It is about time that the public relations industry got to grips with SEO. As part of my work I have spent a lot of time building an SEO PR proposition, however many agencies still ignore the subject.

Apart from a few savvy PR agencies, the majority of PRs just don’t understand the relationship between PR and search engine visibility, let alone how to measure if this visibility leads to some sort of ‘conversion.’

Frankly, it’s embarrassing.

Most public relations professionals are aware of some sort of link between PR and SEO and before you send out the lynch mob, those that read Econsultancy will probably be among the most well informed.

The close relationship of PR in SEO has come into the spotlight recent months thanks to the impact of certain black and white animals, i.e. Google’s Panda and Penguin updates which have forced some to review their search strategies and focus more on content. 

Why is SEO and PR converging? PR can influence all of these search engine ranking factors:  

(Source: SEOmoz via Planet Content)

The ways in which Search and PR can complement each other are much more fundamental than content alone. The problem is that many PR agencies are missing some killer opportunities: 

  • Search data can provide killer insights for building PR propositions, targeted campaigns and messaging. But how many agencies really use these insights?
  • PR coverage often includes links which influence PageRank, but how many agencies report on them or their impact? 
  • Public relations content can stimulate social sharing and other important search engine signals, but many agencies still focus on sentiment at the expense of how social influences search.
  • Recently Google has thrown AuthorRank into the mix which is another way in which PR content can influence search visibility by creating ‘super’ authors who will appear more often in SERPs 

There are countless other ways too. So, it is time for the PR agency big guns to step up and ‘own’ SEO right?  Well, something tells me this might be a way off yet.

The problem is that few PR agencies have the knowledge to be able to talk objectively about the subject matter because:

  • A shockingly low amount of PRs can demonstrate even a basic grasp of SEO, such as using Google’s keyword tool, planning meta data, trying to explain Google PageRank or even the basics like the value of links with anchor text (don’t believe me, just ask any SEO).
  • Few PRs still can assess a domain or blog based on its domain authority or ascertain its authority based on, say, how many inbound links it has.
  • Most agencies are unaware of a fact that most SEOs have known for years: that some of the most authoritative links pointing at a domain are often from PR and have been acquired often as a bi-product or even unintentionally.
  • Fewer agencies will actually report on the number or quality of links their PR campaigns generate, or better the impact on search visibility and onsite conversions.
  • A smaller number of agencies can use Google Analytics to track conversions and ROI (I mean properly use GA, like a search marketer can).
  • A much smaller amount will be winning business by selling SEO PR campaigns

If your PR agency is already doing at least the above then well done. If you have more advanced measurement principles then have a pat on the back and take the rest of the day off.