As a search engine optimization associate who studied public relations in college, nothing makes me more excited than to discover the two are quickly becoming intertwined. One technical and the other creative, the two really do complement each other. Just think about it… SEO uses link building, keyword research and more to attract visitors to specific websites. Public relations uses the dissemination of information (through events, press releases, social media, etc.) to gain the acceptance and favor of the public. When you look at it like that, SEO and PR really set out to achieve the same goal, but in different ways.
As we all know, Google continues to make changes to its algorithm in hopes of creating the best possible user experience. Webmasters used to be able to “optimize” pages by pumping out high volumes of low quality, keyword-stuffed content. But no more. Now quality trumps quantity. In fact, content that is not relevant and interesting to the consumer can end up hurting your rankings. I believe this played a huge role in the merging of SEO and public relations. Keyword research and placement is just as important as ever, but must be done in a way that will naturally grab the attention of the readers.
It was not until I became an SEO professional that I realized the importance of link building. I (perhaps naively) viewed tactics such as guest blogging and inbound/outbound linking as brand and relationship building. But maybe I was onto something. The term “link building” has become almost taboo. And that is not to say it isn’t done anymore–because it certainly is. But it has changed, placing more importance on (again) quality over quantity. Thanks to Google, the amount of SEO value a link holds depends on factors such as the page rank and domain authority of the host site. But these high quality websites will not just link to anyone, so PR has to swoop in, build relationships and get the job done.
Content marketing seems to be a huge buzz term in the SEO world. Heidi Cohen says, “content marketing provides consumers with useful information to aid purchase decisions, improve product usage and entertain them while achieving organizational goals without being overtly promotional.” That sounds a lot like public relations to me. Another factor I think is playing a role in the blurred lines of SEO and PR is the rise of implied links and/or mentions. Previously, unless a site explicitly linked to your own site, you did not get any “link juice.” But now, reports are saying that even a mention of your brand or product can help your rankings.
Lastly: social media. I think social media is a curious thing. No one seems to know exactly where it should fall. Some say marketing, others say advertising, others say public relations and yes, now it has become a part of SEO, too. Although nothing has been confirmed, people speculate about the effect social media has one a page’s ranking. Regardless, social shares mean increased visibility. So even IF Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. does not play a part in Google’s algorithm, utilizing these tactics can definitely boost your brand awareness and will most likely affect your conversion.
The fusion of search engine optimization and public relations has already begun, and I believe they will only become more intertwined with time. Until Google decides to place less importance on quality (which I’m guessing will be never) SEOs will have to take a couple of cues from PR and really connect with consumers.