19 February 2009

SEO and PR – A Happy Marriage?

I attended a free webinar, "SEO + Public Relations = Your Secret Marketing Weapon in 2009," put on by the team at Webmarketing123.com yesterday hoping to find the proof in the pudding that SEO and PR should by joined at the hip.

I have to say, I'm still not convinced.

CEO, Paul Taylor, did a great job of walking us through the benefits of SEO-izing your PR and marketing collateral and results, but I've had experiences where that just doesn't work.

Example 1: Optimizing a press release for SEO and PR

I've tried this two ways:

1) Write a release, then look at a list of key words to insert.

2) Look at the key words, then write a press release with them in mind (try to use each 1-4 times and space them out).

The latter worked better for me, but if you're supposed to insert your URL and keywords ~3 times each for near optimal SEO, it gets rough and the news starts to sound like giberrish. If the release then needs to go through legal approval and potentially partner or customer approval, you're in trouble.

That's only one example, but I do think there's more beyond just blending SEO with PR and, voilà, you're on page one of wherever you want to be. The challenge often seems to be a classic case of having too many cooks in the kitchen. You've got the remote teams, such as the PR firm, the SEO firm, potentially the SEM consultant, and then all of the internal constituents, such as the corporate marketing/advertising team, sales, product marketing, etc., and each is focused on maximizing content value for his or her benefit.

BusinessWeek ran an insightful article by B.L. Ochman this morning, "Debunking Six Social Media Myths." Though I appreciated every myth debunked, I feel her pain with Myth #4: You can do it all in-house.

With regards to effective and viral social media campaigns, she writes:

"It is rare indeed to find an in-house team that can not only conceive and execute a social media campaign but also drive traffic to it with effective e-mail segmentation, search optimization, blogger outreach, blog advertising, Google ads, and more."

I do believe things like SEO and PR should work together – of course it's good to have a well-oiled machine running on all cylinders – but I don't think it's as easy as simply "working together." Further, given that both PR and SEO are often outsourced strategic services, is it reasonable to expect both sides to come together without the forcing factor of the client company embarking on a holistic marcomm campaign which takes months of pre-planning and coordination? That's hard to come by when you're working with startups, particularly high tech startups.

I remain optimistic, however, that there are definitely lessons both PR and SEO can learn from each other. Throw social media in there, and you've got a party!

I'd appreciate any wisdom out there about the evolution of these siloed services and think I will continue to attend free webinars on the topic to at least keep me engaged in thinking about the right combo of SEO + PR.

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