Jim Hawker, Threepipe

Opinion: Why PR should embrace SEO insights

Jim Hawker, Threepipe’s co-founder and owner, says acquiring an SEO firm transformed his agency and argues that all PRs should inform their content strategies with data-driven insights.

It’s just over a year since Threepipe acquired an SEO agency to work alongside its PR and paid media teams. From my perspective as a PR person, it’s been a hugely interesting and challenging year in learning how PR and SEO teams can work well together.

We have enjoyed some great success in terms of creating joint campaigns for the likes of Lloyds Pharmacy, 888 and Jack Wills. But there have been challenges along the way too.

To rewind slightly, the reason we acquired a SEO agency was to accelerate our digital PR capability and offer clients a channel that works hand-in-hand with paid search.

We had tried to send people on SEO training courses in the past, but felt that it was such a technical and analytical discipline that PR people don’t naturally have the skillsets that lend themselves to becoming SEO proficient.

That has certainly been proven to be the case. Our new SEO team is highly data literate and uses a very different suite of products and tools that require specific training. The language, the reporting formats and the greater focus on delivering incremental benefits that improve client bottom lines (rather than softer metrics) are very apparent.

We deliver better value to clients with SEO insights

Having 20 SEO team members in the office has been hugely helpful to the PR programmes we are running. They have improved our ability to use Google Analytics in the setup and measurement of campaigns. Plus, they have greatly informed a lot of our content planning across the year for media and social channels, based on greater use of search trend insight.

Our content creation is now also more firmly aligned with commercial opportunities through new channels, such as voice. For one fashion client, we are currently ranking number one via Siri search, which is delivering such high value. This wouldn’t have been possible in the way we previously went about our business.

It hasn’t been easy, though. To collaborate on campaigns, we have to bring together PR and SEO teams that often speak completely different languages. Part of my role has been to try and act as an interpreter, so both teams can understand how to work together and where each can add value.

The opportunity is huge. SEO is growing fast and the PR industry has a lot to contribute and gain by being part of it. But in order to do so, agencies and in-house teams will need to start hiring people with different skillsets – rather than simply hiring people from other PR agencies.

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