Last night I got involved in a heated debate about PR and search engine optimisation (SEO) . Partly because the debate was on twitter and it was late into the evening (I think most of us were on UK time) it was fast moving, free flowing and it also involved many of the people who know most about the emerging roles of digital PR.
The discussion became confusing at times…talk about distributed conversations. I think however that the main points can be summarised as follows, (and there may be I admit a little bias towards my own views here):
- Public relations on line can play a significant role in SEO or raising the rank and therefore importance of sites in Google and other search engines
- It is an inexact science, there are probably lots of ways to make this work but they are not publicly available or widely discusssed in the PR community
- Some SEO agencies know this and are hiring PR people
- Some PR people know this and are hiring SEO people
- The PR industry has lost out so far to the SEO industry in selling skills in this area to major companies and brands
- Planning and use of analytics will be key to how the PR industry develops in the field
- WOM in SocNets is the future (or even the present).
I want to take issue with the last point not because I disagree but because it points up a problem. I’ve been in PR a long time and have been involved with the social web in various ways for a good few years but the phrase threw me and I had to look it up. When I found that it meant Word of Mouth in Social Networks I felt like a fool…of course. Let’s demystify and let’s not be too enthusiastic about the next big thing before it happens.
It is true that social reputation and peer to peer recomendation will assert themselves in the digital space but let’s not downgrade search just yet. I went to Twestival in Manchester and met lots of mates ….it was packed with PR people and digital marketing people, so I conclude that at the moment we are talking to each other a lot of the time.
For the time being search and content are critical for the PR industry but let’s keep and eye on the growing importance of SocNets.