Website promotion is a competitive, lucrative industry where everyone from Manhattan Public Relations(PR) Firms to small-time Search Engine Optimization (SEO) companies are vying for a piece of the pie. Ironically, on the information super highway, it is because of the lack of knowledge that most SEOs and PRs have for one another that neither side is able to offer a truly effective and affordable solution, which yields Return on Investment (ROI), on a large scale for their clientele.
Let me explain.
THE TROUBLE WITH PUBLIC RELATIONS
PR is an industry that creates visibility across several different media for its clients while adhering to a pre-defined budget. It is an industry of communicators, with the ability to disseminate information to selected outlets armed with a rolodex, a press release and some serious people skills. Yet, with all of their strengths, one of the greatest criticisms of PR is their lack of ability to produce measurable ROI.
Large companies see the overall benefit of a well executed PR campaign, but medium-sized companies don't see the immediate value in a bunch of blog links or they can't afford to have Custom Myspace Tools developed for a product launch. As a result, many medium sized companies are leaving PR out of the marketing mix.
THE TROUBLE WITH SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION
On the other side of the spectrum are search engine optimizers (SEOs). Technically savvy problem solvers, SEOs can tweak a website to maximize its exposure in the search engines (the tools that over 90% of internet users turn to when finding new resources or information online). SEOs rely on their technical expertise as well as their ability to build "backlinks" (links coming from other websites) to achieve success in the search engines for their clients.
In the past few months, however, (06-07) search engines have gotten "smarter" and have made traditional methods of building backlinks less effective. Many SEOs have turned to what they call "link bait", tapping into social media (blog forums and others) to build backlinks. Of course, "link baiting" is really just a nerdy term for online publicity. It's something that only the best of SEOs have mastered, and many PR Practitioners are now diving into.
WHY PR AND SEO SHOULD BE BEST BUDS
Where "link baiting" (and really online promotion in general) is concerned, Public Relations firms have a distinct advantage. With their preexisting experience, contacts online and off, and other resources already dedicated to building online visibility, PR firms are much better equipped to get mentions and links on authority websites than their SEOs counterparts.
Of course just because a PR firm can get mentioned in a dozen blogs posts, or make the first page of Digg.com, doesn't necessitate an increase in their client's bottom line. With the help of an SEO consultant, or SEO company, however, PR firms could present actual numbers to prove the value of their service by converting online publicity into search engine dominance.
If PR could tap into the technical expertise of a search engine optimizer they could solve the problem of tangible ROI and expand their services to more medium sized companies, ecommerce sites, and others. What if you as a PR Practitioner could hand your client a piece of paper saying "Look, we've gotten your name out to your niche here, here, here and here - oh, and as a result of this, you are now number one in the search engines when searched for these top keyphrases..."
Likewise, SEO firms, what if you could cut your workload in half by completely cutting out link building, show your clients better results, and get them mentioned in related high-traffic blogs or ezines? How much more would they be willing to spend with you? For how many more keywords would they want to rank?
YES, BUT WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
It is a symbiotic relationship. Yes, you have to pay another company and cut away at some of your margin, but the relationship is mutually beneficial. Furthermore, if each party is accommodated with solutions specific to the other's industry where both stand to make a buck from offering the other's services, the relationship will grow.
By putting stock in SEO as well as outsourcing it, Public Relations Firms will be able to retain their larger clients with greater frequency as well as set their sites on medium sized businesses that previously hid their wallets when someone mentioned the words "press release." Similarly, by outsourcing to PR firms, Search Engine Optimization companies will be able to service more clients, while providing all around better results.
The most important point to remember here is that neither SEO nor PR firms have the whole of the online promotions pie yet. PR's strengths lie in creating visibility, but not technical prowess. SEO is just the opposite. They're a veritable Yin and Yang, an Odd Couple, Bonnie and Clyde, Simon and Garfunkel, Best Buds just waiting to find each other out there in the entangled world of bandwidth, servers and free information that is the internet.