I ask this controversial question for two reasons. Firstly, so many people now understand on-page SEO basics, and secondly, it has widely been accepted that PR, of the online variety, is key to building up links.

So where does this leave the SEO professional?

The end is looming for SEOs, whose bread and butter comes from telling people how to construct title tags and what to highlight in H1 tags.

Other professions — from web designers/developers to content writers — have absorbed such knowledge to add value to their own work, and almost everyone can get most of the basics right without hiring a SEO consultant.

The reason the role of the SEO is still important is because non techie people don't want to get into the world of trying to understand and keep up with Google's algorithm.

They know about on-page optimisation because it's on their website, but off-site optimisation isn't their bag.

In truth, off-site optimisation, link building or link baiting, should actually be in the domain of PR professionals.

PRs understand – or at least should understand – how to take a brand, product or service and get people to talk about it.

They are also apt in the art of crisis management and keeping things out of the media.

This is a skill that is increasingly becoming important online (such as negative search result rankings), in a world where today's news isn't tomorrow's chip paper but something that will linger forever.

Unfortunately many PRs have been either too slow to get involved with the techie side, or uninterested with online media coverage.

So SEOs, normally with backgrounds in web development, have taken the lead in winning business to create links to their clients.

Many of the rules which apply to PR also apply to online PR (with a few tweaks).

So there is no reason why, once a website has on-page optimisation, a PR professional, with skills adapted to online, couldn't take the role of generating links.

So if a web developer can build a search engine friendly website, a content writer knows how to write search engine friendly copy and an online PR guru can get blogs/websites/forums to link to that content, where does that leave an SEO?

After all, you have the three main ingredients for natural search rankings; visibility, content and incoming links.

Read more from Leon Bailey Green on his website .

Related research:
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO): A Beginner's Guide

Related stories:
If SEO's a hygiene factor, why are so many sites dirty?
5 ways to beat the SEO competition in Google

The views of the author do not necessarily reflect those of the publisher.


Published 23 July, 2008 by Contributor

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Comments (25)

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Adam Crawford, Head of SEO at Momondo Group

"So if a web developer can build a search engine friendly website, a content writer knows how to write search engine friendly copy and an online PR guru can get blogs/websites/forums to link to that content, where does that leave an SEO?"

Coorindinating all of the above to produce the best results. The modern SEO is the only person that understands all elements, and can synchronise all necessary resources to get the best results.

about 10 years ago


Chris Reed

Interesting post, and as a PR I'm bound to agree with virtually all of it, aren't I?

However, I think the analysis is a bit simplistic, and expects too much of an online PR guru. Or rather too little.

An online PR guru can not "get" blogs/websites/forums to link to content. If the content is good, it will get links. If it's not, you won't. You can't rustle links up from thin air.

But I'd actually argue that the online PR guru should be able to write SEO-friendly copy which is strong enough to generate links simply by being strong copy.

In the good old days, a good PR would understand brand planning, media planning, content creation, and sales (as well as being a creative and a suit) to persuade journalists to run stories in their clients' interests.

Nowadays the best online PRs are simply adding a few more strings to their bows - also writing for SEO (as well as writing for journalists/print), and understanding the power of networks (link love doesn't grow on trees).

In my view the best PRs already have the right mindset to help their clients navigate online and run successful campaigns. It's some of the other agencies which are playing catch-up.

about 10 years ago

Robin Gurney

Robin Gurney, MD at CRE8ORS

I have been "doing SEO" for a decade although I confess not to being hardcore tech side - more strategy and planning.
At the same time I have been running around for a couple of years telling anyone who listens that not only SEO but much of internet marketing belongs in the hands of the PR practitioners.
After all who understands the message better?
When you consider the raw truth: content is king and the internet is just content connected by links then when the PR's really wake up (e.g. digicasity team is one example) the rest of us will have to sit up and take notice.

As a traditional internet marketing agency we have been focusing more and more attention on getting closer to PR - involving experts like David Phillips for example.

I have no doubt that not just SEO but affiliate marketing, all forms of social media marketing, SEM and even the humble domain of email marketing could all benefit from the PR's input.

Having said that it just means PRs become a target for partnership, sales and acquisition. Buy them before they buy us !

about 10 years ago

Anthony Sharot

Anthony Sharot, Search Marketing Director at http://www.marketappeal.com/

Off page SEO could well have ended up the preserve of the PR professionals, if they'd been quicker to embrace it.

In reality, many SEO agencies embraced online PR before traditional agencies woke up to the fact that this could have been their domain all along.

Combine that with the fact that SEO is a half technical discipline with it's own dedicated tools (I use over a dozen daily including: keyword research tools, backlink analysers, rank checkers, code analysers, copy analysers, analytics software and tracking troublshooters) and that allied areas such as PPC and their analytics are a great source of keyword research information, and you end up with a discipline so far from traditional PR that it's a bit of a stretch for the average off line mind.

