There was a time, not too long ago, when SEO performance could be driven by a handful of technical experts and a budget for purchasing links. Over the years this has been killed off and SEO agencies have had to adapt in order to deliver SEO performance.
Links have always been a major ranking signal, and still are, albeit they share the space with a few other well-known ranking factors. SEO agencies now have to be able to deliver links without a link broker, without relying on article directories, paid blog posts and forum dropping etc… Google’s recent action against link spam has meant everyone has had to clean up their acts.
Most forward thinking agencies saw this coming and as such have adapted over time, in most cases very successfully.
Change in Recruitment Strategy
We decided way back in 2010 to change our recruitment method, up until that time there had been a heavy focus on technical and analytical skills, of course these skills are still very much needed, but for link acquisition we knew we needed to start looking for individuals who were skilled at forming relationships and who understood what publishers wanted to cover.
As such we began to build out our Digital PR and Social department, taking on graduates and executives with marketing, PR and communications backgrounds. This new recruitment strategy brought its fair share of challenges, not just in terms of how we delivered links but also with the dynamics of the agency.
Our Digital PR department is now 15 people strong, and in my bias opinion the best in the country at driving high quality links, coverage, traffic and revenue for our clients.
SEO agencies are perfectly positioned to adopt social and PR campaigns into the work they do, particularly campaigns that revolve around digital.
Firstly, SEO agencies understand the value of links; they know which websites are more beneficial in order to improve SEO performance and as such can use this knowledge to shortlist publications and journalists.
Secondly, because of this understanding, they also know which websites to stay away from, or which pieces of coverage could be potentially harmful from an SEO point of view. Very often clients will issue press releases, or come to an arrangement with an online publisher with regards to a piece of content they are willing to publish. Unbeknown to the client the site may be actively selling links, or have been blacklisted for other activity that goes against Google’s guidelines. If an SEO agency has visibility on these placements, they can make some simple suggestions to ensure there aren’t any issues caused through the coverage or links. This could include making the link no followed, adding the domain to the disavow tool or in some cases asking for it to be removed.
Thirdly, a lot of good SEO agencies have been creating digital content for a long time, we have had to understand what content is likely to go viral and what media works on different social networks and platforms. Not only do we know this, but we can create it too! Again most good SEO agencies already have the internal capability to create awesome content, and as UX, personalisation and content marketing become more important, these capabilities are only going to increase over the years. We don’t need to outsource this kind of work; we have been creating it for years, often outsourced to us by traditional PR and Media agencies.
Once you take all this knowledge and capability, and layer it with a communications team who understand what type of content and data gets coverage, not only that, but are capable of developing the right relationships; then you have a team ready to drive links, engagement, coverage, traffic and revenue for your clients.
Where are the Lines Drawn?
There are of course differences in all the disciplines; SEO, PR and Content Marketing are about more than simply getting coverage, on the PR side there are reputation and crisis management activities, audience engagement and advocacy on the content marketing side, and of course SEO involves just about every digital discipline out there.
However, if your aim is to get coverage and be seen online by your target audience, then I can’t see a better option than a good SEO and/or digital marketing agency. Getting coverage that incorporates skills from all of the disciplines allows you to gain coverage and exposure that drives traffic, visibility and revenue.
I was going to write another section at the bottom covering a real example of what could be achieved by combining your SEO, Content Marketing and PR capabilities, however it makes sense for me to just link out so you can go take a look yourselves.
A simple map using enquiry data to inform users about cosmetic surgery trends and hotspots.
A similar concept displaying debt assessments across the UK.
Some gamification allowing fans to show off how knowledgeable they are about their respective teams.
All the above campaigns drove links, shares, and revenue directly to the sites in question.
If you want your coverage to give you a tangible ROI, then you have to work with an agency who are capable of delivering not only great placements, but also great content and SEO value.
What Does The Future Look Like?
I think the key to doing excellent PR, SEO, Content Marketing or any other form of digital marketing is collaboration. If you don’t enrol broader skills you will find yourself delivering campaigns that are not even half as effective as they could be, and won’t deliver against your client’s expectations. Collaboration is the future both client and agency side.