Though a publicist at heart I have a true love for SEO. I love studying SEO and have an innate respect for its balance and the science and measurement behind it. A responsible SEO firm researches and works on a project via a number of different methods to garner you much needed website traffic. To mention just a few, they ensure that you consistently deliver fresh content on the web. They measure if you are overusing or underusing keywords within your website's content. They analyze and advise on items such as the correct long tail keywords really drive your traffic up. Most importantly they pull their hair out night and day on how they can possibly increase your page ranking by placing your name and link on high ranking websites that actually retain to your business industry to increase quality backlinks.

As a publicist light SEO goes in to our work however greater knowledge of it really benefits all PR agencies in the long run. Of course we have to have the right keywords and buzzwords within our press releases and pitch letters if we are to garner our clients the best results. We only place our clients articles, names and quotes within applicable industry news. However thats not the meat and potatoes of our day-to-day jobs. We are not responsible for ensuring that traffic hits 100K daily on the website by the end of the year. We are responsible for generating strong awareness within the news on  much larger scale. Online digital media being one of the fastest routes for awareness building. Public relations increases sales, builds credibility, and drives traffic in a much more organic fashion. This ranges from online digital media placements, to newspapers and print magazines, along with television segments and more. A responsible PR firm knows that when working online digital press they should be actively looking at the google pagerank of any site that they are looking to place their clients on. Will this benefit their clients with a decent return? For instance, prior to us sending out a number of requested samples to a fashion blogger, we always take a peek at their Google page rank. If it is below 3 then we know automatically that this site really will not have much of a benefit for our clients. Our in house teams know not to send a sample. We instead kindly inform the blogger or editor of the low trafficked site that they are not at a point where we would work with them just yet. There are rare instances where we may still send it. Reason being is that we also look at their social media and though a site might have minimal traffic, it could have an insane Instagram following up into the millions. Yet another marketing balancing act come to life.

The New SEO Firm Trend To Watch Out For In 2016

In 2015 I noticed a strong trend. We were receiving calls from a slew of companies touting SEO expertise, but attempting to pawn off the majority of their workload to our PR firm. They did not want full campaigns. Instead, each SEO agency made the same pitch to us. They simply wanted us to work with one or two customers for about a month or two. They wanted us to quickly use our expertise and connections to focus on only online digital news such as Forbes, Inc.Com, fashion sites like Refinery29 and land their clients one or 2 placements each. These are high ranking sites where, if they end up on the SEO firm report the client will be thrilled and pretty much their job will be done for the month as it of course generates a large amount of traffic. Not just any traffic, but ongoing traffic. Google would also recognize these links and it would in turn boost the pagerank of their clients websites. Each SEO firm that approached us wanted our PR firm to rotate clients monthly as sort of an article placing mill. Going into 2016 the trend is still going strong and now SEO firms are approaching us to instead place large amounts of infographics within the news for their clients and act as a silent partner as they sit back and cash in big. I have outlined below the main problems with this under the table SEO Firm Trend.

1) Drive By Relationships Do Not work in PR

A Public Relations relationship should never be a get in, get paid, and get out. It is a solid investment on all fronts whether it be PR firm to editor, PR firm to writer, or PR firm to client. It is about building relationships and really placing your clients products, name, or brand identity into the right hands. Connections that we had built up over years used as a drive by placement simply did not settle well with me. Keeping them top of mind for not one single story, but for multiple stories as they come up for each and every editor. Working within the under the table SEO model is a slap in the face to these relationships. It cheapens the experience and also ensures an annoyed contact when they may have bucketed a publicist's email for a story 4 months from now and approach only to find that this client is not on the PR firm's roster. It also leaves a bad taste in the mouth of media contacts if they return for a second or third story run and you no longer have access to the client, or are not on a retainer to push these stories through to the proper channels. PR is not about a sprint. It's about the long haul.

2) Great PR Isn't On Demand

Editors rarely place stories right away unless they are breaking news or a deadline event. In many instances large scale media placements can take more than one month to hit, particularly for very large media outlets. One exceptionally large placement for a client within our firm once took 3 months from the time the Editor went in and sampled services. It was a lot of stalking and hounding our contact. However in between we filled the gaps with a ton of quality online digital media placements. Anyone within the PR world knows that this is a regular occurrence and its why PR campaigns run for a term of 6 or 12 months.  There are often behind the scenes nail biters for a PR team where Editors can suddenly pull a story leaving even a seasoned publicist twisting in the wind and scrambling to replace it with something else worthwhile on their client's account report. Most PR firms do not guarantee results. So that right there is a no brainer. However credible PR firms often provide a range of placement expectancy. We do this for our clients often and honestly I toss and turn and hound my stuff until that expectancy level is exceeded or met. When any prospect, including an SEO agency, tells me that they just want “ one or two placements”, it it an immediate red flag that they do not understand the business of PR or what they are looking to purchase. A good PR team sits down and has a solid process. They debrief your project, brainstorm angles, create a calendar and outline tasks. They then create your content and begin to pitch. Once a pitch is out generally media replies begin to fly in. Based on the foundation of creative stories created and the strength of the PR firm or publicists network, the larger the number of replies. One or two placements is laughable for a seasoned publicist and not something that should be considered to make a quick dollar via an SEO agency that's more than likely being paid top dollar. The approaching SEO firms did not understand the work, dedicated research, honed pitches and pitch edits that go in to the process. They did not understand that the reason that PR firms are on a standard retainer is because we really dive after low hanging fruit as we wait for much larger stories to create a beautiful cacophony of placements that snowball in to more.

3) Inflated Cost For Lesser Than Results

When we dove in a bit deeper we found that many of the SEO agencies were charging their clients anywhere from $10K-15K per month per month. The problem with the model is that clients do not understand the inner workings or that their SEO agency is working as a paid middle man to sit back and collect. Within the new trend many of the SEOfirms wanted to pay us per placement, or in batches of placements. A few offered very low retainers of $2500 a month. These rates and offers were exceptionally shocking. At our PR firm we use certain tools such as Cision as a media database, we push newswires and more. Systems where when totaled, cost more than this upfront. Most PR retainers begin at 5K per month for those firms that are not at the top of the quality list. Quality PR firms can range from 8K per month all the way to 40K per month dependent upon need. In many instances the SEO clients also had hired PR firms and did not realize that they would be paying a double fee for the same type of work. In the rare cases they the clients did not have a PR firm, they were paying an inflated rate for the SEO Agency to sit back and hand off the work to some unsuspecting PR sucker.

It is important to point out that not all SEO agencies use this model or are following this new trend. One trusted friend within the SEO industry that I thoroughly respect turned around and launched a small in house PR team. Which I thought was brilliant because they not only understand PR and SEO but can nurture relationships and continue engagements for particular clients as months move forward and additional requests come in. His agency also invested in many systems that PR agencies use to ensure the success of the projects. It is important to ask yourSEO team who will be doing the grunt work of the project and if they will be outsourcing any portions to avoid getting caught in the SEO PR traps for 2016. SEO is a beautiful balancing act, however your project should not be experimentally based or majorly outsourced by your SEO agency of choice. They should have a dedicated and plan with 100% visibility for you and your team.