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The big buzz among agencies lately is that PR and SEO are changing directions and hitting each other head on. You’ve probably read a lot about how SEO is dead (again), and how Google killed the PR agency. Sides are forming and the battle to be the lasting agency has begun with articles popping up all over digital media claiming either SEO or PR will prevail. 

But as Rebecca Scully, managing director at PR agency Smarts, eloquently points out on The Guardian, “there’s so much more to learn from all sides. So rather than all this talk of killing the PR or SEO agency why don’t we all learn a little from one another instead.”

At Relevance, our digital outreach and SEO consulting teams work in tandem to build online presences for many brands. But if you’ve never had exposure to SEO (or PR), how do you go about integrating both online tactics? I’m no PR genius, but I’ve learned a few SEO basics every PR working in the digital space should know.

Quality of search algorithms leads to quality tactics

The digital landscape looked quite different just ten years ago. Search wasn’t as intuitive, and online marketers were beginning to figure out how to optimize websites using link-building and keyword optimization tactics. As Google progressively improved its algorithms to identify useful content and spammy links, SEO shifted to content marketing, earned media and online brand awareness. The progression of search engines and search marketing is a great place for PR pros to start to understand why SEO is becoming more like PR.


As search engines have gotten better at serving up relevant—and, more importantly, useful—content, SEO has focused more on quality over quantity. But the root tactics are still an important part of SEO – content marketing and digital PR are only of slivers of the SEO pie chart.

Here’s a quick list of SEO need-to-knows:

Link building

When most people think of SEO, they think of links. Before Google refined its SERPs with algorithm updates like Penguin and Penguin 2.0, the quantity of links pointing to a site was a top SEO indicator. Link building has evolved from blog and forum commenting to guest posting to content marketing.

Links are not dead; in fact, they’re still a big piece of the puzzle. However, the quality and naturalness of links now trump quantity—and that’s where PR comes in. Online outreach and promotion of truly useful content leads to natural linking, which make for happy SEO and PR pros.


Architecture has always been, and probably always will be, a top SEO priority. Think of it like this: Your house can be beautifully designed and inviting to those on the outside, but if it’s a hot mess on the inside, your guests probably won’t want to stick around. It’s the same with websites. Clean architecture improves user experience, lends itself to higher engagement and allows Googlebot to more easily crawl your site and decipher your content.

Content marketing, then and now

Then: An SEO would identify, let’s say, “purple tickle monster” as a highly searched phrase for a website. Next, a copywriter would shove the phrase “purple tickle monster” in every corner of a Web page. I’m talking 100 exact match uses in 500 words – it got dark in those days.

Today: Spam is now easily recognizable by both users and search engines. So SEOs, and marketers in general, turned to content marketing and create useful, relevant content for a highly targeted audience.

Links, architecture, and content have long been the big three of SEO. But as the numbers of search and Internet users have grown, more and more factors are playing into good SEO each day. Forward-thinking SEOs are striving to create clean, useful sites and promotional content to build strong brand presence online. This means developing social, PR and CRO strategies in addition to SEO best practices.

Digital marketing channels—not just PR and SEO—are converging. And the convergence point is headed straight toward customers. It’s not about which tactic will win. It’s about incorporating the best, most customer-focused aspects from each channel to develop truly useful brands. “After all,” Scully went on to write in her article, “in SEO, PR, content marketing or whatever you want to call it –we’re all heading in the same direction.” So instead of battling, let’s learn from each other and create some really kickass content for customers.


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