How Copywriters can Bring Peace to the SEO vs. PR Debate

Just when we think we are making progress a new battleground emerges. The buzz around Online PR has built hopes of a bold new world in which websites are evolving portals of news and information, and online brochures are resigned to the bin.

However, the battle-lines are being drawn over who should have dominance over the new discipline. Is it the role of SEO companies to manage their client’s online reputation? Or is it the responsibility of the PR agency? Instead of working towards a common goal both clans seem to be worlds apart. It’s up to the freelance copywriter to bridge the gap and resolve their dispute for them.

With awareness of RSS spreading and businesses waking up to the opportunity of harnessing their news, the time is ripe for Online PR to spread. With a steady stream of press releases and articles, filled with relevant keywords, it has never been easier for niche businesses to reach a global marketplace and seduce prospects with their relevant, insightful information.

An article on E-consultancy Why online PR and SEO go hand in hand outlined why the two went so well together: PR is about building reputation through positive coverage, exactly what effective online link building is all about.

The PR agency can write engaging press releases and thought leadership articles, whilst the SEO team can ensure the key phrases are present and the articles are submitted and linked to the right places.

In his post, Ken McGaffin from does however describe a world in which the PR tribe is largely ignorant of SEOs rituals and traditions. Ken gives some examples of how PR campaigns have been stunted by their failure to capitalise on the opportunity to build the message further online.

Some of Kens key reasons why PR needs to understand search strategies were:

  • Website articles can be searched for, found and read months or years after an event. The exposure of magazine articles only lasts until the next issue.
  • Interesting and useful information attracts not only readers, but also back-links to push your website further to the front of the crowd.
  • Online news spreads fast. Online press releases appear on the same day on Google news and can be found by every interested surfer, rather than rely on the whims of an editor to decide if they’re news worthy.
  • It has never been easier for niche businesses to compete online. By providing news and information of value you can position yourself as a news leader and reach the influencers in your marketplace.

Ken’s article portrays a world in which PR and SEO agencies haven’t yet learned to work together, but for them both to evolve they certainly should do.

The positive comments section was a roll call for all those in the UK who got the new Online PR philosophy and to pledge their support.

One comment in particular was by Katy Howell, whose Online PR consultancy I had quoted in my previous post. She was able to provide me with another useful sound-bite:

The PR industry has suffered a great deal of slating over the press release (often justified in the past) but a new waive of ghastly copy is making its way onto the wires and posting sites. So I would like to caution that PR is a job for PR professionals. After all releases will only generate interest from journalists and surfers to, ‘spread like wild fire’, if they are actually good. That is, newsworthy, interesting, well written, informative and above all, relevant!

It would appear that, judging from Katy’s comments, a new generation of PR professional is required. One who understands how to compose a punchy press release combined with the knowledge of how to use it to grab the online audience and pull them back to their client’s website.

From the article’s comments I was also able to latch onto another post on the same theme by SEO consultant Shane Quigley. In PR is Dead, Long Live SEO!, Shane spells out how misunderstanding is creating an impending war between the PR dinosaurs and tech savvy SEO consultants. Will they be able to converge in some way, or will the PR dinosaurs simply swallow up SEO agencies when they feel the time is right?

Internet marketing is evolving at such a pace that SEO experts have had to learn to evolve at almost a daily rate. The PR dinosaurs have been able to lumber along with the same practices for centuries, blissfully unaware of an approaching asteroid that could wipe them out.

Unsurprisingly and quite possibly intentionally – Shane’s article drew a healthy debate between the proponents of the two disciplines. The agreed standpoint was that neither will replace the other. But a new hybrid professional is needed to act as middleman between the two.

Whilst SEO agencies struggle to find web savvy PR professionals and PR agencies keep their heads in the sand, the door of opportunity is open for astute freelance copywriters to walk in and introduce themselves as the answer to all their problems.

If you’re a freelance copywriter then you might want to put together a press release on your new Online PR service and give your local SEO and PR agencies a call.

I think my own website is now going to need a bit of a rewrite.

10 thoughts on “How Copywriters can Bring Peace to the SEO vs. PR Debate

  1. Excellent post. You’re right that the PR’s role is to make sure things are newsworthy, rather than just churning out news releases.

    I’ll stew on this, and add my 2 cents later.

  2. Excellent, excellent post Matt!
    So eloquently debated! I share this post in my ‘comments’ section of this particular post, and recommend hopping over to your very interesting blog too.

    Let’s stay in touch–your writing is impleccable!

    To our success & empowerment,

  3. Eric, Ponn,

    I’m glad you liked the post.

    Internet marketing is such a great topic to write about: its evolving so fast there is always plenty to cover.

    SEO is about so much more than just your Google ranking and is actually about managing your brand’s online reputation. I think that’s the topic for next week’s post covered.


  4. Matt,
    Given your great insights and wonderful writing skills…my question is “why aren’t you posting more often”?

  5. Hi Ponn,

    I probably should try and post more often – it’s just finding the time. I think I’m going to have to try and learn to write quicker or find a generous sponsor with deep pockets.


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