Will PRs and journalists own natural search?

You might say, “who cares?”, but for me this is a refreshing new angle on the ‘who owns online PR?’ discussion that has been going on within the social media industry for a while. Of course I’m going to like suggestions that PRs might be in line to own SEO, but setting my vested interests aside, this line of thought helps explain why it is crucial that journalists and PRs understand the long-term trends that are happening in natural search.

Guardian columnist Charlie Brooker made his own rather crude observations on the subject on Monday, in his overly optimised article, “Online POKER marketing could spell the NAKED end of VIAGRA journalism as we LOHAN know it.” He doesn’t say anything new – online headlines have always been important for driving traffic and natural links, and the only difference is that journalists are waking up to the impact optimised copy can have on their authority and popularity rankings – but the article drives home the SEO control that journalists have at their fingertips, should they choose to use it intelligently.

Similarly, Leon Bailey Green has today contributed a post to the E-Consultancy blog entitled: “Is the role of the SEO dead and should PRs own natural search?“, where he argues “off-site optimisation, link building or link baiting, should actually be in the domain of PR professionals”. He concludes “so if a web developer can build a search engine friendly website, a content writer knows how to write search engine friendly copy and an online PR guru can get blogs/websites/forums to link to that content, where does that leave an SEO?”

Regardless of who might own SEO in the future, or whether anyone will, it’s becoming more and more important for PRs and journalists to have a basic understanding of how relevancy, authority and quality of content will increasingly be the metrics used by search engines to rank sites. In addition, social networks are in some cases beginning to displace search, by creating trusted networks of relevant recommendations – which will make the role that PR plays even more important.

The tactics of PR and journalism don’t necessarily need to change, but individuals working in these sectors will have to be very good at what they do.

Natural search can appear very scientific, and I personally am on a mission to understand the techniques as well as I can…but ultimately, PR as an industry needs to focus on the quality of its output. There’s no place for fakers!

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