Most companies today employ some form of Search Engine Optimization ("SEO") and, as a result, are re-thinking many of their communications practices to take full advantage of the power of the Web. Companies are doing a better job of meshing online and offline campaigns and lead generation via the Web is becoming an increasingly common objective, even for departments such as PR that traditionally have not been considered part of the sales pipeline. The good news for PR is that opportunities to deliver real, measurable results abound for the savvy pro who knows how to integrate PR efforts with the company's larger SEO strategy.
Before we start, however, it's important to understand what SEO encompasses. Search Engine Optimization is the art and science of structuring a Web site in order to improve the volume and quality of traffic funneled by search engines to that site. A variety of techniques, ranging in scope and complexity from the careful selection of keywords used in site text to the architecture of the Web pages themselves comprise SEO.
It's true that most PR departments aren't (and frankly shouldn't be) concerned with Web site structure. However, the PR department does influence a variety of key areas that are important components of SEO and therein lie the opportunities for the PR pro to contribute to - and benefit from - the company's SEO program, including:
Understanding how online audiences communicate about your organization's products, services and issues - and then using the same language in your online communications - is one of SEO's cornerstones. The savvy PR pro should understand and use the keywords that have been identified by the SEO team. Tactics include:
- Using the language in news releases. Write your news releases with search engines in mind and utilize your organization's operative keywords.
- Optimize your spokespersons' language. Spokespersons should make using the operative keywords a habit when they talk to reporters, bloggers, analysts and any other external influencers. The same goes for your media training - teach execs to use the language, too. Doing so will increase the likelihood that articles and blog posts about your organization contain those keywords - along with your organization name and maybe even a link to your Web site. Done well, your successful interview could also become an important source of relevant inbound links to your Web site - which has enormous SEO value.
- The organizations' blog. An up-to-date blog gets a lot of weight from search engines, which are attuned to sources of current information. Your organization's blog can serve a dual purpose as both a communications vehicle and visibility driver when you weave important keywords into blog posts.
Influential Journalists & Bloggers
The work you do with influential people outside the company can reap big dividends in terms of site visibility. Most bloggers will happily include links to third party Web sites in their blogs and many media Web sites are becoming more amenable to this practice too. You can encourage and support this behavior by engaging in it yourself:
- Bookmark or Twitter interesting stories or blog posts and link back to those pages. Yes, we're talking about using social media. In addition to building your own reputation as an influencer online, you'll be on others' radar screens as well. This top-of-mind presence can translate into important visibility and publicity opportunities.
- Develop relationships with bloggers and link back to their blogs (via trackbacks) within your organization's blog when appropriate.
- Treat influential, trusted bloggers the same way you treat influential, trusted journalists by giving them access to information and people.
- And by all means, include blogs in your daily reading. There's no better way to stay on top of trends and developments in your space and you'll be amazed at the opportunities for forthright discourse with bloggers and other engaged people.
Embracing the opportunities today's online media environment affords you - and considering how your publicity efforts can support and leverage your organization's SEO strategy - will help you produce better results that are highly measurable. Spending some time understanding your organization's SEO strategy and learning how those results are measured will open up new and exciting opportunities for your PR campaigns.