Thoughts from SAScon: where SEO meets PR

I’ve just spent two days at SAScon (search, analytics and social media conference) in Manchester and found that the most interesting conversation topic was around the lines between SEO and PR blurring more than ever.

Over the past few years, I’ve followed a lot of discussion and articles about this, but the recent Penguin 2:0 announcement is definitely forcing these industries closer together.

This latest change to the Google algorithm has forced SEO consultants to re-think their traditional strategies, such as link building methods. With Google recently devaluing 80% of all links, the SEO industry is now looking at increasing SERPs (search engine results pages) through content marketing, blogger outreach and PR to create high quality on-page content and links from authority websites.

During one session, it was said the future of SEO will be around building relationships with key online influencers.

This was really exciting for me and all at Fourth Day because it’s a language we understand. All of this is exactly what we do in PR on a day-to-day basis – we just don’t shout about it enough.

One of the biggest differences highlighted between the two disciplines was the fact that SEOs usually offer financial incentives for content and links, whereas PRs are more creative in coming up with stories and events to enable bloggers and journalists to write about their client. In PR, we are used to picking up the phone and chatting to a journalist or blogger, whereas an SEO will usually approach people by email.

In fact, one of the case studies mentioned by Karyn Fleeting from Tinderbox Media demonstrated how a PR agency sent her a box of gifts which helped her try out their food product. They set her a week long challenge to cook up different recipes using the product. All of this was to try to encourage her to write a blog post about their client – and it worked!

This instantly reminded me of one of the old PR adage: Show, don’t tell. Basically, you need to demonstrate to journalists or bloggers why and how your client’s product is so amazing, rather than just telling them.

Many of the SEO agencies present talked about how they have started recruiting PR professionals or content creators rather than those with traditional SEO backgrounds. There was even a discussion about whether SEO consultancies would start buying PR agencies and vice versa.

Interestingly, Lisa Myers from Verve Search said she had no job applicants for a role advertised as SEO, whereas the same role advertised as a content creation strategist got 100 replies within a day.

In fact, quite a few SEO agencies talking at the event mentioned they had changed their name or proposition from SEO to digital marketing or content creation, for example.

Overall, it appears that SEO is being absorbed into digital marketing and PR may well go the same way if we don’t adapt and create our own future.

You can follow Carolyn Hughes on Twitter and Google+.

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Nikki is a director and co-founder of Fourth Day

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