Why SEO Won’t Be Replaced by PR or Content Marketing

1Nothing fires me up more than hearing “SEO is dead.”

And if you’ve been a follower of mine for long, then you know my counter-response. “TRADITIONAL SEO is dead.” You know, “traditional” as in the old school way of quick and dirty tactics.
But as long as your target market turns to a search engine to look for products, services, answers, and information around their pain points, then SEO will always be alive and you’d be foolish not to optimize around the keywords that are core to your business and your industry.

Well, okay, I lied.

There IS one thing that gets under my skin more than hearing “SEO is dead.”

And it is this: “PR is the new SEO.”

Why “____ is the New SEO” is Blatantly False

I’m on the Board of BMA Atlanta. It’s a local chapter part of a very reputable B2B Marketing national association that was just bought out by ANA (Association of National Advertisers). They generally have very good content.

But I had to groan out loud when I saw they sent out an email featuring an article about “SEO in 2016” featuring a statement that said: “In 2016 ‘PR is the new SEO’.”

Hells bells.

Sensationalized SEO Headlines Lead to Confusion

Thanks to the many experts, bloggers and columnists who intentionally and gleefully write sensationalized headings designed to provoke, and who plot to kill SEO for good because it will make THEIR specialty seem more important, SEO has gotten a bad rap. (Well, that and the other obvious reasons why SEO has gotten a bad rap). My point is this leads to confusion.

I get so irate every time I read a claim about “such-and-such is the new SEO.” Like:

  • “Content marketing is the new SEO.”
  • “Social is the new SEO.”
  • “PR is the new SEO.”
  • “Just write great copy is the new SEO.”


Here is why that is blatantly false.

Because each of those are tactics and activities that contribute to SEO.

In isolation they are NOT SEO.

There is not, and will not ever be, ONE thing that comprises SEO. That would be like saying, “Snapchat is the new social media.” or, “the latest version of Facebook is the new social media.”

SEO is a channel, and linkbuilding, technical, content marketing, social, and PR are activities that contribute to and should be done as part of an integrated marketing plan. But each individually will never BE SEO. Here’s why:

  • You can excel at content marketing, but if you have no backlinks you’re toast.
  • You can have great backlinks but if you’ve failed to identify the right keywords to help accomplish your business and traffic goals you’ll fail to hit business objectives.
  • You can have great content and links inherently but if your website is slow, cumbersome, and riddled with technical problems Google will not favor or rank your site (and your visitors will hate you).

5 Concrete Tactics that DO work for SEO:

  1. Using social media to amplify your content and get more eyeballs on it (and your site if people click through). This helps with those indirect social media signals, traffic to your site, and potential backlinks through content discovery.
  2. Pulling and looking at backlinks from 5-10 competitors for competitive intel to understand themes and trends, and help you identify low hanging fruit and creative ideas.
  3. Identifying assets on your website that you can utilize for structured markup. This includes events, videos, products, articles, ratings, and more.
  4. Creating relationships with influencers who might love your content and will promote it to their community by way of backlinks, email marketing, and social media.
  5. Identifying new keywords that your market might be searching for around competitors, alternatives to your products/services, and what other services they might be using concurrently to yours.

This is just a handful of activities of course. And they all represent a common theme about Modern SEO: they all are beneficial for both SEO and are genuinely useful, solid website marketing best practices.

Nothing spammy or deceitful – which many still associate with SEO – and which is why people keep trying to kill SEO.

To Conclude

So please, I beg you, when you read “Such-and-such activity is the new SEO,” take it with a grain of salt.

And maybe throw a proverbial tomato at them.

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Jenny Munn

Jenny is an independent Digital Marketer and SEO Consultant with more than 10 years of experience helping companies and content creators generate brand awareness, traffic, and conversions with SEO. She is a frequent speaker and is on the faculty for the AMA (American Marketing Association) and has taught SEO to thousands of marketers over the past 10 years.


  • Val says:

    Preach it, Sister! Another brilliant post calling out the nay-sayers, Jenny. Makes perfect sense to me. Looking forward to more good reads from you in 2016.

    • Jenny Munn says:

      Amen. 🙂 Thanks, Val! I’ve felt compelled to defend SEO lately from any naysayers. I used to say SEO hasn’t really changed that much, and while the fundamentals of SEO hasnt changed, customers’ buying habits and digital marketing has changed so much and of course SEO has changed along with it. Thanks again for chiming in!

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