PR v SEO: it’s a question of source credibility

24 May

What’s the difference between a PR hustler chasing media mentions and a digital executive chasing links? Conceptually, none at all. Hence the rather useful phrase SEO PR that’s increasingly being used.

In practice, though, there is a difference between an SEO pitch and a PR pitch. Google knows this and is tightening the screws on SEO tactics through its latest update (Penguin 2.0).

SEO and PR both seek the same outcome, but use different approaches (as do PR and advertising).

The SEO executive typically sends a message to a site owner (often an amateur blogger) offering to write a ‘guest post’. They never say who they are of who they represent, though they send links to other articles they’ve written on the topic of their pitch. The purpose of the (spurious) post is solely to link back to whichever site needs boosting. It’s like the fraudster keen to be photographed with famous people so they can assume some of their credibility.

The PR executive also approaches a media site (professional or amateur) with some form of content: a news release, a comment,  a potential feature or an interview opportunity. The PR approach does not hide the purpose of the approach (promoting the client) leaving the recipient to judge the content on its merits.

When I receive pitches, I make a snap judgement on whether it’s an SEO pitch or a PR pitch. The initial difference is the credibility of the source. Further down the line, the PR practitioner should also value relationships whereas the SEO industry is ravenous for links and hits and gives little or no thought to the value of longer-term relationships.

Some will think this a classic example of ‘the pot calling the kettle black’. Yet I find it encouraging that PR people are no longer the most egregious examples of internet spam. Google’s pursuit of the genuine over the fake is now playing into the hands of PR people who have a valuable role in exchanging valued content and links and developing relationships.

It’s a while since I’ve read an SEO expert proclaiming that ‘PR is dead’. Memes can die too.

One Response to “PR v SEO: it’s a question of source credibility”

  1. Ben Cotton 07/06/2013 at 11:47 am #

    Hi Richard,

    The number of terrible emails I receive from SEO agencies is infuriating. They are often little more than crude, one-off link-building exercises. It’s easy to see why they are fast-becoming the ‘most egregious examples of internet spam’.

    I’ve also penned a post that (unsurprisingly) mirrors some of your complaints:



    P.S. Congratulations on your recent CIPR Fellowship and Golden Robe award.

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