We spend a lot of time in the PR space thinking about how to optimize our press releases for maximum search engine visibility, and I’m one of the purveyors of that sort of information. Ask me about press release headline writing best practices, and be prepared to strap in for at least thirty minutes while I babble happily about keyword placement, headline length, reader drop off rates and how these factors can ultimately impact the results your message generates.
But let’s face it: fine-tuning press releases and other content individually, piece by piece, for max visibility is a bit shortsighted, because it ignores some bigger opportunities – specifically, the opportunity to help the brand’s web site (which has a lot more gravitational pull than the odd press release, blog post, backgrounder or tweet) build rank and visibility.
How PR can positively impact SEO
In reality, a good PR campaign that results in media pick up, relevant industry blog posts and social buzz can have a profoundly positive effect on crucial web site rankings. And those web site rankings play an important part in lead generation — and ultimately sales.
“A few years ago, I launched a website called FindHow, and we gave it a full-court press from a PR standpoint. In the first month of FindHow’s existence, it surpassed 15,000 unique visitors and eventually grew to around the 100,000 uniques (editor’s note: unique web site visitors) mark. After about five months, the Public Relations effort had resulted in a total of around 18,000 links to the site, primarily because of prominent media mentions that boosted the site’s credibility and aided word of mouth.” – Ted Ives, “Public Relations for SEO.”
The quote above is an SEO expert’s take on PR results. In my many years of experience with PR Newswire (eighteen, to be exact), I know that plugging PR into the brand’s SEO strategy is something many – heck, most – public relations departments overlook. In most cases I’ve seen thinking about SEO starts and ends with the optimization of a particular message, with the goal of getting the press release itself to rank in search engines. In reality, we should be thinking about how to help our brands’ web sites rank, not individual messages. PR sells itself short when the focus on results is too narrow.
Integrating PR & SEO
To get a good look at how the results a good PR campaign can integrate (and improve) a brand’s SEO program, you can’t do better than to read the first of the series on PR and SEO just published on Search Engine Land. Author Ted Ives (@tedives) (the aforementioned SEO expert) lays out a new view of PR in the series, offering perspective on how brands can more fully capitalize upon media pick up and other public relations outcomes to effect business outcomes.
Results & effectiveness – the benefits of integrating PR & SEO programs
Understanding the follow on benefits of press release distribution and media mentions in the context of a brand’s web site and SEO initiatives can do a couple things for the PR department. First, as you can see from the paragraph above, the SEO guys have measurement down. They know where traffic comes from; they know which keywords have the best conversion rates. If measuring results is a bugaboo for your PR department, cozy up your SEO team. Chances are good they already know a surprising amount about the results your PR campaigns generated.
Secondly, integrating with the brand’s SEO program can lend real power to the messaging the PR department creates. Keyword research is another facet of audience behavior that can (and should) inform the content strategy. In addition to simply using the language of your audience, paying attention to larger keyword trends and usage patterns reveals what your marketplace actually cares about. For a content creator, this information is golden.
The other two parts of the series focus on targeting and pitching journalists, offering good, solid media relations advice, tuned for today’s newsroom realities, and are also worth reading.
So next time you’re drafting a PR campaign, don’t limit your goals to simply generating reads for a press release or media placements. Working with the SEO team can increase the measurable results the PR team generates, and the business impact it delivers.