I’ve just spent the last two days in Brighton at the excellent Brighton SEO conference, attending the event itself and also running a workshop on SEO and PR. PR has a massive role to play in SEO for building diverse and authoritative inbound links and I cannot believe it is even still a talking point, but I was very surprised by the reaction of some (on Twitter) to the excellent, common sense-driven presentation by Lexi Mills of digital consultancy Distilled.
Mills’ presentation on PR and SEO echoed closely the sentiment behind my SEO and PR workshop of the day before into how brands need to amend their PR outreach and content creation to focus on keywords. Take a look at the below graph (courtesy of SEOmoz) and see how much of the entire sphere of influence PR (red – my additions) actually should be leading in its own right. It’s three quarters of the entire (estimated) influence of the Google algorithm for top ranking, which makes the absence of a lot of the leading London digital agencies at the Brighton SEO conference all the more conspicuous.
The areas of Google's algorithm which PR can influence. The original chart graphic is from SEOmoz.org with my addition of the letters "PR"
Yet all too many PRs do not appreciate this opportunity, even when the UK SEO market topped £500 million in 2011, according to research from econsultancy. SEO practitioners likewise may well be uncomfortable with the reality that to build quality inbound links from diverse and authoritative websites, as well as address the increasingly relevant ‘social signals’ from Twitter and Facebook, they’re going to have to think and act more like PR people. But the reality is, as I’ve banged on and on about, SEO and PR must align.
So, what should “inbound marketers”, the adjective du jour of PR and SEO, actually be doing? Here are a few top tips – and they’re all common sense.
- Create relevant content, seed it and make it sharable
- Ask influencers (journalists and bloggers) for followed links and embed a limited amount of relevant links in the text (e.g. a press release) that you send them
- Make sure your content that you send is optimised in the title, subhead and text
It’s all really simply stuff, but so many PRs focus on the hit (coverage) without the secondary benefit of a link back. PRs create a shed load of relevant, quality content and outreach to influencers, so they should definitely factor in the SEO benefits which, unlike coverage reports, have measurable results.
It’s not a case of the worlds of SEO and PR coming together – they have already been for some time, it’s just that most of the industry hasn’t woken up to the fact yet. That’s where online PR professionals come into play.
Social signals are increasingly relevant
Social media is an increasingly important factor in search engines’ evaluation of content relevance and working out where to rank it in SERPs (search engine results pages). This is what the experts told delegates at Brighton SEO:
“It’s a balancing act, what does it say on aggregate?” said Pierre Far, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, when describing how pages can rank better via social signals. “What does the user want and did they get it? Every page you have has to answer these questions. It’s all about content, it’s not about text on the page it’s about video, reviews, apps, all of the decisions you make are answering these questions. SEO is not a checklist; the signals will come naturally if you have the right content.”
Bing’s Dave Coplin said that the search engine currently considered Facebook and Twitter for its social signal algorithm.
“Social is the big new kid on the block,” he said. “The advice on social is to be really bloody good at social. The more engaged they are and the bigger the following the better they’ll rank. A good social signal is one that’s being shared and pushed around. The number of fans or followers is a factor but not as important, it’s more about how quickly content is being shared.”
Independent search marketer Rishi Lakhani added: “I’m glad social signals are a part of it. Good content is relevant to the query, will they want to pass it on to someone else and are you making it easy to let them do that? Is it relevant, is it updated? The more people share these resources, the better you’re going to rank.”
PR consultant Philip Sheldrake concluded his presentation that when organisations finally establish the value of organic search to their business; “Boy, your day rates are going to go up!”
Thank again to Kelvin Newman of Site Visibility for his extraordinary work in constantly improving Brighton SEO and raising awareness of the industry, and giving us the opportunity to meet and exchange knowledge. It’s come a long way from a room above a pub in two and a half years to an auditorium of 1,000 guests.