Ever since Google arrived on the scene, links referring to a website have been an important factor in search engine rankings.
Over the last few years, changes in Google’s algorithm and attitude have forced a change in the way SEOs develop the profile of links to a site. Starting around 2012, Google launched various initiatives to cut down on the types of scaled, unnatural link building tactics which SEO companies were commonly providing. Through the use of algorithmic and manual spam penalties and no small amount of social engineering, Google effectively managed to kill a subsection of an industry, or at least change the direction of a large part of it.
For many SEO companies who had previously relied on building unnatural links at scale, this meant they had to find new techniques to gain links for their clients. To do this they had to add new skills to their repertoire. Fortunately, for an industry in a permanent state of flux, SEO coped with this remarkably well and we now see accomplished digital PR and outreach teams working within the remit of SEO throughout the country.
Interestingly, around the same time, the PR industry was really starting to dip more than just its toes in the digital world. SEO and social media were the two most obvious areas of overlap between PR and digital marketing and we now see most PR companies offering some level of SEO service. According to the PRCA, in 2015, 54% of PR agencies offered SEO services and 82% offered outreach and engagement services – a mainstay of modern SEO.
That, in an overly simplified nutshell, is where we are today. We have traditional digital and SEO agencies providing digital PR services and traditional PR agencies providing SEO. The question now is how are they faring and what can we expect to see happening in future?
Unfortunately, we’re limited to anecdotal evidence given the lack of transparency over the work being carried out or revenue being generated. I’ve yet to see any PR firms winning major SEO awards although this is also far from being a foolproof metric. Given that many PR firms have employed staff from top digital agencies, there’s no reason that they shouldn’t also be creating some of the best work.
Similarly, digital agencies are regularly employing outreach staff with PR and journalism backgrounds and developing tactics and processes which deliver results from both an SEO and PR perspective.
It would seem that the convergence that we’ve seen over the last few years is likely to continue and that the cross-pollination between industries will continue unabated. At Yard, investment in digital PR and outreach skills has paid off with new clients and some fantastic campaigns. We’re seeing similar things happening in some other SEO and digital agencies, too.
One thing is certain – that we will continue to see change and that the line between what a digital agency and what a PR agency is may have already gone forever.
Guest blog post by Richard Falconer, Head of SEO at Yard Digital. Richard will form part of the Digital PR panel on Friday, 17 June.