Content at Verve Search and has a particular interest in content marketing and developing sustainable link development strategies.