Sep 07, 2011

Six Reasons Why SEO “Top Lists” Strategies Also Work for PR

A thoughful campaign can trigger a waterfall of visibility.

Because the whole point of most public relations exercises is to generate visibility for specific messages, I like to draw ideas and tactics from the search engine optimization and marketing crowd. They’re a data driven bunch, and they have measuring outcomes down to an absolute art. At the same time, it’s no secret that the search engines – especially Google as of late – have been deploying big algorithmic changes with frequency. The ground under the feet of anyone with a stake in building online visibility has been shifting, sometimes uncomfortably.

One of the biggest changes recently was Google’s abrupt shut-down of real-time search. Google had been ingesting data feeds from Twitter, and using that data to inform search results. As a result, tweets (especially those from influentials) were featured prominently in search results. When Google shelved real-time, they stopped taking the data from Twitter, and while you can still find tweets in search results, the numbers of tweets featured seem to be fewer. And the real SEO value – meaning the ability to associate a specific web page with specific search terms, and achieve high rankings in search engines for said web page, when the aforementioned keywords are searched – seemed to be on the decline.

So, as you can imagine, I was pretty interested in a blog post from SEOMoz on Friday of last week, titled “Yes You Really Can Build Links on Twitter,” which offered suggestions for building links (i.e. relevant inbound links from one site to another that can help influence search engine rankings, and are a key piece of SEO strategy) and, not surprisingly, there are some great ideas for PR folks to add to their tactics. What’s really interesting, however, is that the tactics blend SEO, building social relationships, influencer targeting, social content optimization and smart content marketing.

One tactic I really liked that could have a ton of value for the PR set was a comprehensive approach to building and using those irrepressibly popular “top 5 whatever” lists. In the example given, SEOmoz imagines they represent a maker of snowboard equipment. Here are the steps they take to build a list of the “top 5 snowboarding stunts videos” to build search engine visibility:

  1. Start a conversation, and ask people what they think is the best snowboarding stunts video they’ve seen. Reach out to people who have shared snowboarding videos in the past, or have the word ‘snowboarding’ in their profiles. (Tip from SEOmoz: Follower Wonk is a great tool for this.)
  2. Once the best videos are identified, the next step is to ID the Twitter accounts associated with the videos.
  3. Create the content rolling up the videos – blog post, article, etc. – and then tweet at the “winners” and give them a badge they can display on their own blogs. (From the SEO perspective, this is the win – getting a link from a solid blog back to the your site.)

Why is this approach smart for PR? Let me count the ways.

  1. The initial step – inviting the community to suggest videos – starts building audience and attention for your message right out of the gate. Keep their interest with good follow-through, and you’re on your way to building lasting attention for your brand.
  2. Focusing on socially connected people – the type of folks who upload videos to YouTube and share links on social networks – can add a real degree of amplification to your messages, and even set the stage for a viral event.
  3. Personal interaction – from inviting contributions from the community to tweeting directly to the top 5 boarders selected – makes the brand feel approachable and human. People are more likely to friend a friendly brand. And that personal, positive interaction can also trigger a potent word-of-mouth effect.
  4. Content. Congratulations, you’ve just developed a nice piece of content that you can use myriad ways. Of course you’d Tweet it and share it on your other social channels. You could even issue a press release about it, pitch it to a handful of media, and add it to other communications, such as newsletters.
  5. The overall visibility, in search engines and social networks, this type of effort creates is really worthwhile. It’s fun, positive, social and lasting.
  6. It’s measurable, on a few different levels. You can measure search engine ranking for specific keywords, traffic to the product-related web page you link to in your blog post, mentions of and conversations around your brand, overall web site traffic, new followers/friends/subscribers, media mentions – the list goes on.

These types of one-output/lots of results projects are valuable and efficient, and are relevant for traditional and new media channels and a wide host of stakeholders. Have you used this tactic for your brand? We’d love to hear about it!

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media.

Image courtesy of Flickr user NeilsPhotography.

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