The Shotgun Wedding of PR and SEO: Can This Marriage Be Saved?

Scott L. Baradell, President of Idea Grove, gave a very timely presentation at the PRSA Counselors Academy on the forced marriage of public relations and search engine optimization – a marriage many PR professionals are struggling with.

Like most marriages, no matter how different you may be, you share some similarities. PR and SEO share some common ground – outreach, placements, influences, content – to name a few. To sum up the relationship between SEO and PR, we can use the age-old phrase, “Men are from Mars and women are from Venus.” Take a look:

SEO is from Mars

  • Male-dominated industry
  • Metric-focused
  • Traditionally not strategic or qualitative goals
  • Ends justify the means, or at least drive them

PR is from Venus

  • Female-dominated industry
  • Relationship-focused
  • Success traditionally difficult to measure
  • PR people don’t do math

Historically, SEO wasn’t strategic: it was about the numbers, link building, keyword stuffing, etc. SEO companies never really understood their client and their unique needs. Rather, it was there to serve one purpose: increase the bottom line. Several years later, Google went on a rampage with SEO companies who were practicing “black hat” SEO, stemming from the infamous JCPenney scandal. Google made one change after the other, putting an end to the SEO we used to know.

Scott also shared some enlightening comments from a survey he conducted:

What do PR people say about SEO?

It’s unethical, tactical, is dead or will be soon, we tried it and it didn’t work.

One funny comment: “I was under the impression there would be no math in PR.”

What do SEO people say about PR people?

They are spokespeople and schmoozers, releases are not valued by Google anymore, PR doesn’t drive web traffic, they don’t understand the numbers.

One funny comment: “Does PR stand for page rank or press release?”

So, can this marriage be saved? Scott said if marriages can be saved by going to marriage counseling, then maybe that’s what PR and SEO need to do: seek counseling. We’ve outlined some of his points below.

  1. Find a common purpose.
    • PR – used to be about news media
    • SEO – used to be about search spiders
    • Together – it’s about the buyers. Find a common purpose in gaining a better understanding of the buyer. Start with a buyer’s persona – who is the ideal prospect? A buyer’s persona includes quantitative and qualitative components and playing to strengths of both disciplines. Buyer’s persona puts PR and SEO on the same page in developing messaging, content and keyword strategies.
  2. Appreciate each other.
    • PR – helps SEO from a tactical to strategic level
    • SEO – helps PR by providing data-based return on investment
    • Together – embrace shared metrics, such as growth in web traffic, tracking sales calls, success in opt-in email lists, growth in qualified leads, revenues generated, etc.
  3. Follow the path to a successful relationship.
    • Agency leaders must break down organizational silos and provide high level cross-training across all aspects of marketing.

In conclusion, the only path to success is one that’s fully shared. This means integrating processes in ways most of us haven’t considered yet.

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