From my experience, most web designers don't have a great grasp of usability, IA or conversion optimisation and can't tell you the differences between a regular SEO web page and a PPC optimised landing page, and don't know how to diagnose duplicate content and indexing issues on sites with 100k ++ pages, despite having a great eye for design.

My point is that many people including traditional PRs and web designers could do SEO, if they had eight spare hours per day to dedicate to the tasks. As they don't, they add to the ever growing pile of people who grasp the basics, which is fine for smaller sites, but they are no more SEO professionals than the average kid who learns some html is an accomplished web designer, or anyone penning their first press release is a PR professional.

Anthony Sharot

Search Director
Market Appeal

about 10 years ago


David Phillips

Thanks Robin,

Web sites are at the heart of corporate and brand exposition. They are, should be, the place of record, the explication of values and the engaging core of corporate and brand passion.

The content and performance of a site is face and function of repute above all else because it represents the nexus of relationships that is the nature of organisations.

It is a culture to be worn more than words on a screen and then it has an charismatic appeal in its own right.

SEO is the etiquette offering an invitation to guide, offer help, meet need, inform and immerse the potential and returning guest.

But its practice offers more. It provides the discipline, a framework, to achieve all these things.

Practitioners who do not grasp this are not paying attention. The reality is that most have not yet found out that the web is all pervasive and touches on every thing a company wants to achieve. It is the premier instrument for relationship with publics.

So, SEO is as important to PR today as the cardex was in the last century and a glance at the PR managers' browser shows all to often the scant regard paid to this basic tool of the trade.

Chris, there is an argument that issuing a press release to journalists ahead of publication on a web site is un-ethical. The argument being that one seeks the interpretation and endorsement of a self selecting minority at the expense of the commons. There is more than a grain of truth here.

Leon, I would love to agree with you but I audit web sites and the online footprint of too many companies. The online landscape is not often appealing.

There is much work to do and yet, as the evolution of the internet accelerates away from the communicator's understanding of its power we are still talking about managing web sites which have been with us for 30 years.

about 10 years ago

Michelle Goodall

Michelle Goodall, Independent Social Media, Digital Transformation and Communications Consultant - MCIPR at EconsultancySmall Business Multi-user

Is the role of the SEO dead?

No, and E-consultancy’s recent market analysis http://www.e-consultancy.com/publications/search-engine-marketing-report-2008/ indicates that the SEO is far, far from it....

The SEO specialists that I have worked with/talk to/shared an occasional pint with acknowledge that the boundaries between off-site optimisation and Online PR are blurred.

They are suprised that more PR professionals haven’t grasped that they are in a position to benefit from the growth of organic search within the marketing mix.

“Google is a reputation management engine” is a well worn phrase. Yet how many PROs know what their clients primary keyphrases are, what they need to do to improve their clients’ natural search rankings, push historical ‘bad news’ down the SERPs pages and create successful proactive online engagement strategies?.

Please feel free to disagree with me if you are not one of the usual PR suspects who do understand how Search Engines work and do discuss SEO objectives with your PR clients at brief stage, but a large majority of PROs still don’t have even basic Search knowledge and are unaware of the tools and techniques that exist that can help them to create and implement off-site optimisation strategies.

I was lucky enough to work with a talented member of Coca Cola’s Australian marketing team who spent a Summer seconded to the PR agency I was working with. Their observation was that PR is a ‘Swiss Army knife discipline’ where the most successful protagonists flick out their copywriting, sales, networking, storytelling, counselling, event management, media relations, issues management and show-off tools (amongst many, many others) as and when required.

Understanding search, social media and the web are essential skills for anyone serious about a long term career in PR. It should be added to the bottle opener attachment (also essential for most PROs).

In the short term and until the fightback begins, SEOs will continue to approach/employ PROs who ‘get it’ or want to ‘get it’ and can be skilled up and continue to enjoy a buoyant market.

about 10 years ago



Being the internet marketing director at an ad agency/pr firm that has been in business for 20+ years.

this article demonstrates your lack of knowledge of SEO.

PR is the BEST content generator for SEO. PR professionals should be writing blog posts, should be buying releases on PR News Wire, should be getting analysts and interviews.. and making sure a qualified experienced SEO assists them with how to optimize the content for SEO.

Yes, there are concepts like DAO (Digital Asset Optimization) and ORM (ONline Reputation Management) that NEED a PR Professional's influence.

But SEO is NOT PR and PR is NOT SEO.

tell me mr PR, what CMS systems should you avoid for SEO and why?
HINT: Ask a qualified SEO.. and stick to PR, for the same reason i'm not the one talking to analysts for clients.

