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Brighton SEO underlines role of PR and social media in high ranking

Brighton SEO poster

Credit: ShellShockUK.com

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.

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13 Responses to Brighton SEO underlines role of PR and social media in high ranking

  1. Hi Chris,

    Nice article – I wish I went now.

    As a video producer – would I have benefited a lot from attending? I know Video and Seo are very mutual, and the Google/YouTube relationship. Any nuggets or talks about video I missed?

    thanks, Ross

  2. Very well said, Chris. A lot of the PRs I know and friends with have really gotten switched-on to PR in the last 1-2 years, but there’s definitely still some way to go…

  3. Thanks guys

    @ross – I can’t remember video being mentioned at all, actually. It was a great event, though. Come next time!

    @steve – a lot talk a good game but how many actually factor it into KPIs? I would prioritise SEO over Facebook any day!

  4. Sorry Chris, just realised I meant to say “switched-on to SEO”, not “PR”. D’oh! Sorry about that!

  5. Hey Chris, I totally agree with you. As a journalist now working in SEO I still cannot believe that PR agencies are not seeing where their industry should be heading.
    Btw. Brighton SEO was awesome, once again :)

  6. Thanks Eva. Similarly, you’re probably in a minority for journalists that have recognised the need to reinvent themselves to help with the mass of content in demand from brands. It’s definitely more lucrative, too!

  7. Hey Chris, great blog and disappointed I could not get to BrightonSEO.

    As someone at an agency that I feel “gets” seo and the role we PR’s can play in it I always find it odd when I hear that other agencies are not getting involved. (wow that sounds snidey, but you know what I mean)

    In my opinion (humble of course) I think PR’s that are not on board with the value that they can give to SEO campaigns are missing the chance to be at the forefront of where the PR sector is moving to and obviously a new revenue opportunity – I tried to rephrase from “new billing trick”

    We are increasingly being asked to go in and speak with “traditional” agency PR teams about social, digital and search elements of our work as though we are a quirky yet dirty niche of PR, when the reality is that there is a decreasing call for what is labelled “traditional” PR.

    For me and those I am fortunate enough to work with, SEO and Digital IS now the traditional PR…

    Wow, that’s a nice line… “SEO and Digital IS now the traditional PR…” Off to pop it onto me LinkedSpace and Twitbook profiles.

    Andy offa 10Yetis.co.uk

  8. Thanks Andy – I know 10 Yetis are hot on digital so you guys are perfectly placed to mop up this market. Exciting opps for the rest of us that recognise this space, too. It’s all about the content…(I love that cliche)

  9. Of course the entire event was well put together and far more professional that it was in the early days (not that it was in any way bad then). Well done and thanks to Kelvin for that. He is a God in my eyes.

    Our firm sits on the outside of the SEO world and get fully it’s importance. My biggest concern about the future of the industry does lie around the clear process of SEO and the need to educate and manage expectations.

    I give up the number of times we have had to nag a client or partner about the importance of well structured content and to make sure that content is indexed properly. Sadly many SEO experts talk about ‘page one ranking’ as being the panacea when it’s more than that. It’s interesting that as soon as that comes into a pitch we all know it’s a nil sum game.

    There are some other issues around PR (noting of course that PR does not mean Press Release) it’s is about creating a presence in a market place, in a community (social) and about Googleability and we are all in the main good at that.

    Sadly I think that much of the conventional media community see us in digital (of which we are only part) as geeks,freaks and weirdos which is part true and we should be proud of that but they still believe it’s not happening and will go away, they also don’t believe our message. I sometimes feel like the Global Warming campaigner in the 80′s – know one believed it.

    The future is bright but only for those that seize it.

    I am also going to steal Andy Barr’s line I like it and want it, nothing wrong with mirrored content after all, I’ll just wait for one of Google’s outsourcers to find it, or the call from Andy.

    Lets keep up the good work. As the saying goes, seo is dead long live seo.


  10. Thanks for your comment, Richard.

    I still feel like it’s 2009 in a lot of agencies, with the token geek (often a graduate or green marketer) wheeled out as the ‘digital expert’ (note I didn’t use ‘guru’, I think we all know that’s a stupid term). It still feels like lip service.

    But that’s great news for SEO-savvy PRs such as us.

    Keep up the work, people!

  11. Couldn’t agree more with Lexi Mills et al. been saying this for a while but alas we are in a minority.

  12. Thanks James, it’s really encouraging to see so many PRs and SEOs learning from each other. Those that don’t won’t last the distance…

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