Public relations and SEO have never been more compatible. Ever since Google began its Panda and Penguin updates, links from sites with high domain authority, like mainstream media outlets and popular blogs, have taken on greater importance. Hundreds of questionable backlinks don’t matter as much as they once did.
In giving more importance to high-quality content, Google has highlighted skills like storytelling, content marketing, and third-party endorsement. That’s great news for PR pros. Yet PR hasn’t quite fulfilled its potential to work with SEO. That’s in part because some PR’s don’t give enough consideration to SEO, or they view it as a bag of “black-hat” technology tricks. And SEO-ers sometimes reduce the practice of PR to dated tactics like keyword-stuffed press releases.
How can we bridge the gap? Here are a few ways.
Use search analytics to inform and develop PR programs, not just execute them. PR pros routinely work to optimize content and share media results to support it, but the insights that search data provide can be helpful before a program is created. A search history gives us an idea of where competitors are showing up, which sites are linking to them, and which outlets and blogs exert the most influence in the category. Ongoing reviews of search analytics also offer insight into what types of media profiles drive traffic, and sometimes the results are counterintuitive. It’s not always the mega-blog that drives e-commerce conversions, for example.
Don’t overrely on press release enhancement. Many PR pros still think SEO means lots of links in news releases. This strategy is outdated, and spending on newswire distribution of link-loaded press releases can be a waste of money. In fact, Google’s Matt Cutts has warned PRs not to expect news releases to have a positive impact on their search rankings. His remarks caused a stir in professional circles, but I think he was referring to what I can only call “news-free” releases, – those created simply to generate the now-downgraded website backlinks.
Offer unique content. This is a core PR skill, of course. But it’s not just in the writing or editing. If PR doesn’t own content marketing, it can still support SEO by refreshing the content calendar and dreaming up ideas for differentiated topics and materials, including white papers, articles, videos, and infographics.
Ask for high-quality links. PRs can be reticent to ask journalists and bloggers to include links to client sites, but it’s often perfectly legitimate to do so. In fact, it makes sense to factor in a given outlet’s link policy when planning media outreach.
Write press releases for media consumption. This one sounds like a no-brainer, because news releases are meant for press, yet often the target gets muddled. If PRs are pressed to toss in too many keywords, the announcements become like Christmas trees — everyone wants to hang something on them to help drive search by end-users. But remember, most journalists start story research with Google, so a journalist or blogger should always be the primary target.
Use social sharing. Most PR pros routinely use social sharing to extend the reach of earned media placements and drive direct engagement with customers and those who influence them. But we don’t always build the social following or online community in advance. Where possible, it’s good to have a community in place when the hits start coming.
Measure social influence. Metrics are the holy grail in PR, of course, so we need to give a high priority to the reach that social sharing brings. It can enhance the value of a single blog or media story exponentially, and we want to get credit for every single click, swipe, and share.
An earlier version of this post appeared on MENGBlend.« The Weather Channel’s PR Blowout | How To Think Like A PR Person »