I just make sure they pull up high for keyword phrases.. and PS.. i've been doing SEO since 1994 (AOL bulletins on 2600 bps modem), or 95 if you count webcrawler (index) and Yahoo! (directory), and I don't use linking strategies to do SEO.. so quit trying to speak about what you read about SEO because..
a. linking isn't all there is to SEO and
b. linking is currently the biggest focus of matt cutts and the google anti-spam team.

so you do your readers a disservice from talking about a subject you obviously are NOT an experienced practitioner of.

about 10 years ago



How many PRs know which Russian academic sites with crazy high Page Ranks have a friendly webmaster.....

Link building ain't all happy, happy text with a few lines of background on the CEO....

about 10 years ago



I do a lot of things in addition to SEO -- using the "holistic" method -- and I'm a writer/editor by trade. So I'm not taking this personally. But to write that SEOs make their living "telling people how to construct title tags and what to highlight in H1 tags" is absurd. You must be thinking of the guys from the last century.

As for developers and PR people taking care of SEO as a matter of course, that is a real hoot. Can't tell you how many times I've cleaned up after developers who tell clients, "Yeah, I do SEO too." Never has one had a clue in my experience. Not for on-site work or off-site. Don't get me started on the PR crowd.

It's posts like this that make me want to run from using the SEO job description -- there is so much ignorance out there.

Interesting topic and great thread, though.

about 10 years ago

Dave Chaffey

Dave Chaffey, Digital Marketing Consultant, Trainer, Author and Speaker at SmartInsights.com

Looks like your "controversial" post has raised a few hackles as intended Leon? Or were you just asking a question which is the way I took it...

I think we can see the way this will go from what is happening already:

- SEO agencies will have PR specialists / teams (as many do already)

- PR agencies will have SEO specialists (not so much of this happening and certainly not covering more technical aspects of SEO)

- Larger PR agencies will acquire smaller SEO agencies and vice versa and they will provide a fuller-service to clients than individual parts can

- SEO consultants covering all aspects of SEO will continue to be in demand

Clients will chose which they prefer...

about 10 years ago


Gavin Conway, Senior Project Manager at Barracuda Digital

SEO has always been about taking a holistic approach to promoting websites with search engines. It's about gluing everything together to provide the whole package, after all what's link building without targeting the correct keywords on the site? What's targeting the correct keywords unless sites are technically well built?

Trying to pigeon-hole SEO as a "thing" is completely missing the point. Yes a professional long jumper will be able to jump a metre further than a decathlete but the decathlete has a well-rounded ability across all the different events required to win at the disciple, and that's what SEO is about.

It's not just meta titles and H1 tags, it's about creative writing, speaking to stakeholders on a business level, and technical people on a binary digit language level. Overall it's about being quite good at a lot of things, whereas suggesting that you can rely on a brilliant site developer, a brilliant site designer, a brilliant copywriter, and a brilliant PR person to autonomously come together and create a well optimised site is highly optimistic. It also ignores a fundamental question – who is setting the commercial goals of this team and ensuring that it successfully comes together?

about 10 years ago



'It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.'
- Upton Sinclair

about 10 years ago



As some of these comments show, both SEO and PR professionals don't yet understand each other's roles well enough to "kill off" each others parts to play in search.

Online media is seeing overlap not just between SEO & PR but a whole host of traditionally independent disciplines (like web development and marketing).

Agree with others here, acquisition will become common place as the new full service agencies start to appear.

about 10 years ago


Drew B

In my experience the big brands ask PR and SEO experts to work together, as we both share the same goal. PR is all about reputation, and surely that's one of SEO's ultimate aims too. So what I think is needed here is for experts on both sides of the equation to see the benefits of sharing aims and processes to that we can all achieve the broader goal, united. I think it will be a while before a one stop shop can do the job as well.

about 10 years ago

Alan Charlesworth

Alan Charlesworth, lecturer / researcher at University of Sunderland

Different folks/professions getting defensive about their jobs/responsibilities/kingdoms is nothing new.

I would suggest taking a big step back ... and recognize that SEO/PR/web design/and all the other online stuff is part of marketing - and should be treated as part of the organization's off- and online strategic and operational marketing efforts.

All performed by experts in their respective fields, yes - but all pulling together to market the organization/brand/product as effectively as possible.

about 10 years ago

Jeremy Spiller

Jeremy Spiller, MD at Econsultancy Guest Access TRAININGSmall Business Multi-user

Wow, lots of interesting comments here. I entirely agree with those who have been saying the SEO and PR are specialisms in their own right but are at the same time drawing together in the value they provide and the way they're carried out.

Much of this is being driven by the improvements that Google are applying to their algorithm. The days of some companies being able to auto submit for links from hundreds of directories or send out dozens of emails requesting exchange links in the hope that this will give them good value inbound links are over.

