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We’re Not Ninjas, We’re Mutants

30 January 2013 BY

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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.

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

8 Responses to “We’re Not Ninjas, We’re Mutants”

  1. Paul Martin says:

    But would you not rather have 1 amazing PR person and 1 amazing SEO in your team, rather the 2 average people who can get by in both disciplines?

    I think the skill sets are separate. While both need to have a working knowledge of what the other does along with a tight working relationship, you can’t create an effective hybrid. Even if you do, they’ll be very hard to come by and very expensive to hire!

    A PR has exceptional people skills, a way with words and a tight grasp on the world of journalism. An SEO enjoys getting stuck into HTML code, debugging internal site structure and analysing what links a website needs in order to rank.

    Very different skill sets.

  2. Barry Adams says:

    In effect what you need is brand builders. Hard as it is for me to accept this, as I come from a technical background and am loathe to embrace fuzzy marketing lingo, but modern day SEO (and digital marketing in general) is about building a strong online brand that engages your target audience and builds lasting value for customers.

    And it’s not SEO that does that, nor is it PR. It’s good marketing that builds brands.SEO and PR are part of the tactical toolset of (digital) marketing, but you need that higher level vision and strategy to make it all work.

    • This is a really well written article, and you’re
      spot on in that to create content that’ll impress both people and search engines we definitely need to rise above and beyond the defined roles of SEO and PR.

      So many people focus on writing to get a link when in actual fact they are missing the heart and purpose out of their task, to inform, entertain and interest the person. Only then can we begin to drive sales and build links naturally.

      “you can’t create an effective hybrid. Even if you do, they’ll be
      very hard to come by and very expensive to hire!”

      Paul, surely what Ben is saying that instead of trying to create a hybrid mass of skills, the techniques in SEO and PR need to become synonymous with each other. The two work hand in and hand, and as Ben rightfully said both are simply powerful tools of digital marketing.

      The state of the web today dictates that you can’t carry out good SEO without creating quality content. Obviously no one is expecting people to instantly become digital marketing dynamos, excellent at everything they touch, but great content writing and public relation skills are now a fast becoming a necessity for SEOs to learn.

  3. This is a really well written article, and you’re spot on in that to create content that’ll impress both people and search engines we definitely need to rise above and beyond the defined roles of SEO and PR.

    So many people focus on writing to get a link when in actual fact they are missing the heart and purpose out of their task, to inform, entertain and interest the person. Only then can we begin to drive sales and build links naturally.

    “you can’t create an effective hybrid. Even if you do, they’ll be
    very hard to come by and very expensive to hire!”

    Paul, surely what Ben is saying that instead of trying to create a hybrid mass of skills, the techniques in SEO and PR need to become synonymous with each other. The two work hand in and hand, and as Ben rightfully said both are powerful tools of digital marketing.

    The state of the web today dictates that you can’t carry out good SEO without creating quality content. Obviously no one is expecting people to instantly become digital marketing dynamos, excellent at everything they touch, but great content writing and public relation skills are now a fast becoming a necessity for SEOs to learn.

    • Paul Martin says:

      Hey Harry – I totally agree, and you use the word “synonymous”, which is a nice term.

      Ben says; “I don’t think the future is about PRs and SEOs teaming up. I think the future is about adapting and merging skills”

      I completely disagree.

      As I said, PR and SEO need to work very close to each other and know exactly what the other is doing and requiring of them at all times. However, the skill sets required to perform each job to a high standard and get the best results, demand that SEO and PR are individuals, and not rolled into one entity that Ben seems to finish off the article by saying here.

      You could squish the roles together if you can’t afford to hire top notch SEO and PR bods, but you’ll only be doing a half arsed job for your campaigns. You’ll find you get better results from your efforts if you hire them individually.

      You just need to make sure that your SEOs know what goes into delivering top notch PR campaigns, and visa versa, with your PR guys knowing what the SEOs are trying to achieve :)

  4. Tim Kapitein says:

    I agree with Paul.

    I think skill-sets of marketing departments will be extended. SEO’s need to work with people with other qualities. Not a bad development, I think.

  5. [...] can read more about this in an article by State Of Search, a popular digital marketing [...]

  6. Craig McGill says:

    PR – moreso than SEO – is very much in a state of flux at the moment as many PRs thought their job was only about getting press coverage (so more press relations than public relations) and now things like SEO are scaring the hell out of them because it’s a lot more technical than they are used to (the old standard PR measurement would make most SEO’s laugh out of pity).

    The odds are the future will see mashups of jobs just like people expect PRs to take pictures and videos – even if they aren’t as good as what a specialist would take – but there will still be a role for some specialists.

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