A reminder: SEO isn’t PR

SEO loves PR...Heather Yaxley has a great post that ought to be widely shared and bookmarked way beyond the public relations community – although PRs would benefit from reading it, too.

It’s about search engine optimization – SEO – that often seems like a dark art of Google PageRank manipulation as well as a legitimate tool or method designed to support marketing strategies among other things.

It’s also widely misunderstood, a case in point  being its relationship to public relations and what it can do for PR.

In "An idiot’s guide to PR – lessons for SEO and digital marketing," Heather lists ten rules as a quick guide for for those who work in SEO and digital marketing on what PR is not.

Of the ten, the one that especially caught my attention is Rule 7, in the wake of the mini-kerfuffle that erupted a week or so ago about Google PageRank, SEO and press releases:

Rule 7: PR is not focused on clicks and views. Achieving organic search engine optimisation is about more than tricks to generate clicks and views. That’s why more SEO folk than PR practitioners are worried about Google’s comments about press releases. First, PR practitioners view a press/media release as means of providing information, not a vehicle for SEO content. Only those in the junk business stuff releases with references to brand names and other terms simply to generate clicks and views. Ditto with in-document self-referential links and other practices that ignore that quality of information is the core remit of a release.

Well said, Heather.

[Update Aug 27] Shel and I discussed Heather’s post – and especially the discussion in the comments – in this week’s FIR episode 718 recorded on August 26.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Adam Parker (@AdParker)

    Hi Neville

    I read a couple more good posts on this discussion yesterday. One by Andrew Smith (@andismit) http://blog.escherman.com/2013/08/22/is-online-press-coverage-the-best-form-of-seo/ and another by Jonathan Welsh (@jonwelsh) http://theprblog.co.uk/news/work/post-penguin-press-release/.

    For me the main SEO theme that these posts highlight is that “SEO isn’t PR”, but true PR can be good SEO. In a world where Google is increasingly considering conversational signals and personal authority e.g. author rank, the ability to identify, create opportunities and engage in relevant conversations online is fast becoming (and may have become in some cases) a necessity for good SEO results. And as Heather says that’s about skill, investment, relationships and above all having something interesting to say – not entitlement.

    As regards your tweet about an example, FWIW a good one relates to us at RealWire. We’ve been ranked No.1 in Google.co.uk and Google.com for “social media news release” for a long time now. We don’t do any “SEO” around it. But as you know we’ve been a big part of that conversation since 2007, and this (now slightly embarrassing :-) ) video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cD_mYKc20OY


    • Neville Hobson

      Thanks Adam. Good perspectives. I see it like this – it’s all about content. If you publish “great content” – and that includes press releases – that others read, link to, share, talk about, etc, across the social web, it will likely improve your organic page rank.

      Simple enough, or too simple?


    Hey Neville, interesting post. I never worry about any of this stuff. I just try to write good articles of taxes, estates, trusts, etc. Things I know about and love. The rest just falls in place. This is really a more simple way to proceed. Thanks for your interesting post and the heads up on Heather’s post.

  3. Frank Strong (@Frank_Strong)

    I’m sorry, but I could not disagree more, Neville. People that say such things haven’t dedicated the time to understanding digital media. The question is simple: Do you want people to view your content or not? Clicks and views are an analytical way to measure if what you have to say is valuable to the market. PR pros that ignore that will find themselves looking for work.

    • Heather Yaxley

      Frank – you miss my point about clicks and views. I am arguing against focusing on getting clicks and views (rather than on the quality of what is provided). There are plenty of tricks that are still used to do get attention, which is what annoys Google. And, certainly clicks and views do offer a measure – although at a rather superficial level. What they don’t tell us is whether someone viewed what was said as valuable – after all, you’ve clicked, viewed and commented here – but don’t seem to have found much value in the views you found ;-)

      • Frank Strong (@Frank_Strong)

        Quality and clicks is an interesting question, in the philosophical sense. Why? Because quality ought to drive clicks. But it doesn’t. At least not always.

        Enter the 5 Best Generic Tips about 101 Level Anything. These posts often sail the web, so if people consume such content, is it truly of low quality? We can quickly get into elitist territory which hasn’t worked out well for print media. On the other hand, we have Buzzfeed.

        Second, I’ve returned here many times over the years, so cute comment “trick” but that’s a diversion, not a proof point. It is well within the bell curve to disagree with a single post and still be interested in the overall content, no?

