I spent this weekend at the Travel Bloggers Unite conference, meeting some of the people i’ve been talking to on a daily basis online for over 18 months. It was great to finally meet them all face to face as well as making some new acquaintances, both bloggers and otherwise.
One theme which ran throughout the conference was the relationship between PRs and bloggers and how we can make this relationship better and more fruitful. Some interesting ideas came out of the debate and i’m sure it allowed both bloggers and PRs to understand their counterpart’s needs much better.
However, one of the key issues it raised for me was the relationship between SEO and PR. As search engines continue to improve their ability to weed out dirty tactics, it means SEOs need to be interacting with their audience on a much deeper level in order to establish relationships that can allow both parties to prosper. For too long SEO agencies have been viewed in a bad light but, if working correctly, they can provide value for a blogger beyond just a few pounds in the back pocket. This kind of relationship building approach is the key to successful, long term SEO campaigns in my opinion. In the coming months and years I expect to see more niche SEO companies sprouting up, so we end up with Travel SEO companies, Fashion SEO companies etc rather than generic, full service agencies that currently dominate the market.
This, of course, means moving SEO much closer to the realms of PR which is certainly no bad thing. However, it surprised me at TBU that digital PR companies still seem to place little emphasis on the SEO benefits that can be gained from a social media campaign. Despite spending many hours identifying which bloggers can provide value for a campaign, outreaching, then going to the effort of sending them places and funding their trip, it seems ensuring that the blogger links to their client’s website is an optional afterthought. As an SEO it seems crazy to go to all that effort and expense and omit such a key detail, and a digital PR should feel the same.
SEOs are just as bad in this sense. Too little thought goes into creating great content which travel bloggers will appreciate, share and link to. Instead, they opt for the blanket email, cross their fingers and wait for a reply. If and when the reply comes, it’s simply a case of establishing how big the wallet needs to be and then moving on to the next one.
There was a fantastic presentation from the guys at Gosh PR, followed by an equally stimulating debate, but it only highlighted the issue to me that PR and SEO agencies need to work closer together (if not being fully integrated within one agency/team) in order to maximise the value a client gains from their campaigns. Gosh are certainly ahead of the game when it comes to realising the value of bloggers to the travel industry, but I think the digital PR industry as a whole needs to recognise the relationship between what they are doing and the huge SEO benefit they could be adding for a client with very little extra work and effort.
In the end PRs and SEOs are both working towards the same goals for their clients – greater visibility online – so it’s time the process became much more integrated. If this happened then I think PRs, SEOs and bloggers would all get more from the process.