Feb 16, 2011

Twitter, Traditional Media and SEO: the Power Triangle for PR

The search engine optimization gurus over at SEOmoz posted something today that everyone who is interested in PR and digital communications should read.  Titled “A Tweet’s Effect on Rankings – An Unexpected Case Study,”  the post details how a simple tweet generated significant visibility for an SEO guide SEOmoz made available.

In a nutshell, a staffer noticed a lot of tweets about the Beginner’s Guide to SEO offered by SEOmoz, and traced the activity to a simple tweet by Smashing Magazine about the guide.

The folks at SEOmoz are, as I mentioned previously, search gurus.   So it was natural that they started to pay attention to search rankings.  And lo and behold, their SEO guide popped straight to the top of the search engine results page (“SERP” to use the SEO lingo) – powered by that tweet.

And the benefits in terms of SERP placement seem to be lasting.  The SEOmoz team shared details of their web site traffic for specific keywords post-tweet, and the growth in visits to their site is significant.

Can a tweet really do that?  The short answer is a qualified “yes,” because in order to work, a few things need to happen.

Generating Tweets

First and foremost, the original tweet needs to be retweeted, by real people, not bots.  So how do you get folks to tweet about what you’re promoting?  Do you track down the uuber influencers on Twitter? Pay the Kardashians?  Turns out, neither of those tactics are the answer.

A study by HP on what drives trends on Twitter published yesterday found that traditional media has a greater impact on what becomes a trending topic on Twitter.    We can work with this!

Last fall I offered up some tactics on writing a tweetable press release, and wrote about the subject for the Daily Dog a year and a half ago (“It’s Time to Make Pitches Easier for Journalist-Twitterers to Use.”)  Encouraging key outlets to tweet your content is a worthy new PR outcome that simply can’t be overlooked, as it’s one of the most reliable ways to get real traction on Twitter.

The search engine effect

As SEOmoz showed us today, search engines are paying attention to Twitter and other content in the social layer.  However, as previously noted both on SEOmoz and on this blog, the engines are pretty good at discerning between authentic social interaction and stuff generated by spambots.     The short-term benefits are undeniable, and there appear to be lasting effects that positively enhance visibility and traffic. (SEOmoz is promising to unpack that issue next.)

The takeaway for me is clear.  The power of authentic Tweets, in quantity, creates potent social media buzz, real SEO benefits and produces some lasting improvement in online visibility.   Traditional media are all over Twitter, and as HP found, they are the source of the majority of trending topics.  Given PR’s proximity and access to journalists, and considering all of the benefits of high-visibility tweets noted above, the high-visibility tweet is a valuable (and totally measurable) outcome that belongs in digital PR campaigns.

Authored by Sarah Skerik, VP social media, PR Newswire

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