Public Relations – the SEO Weapon

It’s been hard to miss the bevy of articles and blog posts (see below) over the last few years about how public relations is an integral, effective and (relatively) inexpensive means to augment a marketing or advertising campaign.  You can now add SEO to the list, as leading SEO blog SEOmoz ran an article offering 92(!) tips for getting press coverage, in which the SEO benefits of doing so are emphasized.

I’d like to drill into those benefits a little more, and explore exactly why coverage in media and credible blogs is important in today’s landscape; over and beyond the obvious benefits of building public awareness due to visibility in a publication or blog post.

Links: 

Any search engine optimization pro will tell you that inbound links are an important factor in getting search engines to put your web site on the first search results page. Simply put, if other authoritative web sites post relevant links to your web site (“relevant links” meaning that the content on both sites is strongly related), search engines will consider your site to be more credible, and chances are good that your site’s position in the rankings will improve.   And generating solid links from media web sites and blogs within your organization’s areas of interest is an important derivative from PR activities.  And if measurement is a challenge, talk to the people who handle the SEO and web marketing for your site.  Traffic from inbound links is very quantifiable, and could become an important new metric for your PR team.

Social amplification:

Here at PR Newswire, we’ve nicknamed the reverberations your brand generates when content earns attention in social networks your “social echo.”  That echo really starts to reverberate when a credible third party initiates the discussion, which is exactly what happens when you earn coverage for your organization on a media site or blog.   And while many of our bosses still desire coverage in the Wall St. Journal or New York Times, when you think about the focused audience an industry- or subject-specific site or blog has cultivated, and then you overlay that audiences’ influential collective social graph, well, in terms of digital impact, it’s fair to say that social conversations reach far beyond the social networks themselves.

The impact of social media on search:

A quick search of Google on almost any subject will most likely return results from a host of different web sites and social networks.  As the engines become better and better at delivering highly relevant and authoritative results, we’re seeing more and more links from discussion groups and forums, blogs (and their comments), and links shared within social networks.  Search engines are clearly giving the personal recommendations that are implied when people share links some weigh.  The relative size of an individual’s social graph may be included in the calculus, as well. For these reasons, many people – myself included – consider social media to be integral to a brand’s overall search engine visibility strategy.   Because PR is integral to a good social media campaign, in reality, the three are inextricably linked.

An excellent discussion on link building and the role social media plays from SearchEngineLand offers an array of tips for identifying the sort of connected and influential social audiences that are instrumental in developing more visibility – in search engines and in networks.

The power of earned media in digital environments is undeniable.  Links from third party sites boost search rankings, and social conversations build awareness and likewise populate the results search engines deliver.  Within these outcomes PR pros can find new opportunities to influence audiences and measure campaign results.

Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media, and is the author of the free ebook Unlocking Social Media for PR.

Related reading:

A sampling of the aforementioned bevy of articles/posts about PR effectiveness versus other communications disciplines:

http://blog.prnewswire.com/2011/02/16/twitter-traditional-media-and-seo-the-power-triangle-for-pr/

http://timdyson.wordpress.com/2010/03/01/is-pr-more-effective-than-advertising/

http://marketography.com/2011/02/04/pr-is-the-new-ethos/

http://adage.com/article/cmo-strategy/pr-chiefs-shift-center-marketing-departments/139140/

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