Why can’t we all just get along? | Plastic Surgery Practice June 2014

By Wendy Lewis

Lewis WendyLewis optIt has been said in certain techie circles that search engine optimization and public relations are one and the same. The lines are clearly getting blurred, but will the advancement of the former lead to the demise of the latter?

I think not.

SEO, by definition, is “the process of getting traffic from the ‘free,’ ‘organic,’ ‘editorial’ or ‘natural’ listings on search engines,” according to Searchengineland.com. Web pages, videos, and local listings are ranked based on what the search engine deems most relevant to users. Public relations, as defined by the Pubic Relations Society of America, “is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.” In the case of aesthetic practitioners, the “organization” is the doctor and the practice, and their “publics” are patients or consumers.


Today, SEO firms are writing press releases and attempting to do PR for their clients, while PR firms are trying to demonstrate return on investment (ROI) through analytics to better serve their clients.

Public relations activities are undertaken to build brand awareness and credibility that influences audience behavior; for example, consumer spending, demand for treatments, and patient referrals. But PR is not just a numbers game. How could you measure the ROI of a single 5-minute segment on your local news station?

Media coverage can’t be measured purely in terms of “leads,” meaning clicks and phone calls, or procedures booked. And even if it could be, over what period of time do those clicks and phone calls really count? The reality is that the shelf life of media placements is indefinite.

PR professionals spend their days pitching, setting up interviews, following up on emails and calls out to editors, and using their wiles to persuade press and win earned media for their clients. Earned media is precisely what the name implies; it is earned by merit, luck, or happenstance, rather than being bought.

The SEO guru’s role is to increase search visibility for clients. This is a data-driven role. SEO types are analytical by nature, usually highly technical, and able to understand complex coding.

In contrast, PR execs are verbal and visual. They have strong communication skills and build their reputation by nurturing long-term relationships. PRs most important capital is who they know, not what they know.


The practice of guest posting has become widely accepted as a method of adding links to be placed on websites, blogs, forums, and comments sections. Sites that accept free contributions usually do not have high standards. Strategic links back to clients’ sites that get included in these articles are often painful to read due to the awkward language and optimization tactics. So when you see a feature that repeats phrases like “Atlanta laser surgeon” or “Best Body Shaping Boston” 10 times in one paragraph, it is no more than thinly disguised SEO. Guest blogging purely for SEO purposes is a practice that is now frowned upon.

PR professionals have a similar practice of writing and pitching “bylined articles.” The key difference between a byline and a guest post is that a bylined article provides relevant content that also serves the needs of the PR exec’s client by positioning him or her as an expert on a particular topic.


Some SEO executives may not be taking advantage of the PR potential of a press release, and some PR people are not taking advantage of the search engine optimization opportunities of press releases. There are many ways that SEO gurus and PR execs can work together for the good of their clients.

For example, publicists can include a URL to a specific web page in press releases, rather than directing readers to the landing page. These links are trackable so lead quality and conversion rates can be measured. Over time, the implied links and earned media the PR team generates will have a positive effect on the search ranking of specific pages on the brand’s website.

In my view, these two vital components of a practice marketing program can and should peacefully co-exist.

Wendy Lewis is president of Wendy Lewis & Co Ltd, Global Aesthetics Consultancy,? www.wendylewisco.com, founder/editor in chief of beautyinthebag.com, and a contributing editor to Plastic Surgery Practice. She can be reached at [email protected].

Original citation for this article: Lewis, W. Are PR and SEO BFFs? :Why can’t we all just get along? Plastic Surgery Practice. 2014; June, 30.