        To the contrary, web analytics do tell us whether someone who viewed what we said (or created, designed or otherwise published) as valuable. We can definitively measure this in several ways:

        1. Time on page.
        2. # of pages viewed.
        3. Returning visitors. ****
        4. Referrals.
        5. Click through.
        6. Conversions.
        7. Leads.
        8. Sales.

        PR and SEO go together; this was an imperative 10 or more years ago, and sadly here we are still debating it’s merits. It’s tragic.

        • Heather Yaxley

          Frank – I never said that SEO isn’t important to PR, nor that PR isn’t important to SEO, so my post wasn’t about debating the merits of any relationship between the two. I was seeking to clarify some misconceptions about PR (and SEO) that as you’ve noted, seem to stick around.

          Similarly, my point in the above comment wasn’t that quality necessarily drives quantity of clicks – and I’m not using the term ‘quality’ in an elitist fashion, but more as an indicator of its relevance to the person undertaking the search. Generic tips content may well be relevant to readers and so get clicks – combining relevance (quality) with quantity of response. Of course, that’s where the deeper web analytics play their part (again that’s been key to my arguments). This will also identify where chasing clicks alone with all the usual tricks is not delivering the measures that you indicate (and which I am very familiar with – indeed, these behavioral processes are not unique to the online world, just easier to follow through there).

          Last time I’m going to say this – if all someone is doing (whether they work in PR, SEO or digital marketing) is focusing only on getting clicks and views (rather than anything more useful), I’m sure you’ll agree that is pretty pointless, not least because those are the practices that Google is seeking to prevent.

  4. Bruno Amaral (@brunoamaral)

    I don’t agree but I also don’t think it’s about views and clicks.

    There are more sides to SEO, code, content and links. Code is easy. In some more complex systems it takes more time to optimise but in the end it’s about having a solid and compliant html structure.

    Content and Links is much harder.

    A good SEO professional will look into content, build taxonomies and suggest ways to organise it better and he will appreciate if the PR department is at arm’s reach to ask questions, suggest content and provide information about who is going to read it and how they usually reach the site.

    And building links is akin to building relationships.

    Sure, it’s not about views and clicks but SEO is 2/3 PR.

    • Heather Yaxley

      Agree Bruno – my original post (thanks to Neville for the links) is aimed at those who misunderstand what PR is about and hence use simplistic SEO techniques rather than as you indicate, using a solid understanding of both.

  5. Danielle Morales

    Hi Neville,

    Thanks for sharing your insights on the matter. As a writer, I tend to be critical on the quality of the content. PR after all should be about getting the message out there. It shouldn’t be used as a SEO tactic.

  6. Tom Foremski (@tomforemski)

    However, PR *is* about some of the things she mentioned, although she’s right about the clicks and views, that’s because most PR people could do with an “Idiot’s guide to SEO and Digital Marketing.”

    There’s going to be more clashes between these two groups, imho. Both are stumbling into each other’s territory and both groups have little respect for each other. Because they don’t know much about each other. Unfortunately, Ms. Yaxely’s article doesn’t educate anyone about what PR does. It’s very defensive with an offensive headline.

    • Heather Yaxley

      Tom – I wouldn’t disagree with you that most PR people could do with an Idiot’s Guide to SEO and Digital Marketing. And, I am certainly not defensive about PR – I am frustrated by the way that many people who work primarily in SEO and Digital Marketing treat PR as a free, content promotional activity rather than bothering to learn more about what it can – and cannot – do. I am equally frustrated that many PR people don’t bother to learn more about SEO and Digital Marketing yet lay claim to ‘owning’ the online territory.

      The point of writing about what PR is not was to turn on its head the myriad posts we have written on PR Conversations seeking to define PR. Indeed, we published a 65 page pdf called What is Public Relations? in 2008 which curated posts and comments on the topic from the previous two years. (See: http://www.prconversations.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/What-is-PR-final.pdf)

      The technique of looking at ‘what PR is not’ was intended to help illustrate what PR is – as I believe the statement after each ‘rule’ does. I’ve said PR is not free and then discussed how it has a value and requires investment in competent practitioners and budget to execute creative ideas. Rule 5 – PR is not about entitlement, where i clarify it is about earning coverage, endorsement, a valued relationship or respected reputation. And so on…

      I’m not sure if you find the heading to be offensive as in insulting or offensive as on the attack – but clearly having a headline that gets attention is essential in communications. Obviously I aimed to echo the style of ‘Idiot’s Guide’ publications – does anyone buying those feel they’ve been insulted or attacked? The headline and the ‘rules’ about ‘what PR is not’ are clearly devices just as your own contrast of defensive and offensive.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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