What is the difference between SEO and PR?

SEO today calls for a blend of technical and marketing knowledge but a ‘PR Brain’ should help you identify content worth shouting about.

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We are an SEO agency but have always called upon ‘traditional’ PR brain cells to underpin a lot of what we do and have consistently banged the ‘SEO and PR are very closely aligned’ drum.

It seems that, as the SEO discipline matures, more people are recognising and commenting on the parallels between ‘old school’ PR and ‘new media’ SEO.

Head over to the Econsultancy blog for a recent example and a good read (as always).

SEO is a strange discipline and demands (if you want to be any good at it) an odd blend of technical knowledge (to look under the bonnet and really get to the bottom of on-site optimisation) and marketing fluff (to work on appreciation of your audience, messaging, campaign themes, etc).

Most marketers have no desire to get involved with the nitty gritty of html code and most techies are really only interested in techno-geek and are not good at thinking about the bigger picture, so it is fairly rare to find people that are really good at both (a bit like a really good developer who can also speak in plain English and describe the technology in layman terms – worth their weight in gold!).

When considering link building, which is an absolutely vital skill for any SEO professional, you really don’t need too much technical knowledge but do need the ability to adopt a PR mentality and identify what a client site has to offer any site that you are approaching for a link.

Just as a good press release will attract the attention of a large number of journalists through concise / clear messaging and a genuinely interesting ‘hook’, link building is at its best when you have something worth shouting about.

It can, however, take a PR brain to identify what you should be shouting about. Some of the work that we are most proud of has involved taking what appears to be fairly dull / uninspiring and creating an interesting angle that becomes interesting (e.g. slicing and dicing data to create a controversial statement that acts as very effective link bait).

The mechanics of doing the shouting is reasonably process driven, but success is driven primarily by the quality of the idea (washed down with a dash of luck!). It is therefore surprising to see so many PR agencies struggling with SEO and Kelvin is right (over on the Econsultancy blog) that SEO agencies have managed to ‘land grab’ work that you would have expected to go to ad / media agencies and PR agencies through an audacious ability to blend both aspects of the skill required.

We have maintained for some time that PR agencies are going to have to change their ways to survive – it would be arrogant to assume that their techniques / channels do not need to change with the times – but we still haven’t seen much evidence of this actually happening. It isn’t too late, but time is running out…


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