PR and SEO. No ...


PR & SEO Holmes Innovation Summit

This headline served as the title for my talk at the Holmes Innovation Summit on Tuesday.

The pulpit gave me an opportunity to evangelize one of my favorite causes, the opportunity for PR to jump into the SEO game.

Stepping back for a minute, the genius of Google’s advertising model for search lies in allowing companies to be very specific in who they target. If a company makes software for shipping packages, and the same company wants a paid ad to appear for the term [online shipping software], the mere action of clicking on the ad qualifies the person as a sales prospect. Paid search has essentially given Google a license to print money to the tune of about $45 billion in 2014.

Now compare securing media coverage to creating an advertisement. There’s a reason advertising agencies aren’t in the PR business and PR agencies stay away from traditional advertising. Each discipline requires a different set of skills.

Yet, SEO consultancies have handled both paid search and organic search  (the non-paid results served up by Google for a search) forever.

This makes no sense.

Much like generating media coverage, it’s the content that underpins organic search. Furthermore, by virtue of NOT being paid, organic search delivers  greater credibility. After all, it’s in Google’s best interest to serve up the best organic results for a given search.

Organic search would seem like a natural extension of what PR does best.

So why has the profession stayed on the sidelines?

SEO scares PR.

SEO intimidates PR.

Taking liberties with the Rolling Stone campaign from the 1980s, the following captures the flawed premise.

Perception vs. Reality of SEO

PR still perceives SEO as a technical endeavor better left to the pocket-protector professionals. Under “Perception,” you see the meta data from the Toyota home page and what appears to be a bunch of complex coding.

The reality is you don’t need to be super technical or a programmer for most organic search campaigns, particularly in the B2B sphere. What you see under “Reality” is the title tag buried in the same meta data from the Toyota home page. That’s essentially the technical brainpower that went into the SEO on this page.

It’s not that tough.

Google wants the best content to win.

Equally important, Google is striving to squeeze the technical gamesmanship out of organic search. The Hummingbird update (to the search algorithm) announced on September 26, 2013 sent a clear message of Google’s long-term intentions to value signals reflecting quality of content over technical acuity.

Assuming the PR function is writing content that’s valued by the target audience and isn’t easily found elsewhere — an assumption to be challenged at another time — PR now sits in a better position than SEO consultancies to take on organic search assignments.

Don’t be scared!


  • Frank Strong

    And that’s why you’re a story teller — those two screenshots sum it up instantly — in what would other wise take several paragraphs. Well done!

    • hoffman

      Thanks Frank. Even “borrowed” the same typography from that classic Rolling Stone ad campaign in the two screenshots.


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