Keywords… clue’s in the name

September 12, 2017 |

I think we’ll all agree that every PR or content campaign should start with at least some thought given to the keywords that businesses want / need to be found for. Well, in fact we don’t.

Odd as it may seem to marketeers, there are lots of people out there who still consider keywords to be a shopping list item that they may skip, to throw in another couple of say broadcast mail campaigns. Let’s just ignore the irony of that one for a moment.

To use my own business as an example, once upon a time, there was little ambiguity as to what people called Tank. To everyone but competitors, we were probably known as a PR agency or company. Since those hazy days of 2010, the world has changed and PR, and the sublime online media content it creates, has become an even greater favourite of Google. Crudely explained, this has led to a tidal wave of SEO and digital agencies desperately bolting PR onto their offer. This initially unhappy union has now fairly settled with PR, or at least its mechanisms, commonly tossed into the catch all term ‘content’, which can seemingly mean anything from an infographic or blog, to editorial feature or social media post. I could talk for days, but won’t, about what PR actually is and why it deserves more than being lumped under the content heading. Truth is, what I think doesn’t matter is if the person buying our services calls ‘PR’ ‘content marketing’. Also, now that PR is probably the most valuable element of content marketing – they’re probably not wrong to call it that.

People come into this industry from different places. I initially came into this working world through an advertising agency, where PR was a division with its own rules of conduct and identity. In that world, PR was a stand-alone discipline that also worked really well in integrated campaigns. Back then, probably only 25 per cent of businesses had a just about competent web presence compared to today’s standards, so they didn’t really care about content and keywords, or know they existed in the main. Point being, I have a clear picture of pure PR, which remains the same today, with the only difference being the mechanisms by which the media profiles are generated. To someone starting out today, PR is probably a white paper or report, or editorial. Perhaps it’s even defined as anything with copy?

As a PR agency in the current market, we’re probably defined as a digital PR agency, but in truth, actual digital PR as an offering makes up around 1/8 of our billings.

Given all of this, what will they search for to find what we do? It could be ‘content marketing’, ‘PR company’ or ‘digital PR agency’. I don’t care, as they find out about our actual definition of this work when they’re here. It’s part of the process of the client and us deciding whether we are right for each other. Often if we’re not, we can direct them to businesses that are, thus helping our network of friends.

Back to the relevance of keywords then, the contrary school of thought can exist in the likes of consultancy businesses aiming for board level characters. It has been put to me a number of times, that these senior people don’t use search to identify suppliers. The argument goes on that they already know who they want to work with and if they did ever search, they would use the most technical, specific and ‘in the know’ terms for what they are looking for. This is certainly true for a certain section of businesses – e.g., magic circle law firms, top management consultants and the like. OK, but what about the rest of the world? The people who get their PA to search, those who do like to see what’s out there and those fast growth businesses who don’t yet ‘know’ who to use and want to find out for themselves?

Is there not also a danger of trying to be too sophisticated with terminology, in or out of search? I don’t think that the majority of business leaders are wedded to overly convoluted descriptions of services, rather they are pragmatists and do use generic terms like the rest of us.