Public relations and SEO are closer than ever since Google moved to reward content quality over dubious backlinks or black-hat technology schemes.
The emphasis on quality content highlights attributes and skills like storytelling, long-form material, and the third-party endorsement that comes with earned media. That’s great news for PR pros. Yet PR hasn’t quite fulfilled its potential to work with SEO, mainly because it can feel mechanical, and we don’t always think to include it when programming.
Here are some guidelines for PR pros wanting to integrate basic SEO techniques into their programs.
Use search analytics before developing the PR plan. We relay on analytics for measurement, but search data can offer insights that help shape a program. A search history shows where competitors are showing up, which sites are linking to them, and the outlets with high domain authority and influence. Ongoing reviews of search analytics also offer insight into the types of editorial or user-generated content that drives traffic. Sometimes the results are counterintuitive; long-tail inquiries can drive e-commerce conversions, for example.
Answer common customer questions in content. This one’s obvious, but it can feel a little basic in content development when we’ve been trained to deliver insights and to differentiate with thoughtful ideas and original phrasing. But a question-and-answer style is appropriate for many forms of content and shouldn’t be a barrier or an afterthought.
Don’t overuse press releases. Press releases are outmoded as an SEO strategy, and too much newswire distribution is a waste of money. When Google’s Matt Cutts told PRs not to expect news releases to boost search rankings, he caused a stir, but I think he meant what I think of as “news-free” releases, – those created simply to generate backlinks instead of to actually impart news.
Ask for links. PRs can be reluctant to ask for links to client sites when quotes in a feature story, but it’s a legitimate request, even though many publications may have a policy not to link. And it may make sense to factor in a given outlet’s link policy when planning media outreach.
Write press releases for press. Duh, right? But sometimes we forget, and clients tend to think about stakeholders when reviewing releases. And if we throw in too many keywords, the announcements sound like bots wrote them – not media-friendly. After all, most journalists start story research with Google, so media needs and preferences should rule.
Offer differentiated content. This is a core PR skill. We can have the greatest influence if we own content marketing, but even if not, PR can contribute to the content calendar with original topics and through various types of content like white papers, videos, and creative visualizations.
Step up the social sharing. PR pros routinely share to extend the reach of earned media placements and engage with customers and influencers. But we don’t always build that social following or online community in advance. Where possible, it’s best to have stakeholders lined up and engaged when the hits start coming.
Measure influence. Measurement is the PR industry’s holy grail, so we prioritize any amplification. It can dramatically boost the value of a single post or feature, and we want to get credit for every single click, swipe, and share.
This post is an updated version of one that appeared earlier this year on MENGBlend.