Any content submitted to blogs, forums, wikis or similar has to have integrity, value and interest to be relevant and so achieve any value from the link that may or may not be gained. Thus now ethical SEO is much more valuable and that has to be a good thing.

This and that the various activities work together best in an integrated way is what seems to be the consensus.

about 10 years ago


Jaz Cummins

Bit late to it, but a great thread and comments show this is a hot topic!

It’s definitely an area PRs can naturally talk to – not as experts in SEO but as experts in content, relevance and messaging. Robin and Paisley are right in that nothing holds more weight on the web than quality, valuable content in the right place. PRs are best placed to create this content for clients, and create it with SEO in mind – but that doesn’t make them SEOs.

I think most people seem to agree that it’s an overlap most of us are used to and enjoying already – bringing the specialisms of PR and SEO together as part of the marketing mix creating added online value for clients.

about 10 years ago


Helen Nowicka, EVP, Digital at Porter Novelli

Great thread and some strong points already made.

An additional thought: some in-house comms teams still think that "online PR" only equals SEO. The less comfortable they are engaging with social media, the more likely this is.

As PR people, we have a role to play in educating on the value of natural search not only for driving Google rankings but driving brand loyalty and relationships too.

No doubt the marketing landscape is shifting though and the lines between different disciplines are increasingly blurred.

about 10 years ago


Robin Gurney

Thanks jaz,
i am back with brief additional comment.
Absolutely the cross over between SEO and Online is just one area where internet marketing meets traditional PR.
I have just launched another company that combines many disciplines and ou main target client are the PR agencies/specialists.
there is a free audit of easyJet.com there.
See www.efootprint.com for anyone who is interested.

about 10 years ago

Ciaran Norris

Ciaran Norris, Chief Digital Officer at Mindshare

"Other professions — from web designers/developers to content writers — have absorbed such knowledge to add value to their own work, and almost everyone can get most of the basics right without hiring a SEO consultant."

If only, it would actually make the lives of most people in SEO much easier. I'm all for PR being intrinsically involved in SEO but still find that many of them simply don't understand/aren't interested.

You however obviously do, as we all know that there's no surer piece of linkbait than an "SEO is dead" post: good work!

about 10 years ago


Alan Charlesworth

wow - Pheonix-esque revival for this post.

To add to my earlier 'they are all elements of marketing' comment, consider the much used/abused marketing mix. The concept is that there are lots of 'tools' available to the marketer, but you use those which are suitable to the organization at that time.

My experience - mainly with small businesses - is that PR is simply not a realistic option open to most companies. For the local fabrication welding company that does a good job and trades on WoM/reputation to generate new business, what PR can they generate?

Yes I know - PR people settle down - local papers might run stories about new contracts [OK if it's with a brand name, but with Joe Bloggs engineering in SmallTown?]. Sponsor a local sports team - but for this business, even a couple of thousand pounds/dollars/Euros is a big deal in this economic climate. And who handles the PR? Anytown Fabrication Welding doesn't actually employ any 'marketing' staff - is it worth paying a PR consultant? And in any case, the business has existed for years without PR, why start now?

Problem is, Anytown Fabrication Welding still want to be on page one of the SERPs for relevant search terms - enter someone who knows something about SEO, but is not from PR.

The answer - I suppose - is that if a small business like this decides to set off down the 'marketing' route they will employ - or out-source to - a general marketer, who will need to know a bit about all aspects of contemporary marketing ... including a bit of PR and the basics of SEO.

Of course, if we are talking about a business that relies heavily on the web for sales and/or lead generation, or one that has national/international brand recognition, they will need - and have to pay for - experts in all aspects of the marketing mix.

Marketing - in all its forms - is too often the Cinderella element of too many organizations. Active internal debate strengthens our discipline. In-fighting gives our opponents more ammunition to put down the one element of business that generates an income.

almost 10 years ago


Wedding Favor Guide

I would suggest monitoring several social bookmarking sites to get a broader idea about what people are talking about. A little extra never hurts!

almost 9 years ago


Dale Lovell

I agree with a lot of these comments made here - SEO is now a content game and relies on top quality, keyword relevant content and then publicising this content as much as possible to get relevant inbound links. These are the exact services we provide to a range of clients at Search News Media. PR and SEO go hand in hand, but many PRs are not knowledgeable enough about the online arena to get involved.

almost 8 years ago



Good morning, thank you for a genuinely enlightening posting, I wouldn't ordinarily submit blog comments but really enjoyed your blog post and as a result thought I'd personally
say thanks ! / Abigail

almost 6 years ago



Quality content is the key to attract the people to pay a visit the
web page, that's what this web site is providing.

almost 6 years ago

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