The marriage of PR and SEO has been rumored for years. Through its Panda and Penguin updates over the past 18 months, Google has changed the game to give more authority to high quality content over hundreds of questionable links. Content, storytelling, third party endorsement — all are more important than ever. The most valuable links come from sites with high domain authority, like mainstream media and major blogs.
That’s where PR people come in, right? The problem is that many PR professionals don’t think in SEO terms, or they view it as a bag of questionable technology tricks. For their part, SEO-ers sometimes define PR as keyword stuffed press releases.
How can we bring the two closer together?
Use search data to inform PR programs, not just execute them. We generally try to optimize PR content or focus on sharing media results, but sometimes the insights that analytics provide can be very enlightening. Search engine data lets us see where competitors are, which sites are linking to them, and who exerts the most influence in the category. Ongoing analytics reviews also offer insight into what types of media profiles drive traffic, and sometimes the results are counterintuitive.
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Don’t rely on enhanced press releases. Many PR pros are trained to load their releases with lots of links. This is an outdated strategy, and spending money on newswire distribution of link-heavy press releases is likely to be a waste. Google’s Matt Cutts caused a stir last year when he warned PRs against expecting releases to have a positive impact on rankings, but he was referring to the huge number of “news-free” releases created simply to generate website backlinks.
Focus on unique content. This is what we do naturally, but even if PR doesn’t own content marketing, we can support SEO in a big way by refreshing the content calendar and dreaming up ideas for unique and differentiated content, including white papers, articles, videos, and infographics.
Ask journalists for links. PR people can be shy about asking bloggers and journalists to link to client websites when a story appears in digital form. But there are many occasions where it’s perfectly legitimate, and increasingly common, to do so. In fact, it often makes sense to give priority to smaller media outlets that will link over larger outlets with a policy against it.
Consider news-surfing. Also known as “newsjacking,” this PR technique has a bad name because it’s been associated with exploiting negative events, like the marketers who rushed to promote products after Hurricane Sandy. But it doesn’t need to be controversial. It simply means attaching your business or story to a breaking news item, in real time. But be mindful that newsjacking rarely has legs; it’s nearly always a short-term strategy.
Write press releases tailored for media. Of course, releases are intended for journalists. But the problem is PR people are pressured to throw in keywords tailored to shopper e-commerce searches (or whatever) and the press announcements become like Christmas trees — everyone wants to hang something on it. Remember, most journalists start story research with Google.
Use social sharing. Most PR pros make good use of social sharing to amplify and extend the reach of earned media placements. But they don’t always build the social following or online community in advance. It pays to have that in place before the hits start rolling in.
Measure social influence. Along with sharing, more PR practitioners need to give greater priority to the reach that social sharing entails. It can greatly enhance the value of a single blog or media story, and we don’t always get credit for that.