The battle between SEO and PR has been occurring for quite some time now and we’ve decided to see if we can bring some sense to this altercation. PR has been around longer, dominates the traditional realm and takes a proactive role in making the web a source for news and information. Alternatively, SEO is newer, but well-known to anyone with a website who is concerned with high search engine rankings, community-sites, widgets, virals, etc. With overlapping tactics and differing goals, it’s hard to tell which better handles the client’s online presence. SEO’s goal is to improve organic search rankings through relevant search terms, while PR’s is to develop relationships and positive brand image through relevant content. One’s priority is attracting the attention of robots and the other is of people.

An example of how the two can clash is SEOs see blogs as an opportunity for keywords and PR sees them as a place for meaningful articles and news. Another is SEOs use link building to obtain website links, while PR uses relationship building to get featured on websites.

Despite their differences, we have quickly learned that both are important for an online marketing strategy. Each just needs to be understood more in order to work together harmoniously. For smaller businesses that don’t have dedicated SEO and PR departments, it’s even more critical to have a strong understanding of both, and know that content isn’t just for ranking or for creating a press center.

A person coming from an SEO background has better leverage of social media, can write for search engines and ensures traffic and conversions are long term. On the flip side, a person with a PR background has better understanding of social media, knows that quality trumps quantity, and that awareness, influence and trust is imperative in creating a strong brand image. Both are valuable and can get you maximum results when used simultaneously.

Here is how SEO and PR can be approached for effective online marketing:

You should write authentic content without worrying about keywords and links first. Then, revise and sprinkle the keywords and links without altering the prose too much. For instance, changing “athletic footwear” to “athletic shoes” is fine. Changing it to “running shoes” may denote a different meaning.

From an SEO standpoint, online content spreads faster and usually stays online. Meaning, your page should be found quickly and be pertinent enough to be found later. From a PR standpoint, “all the keywords in the world can’t substitute for good content,” (that’s why “sprinkle” was emphasized).  PR builds reputation through positive coverage, which is good practice for effective link building. When people read your page, it should be engaging enough for them to share, getting you those reputable links. Remember that bloggers are also your online audience and consumers read their blogs, which can give you more links. But again, the content needs to be worthy of sharing to help you gain exposure.

So there is our ruling: Accommodate both nicely into your strategy. You need SEO to drive consumers to the website/profile/blog, and PR to drive the conversion. Whichever background you happen to have or believe is better, the main takeaway is that you should always optimize for people first, then search engines second.