Everything else being equal, PR firms that don’t understand search engine optimization (SEO) are not going to be as effective as SEO-savvy PR firms.
Here are five signs that your PR firm doesn’t get SEO.
- You mention SEO in passing and they ask you what it is. Seriously, this happens. It’s a really, really bad sign if they’ve never even heard of SEO. It’s 2013. SEO is a proven, cost-effective way to raise visibility and generate leads for new business. My take is that any marketer that doesn’t at least understand SEO fundamentals shouldn’t be in the marketing profession.
- They never ask you for a list of key phrases that are important to your organization. A PR firm that gets SEO will at minimum ask you for your most important key phrases — the phrases that you’d most like to rank for in the search engine results. PR firms that excel at SEO may even do some keyword research for you to round out the list. Because the outputs of a PR firm — e.g. media placements, speaking opportunities, blog posts, infographics, research studies, etc. — can enhance your performance in the search engines in myriad ways, it’s important that the PR team understands your SEO objectives and creates a plan to help you to be successful. Some people call this integrated marketing. I call it common sense.
- They never make any suggestions to improve your site in order to help you attract journalists who are looking to do stories on you and your industry. Many reporters find their sources via Google searches. As such, a good PR firm will create a list of search phrases that journalists might use to look for a source and then will encourage you to add pages to your site that help you to rank for those phrases. They will work with you to build and/or flesh out the Media Resources section of your website, and they will do so with SEO in mind. Yes, PR firms will get you media interviews, but don’t underestimate the power of SEO to complement their story pitching efforts.
- You ask for feedback on your site’s SEO and they cannot do a quick SEO diagnostic for you because they don’t have the skills in house, or they require a massive fee to do it. When we are retained for PR support, our client partners also get ad hoc marketing counsel as part of that engagement. A client partner recently asked us to do an SEO site review for them. The PR team relayed the request to our SEO team, we ran a quick diagnostic process, and we then gave them a list of a dozen SEO improvements that they needed to pursue. Yes, a full SEO project would require an extra fee, but we are happy to provide SEO advice and education to our PR client partners gratis. We think every PR firm should have that capability and should use it to help their clients to be more successful.
- Outputs you receive from them are not SEO-optimized or are poorly optimized. PR firms write for a living. On your behalf they create bylined articles, blog posts, press releases, white papers and all sorts of other content. Should those PR firm outputs be SEO-optimized for many of your important key phrases? Absolutely. Content should use key phrases, as well as links with anchor text that help pages on your site to do better in the search engines. PR firms that don’t get SEO will write their copy in the same way it would have been written 15 years ago, before Google even existed. Or they will add in links with “click here” as anchor text instead of using a key phrase. On the flip side, there are firms that will overdo it, in a way that the search engines may find to be over the top and spammy.
Our approach to PR is that PR, Search, and Social all must work together holistically. When they are properly integrated, there is a multiplicative effect that drives better business results and improves your ROI on marketing.
When you hire a PR firm that doesn’t get SEO (or Social), you are limiting your chances that the PR program’s results will meet your goals, or, even better, vastly exceed your expectations.
Of course, if the options are to hire a mediocre PR firm that knows SEO or to hire a great PR firm that doesn’t get SEO, go with the great PR firm and hire an SEO firm separately.
But there are some great PR firms that are also great SEO firms — Walker Sands, based in Chicago and serving clients around the globe, is one of them — and that’s the ideal combination.
Why anyone wouldn’t go with an exceptional PR firm that is also exceptionally strong in SEO is a mystery to me. So, before you hire a PR firm, ask them a few SEO questions to get a sense for whether they are clued in or clueless.