PR and SEO Sitting in a Tree: Communicating to Create Search-Friendly Relationships
As traditional, print-based media continues its transmogrification into a living, breathing online beast, the practice of public relations is changing with it. No longer confined to waiting until a reporter, columnist or blogger opens an email pitch or actually answers their phone, PR practitioners have to be versed in at least the basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Not only can you go straight for your customers with great stories and ideas, a web search is the first stop for journalists when they are brainstorming articles and sources. You need to be there at that exact moment. To continue this courtship, communicators can start implementing some best practices for online content that helps you and your clients grow quality online traffic.
Keyword-Driven Content Strategy
The good news is most PR folks know how to write engaging content that makes you want to stick around and hear a little more. The trick is, search engines don’t count how witty, conversational, or anecdotal your copy is – they just want to know what you’re all about and who thinks you’re smart, useful and relevant.
Part of creating great content, whether it’s a ghost-written blog post or a news release, is being key-word driven in everything you write. Be conscious of placement, repetition and dominance of the words you use in body copy, headlines, links, title tags and captions.
You don’t have to blandly repeat the same tired phrases – just get really good at making them relevant and embed them in smart ways. Think categorization and tagging, not copy and paste. Categorize your keywords by what people are looking for, not how you divide up your teams or product lines.
Even in broadcast news, a soundbite is now a keyword list or phrase. When doing media training, be sure your execs know what to keep saying. Those main ideas become online story headlines and therefore hot search real estate.
From General to Specific
Often the specificity of the terms searched by your audience also tells you something about the degree of sophistication of their knowledge and where they are in a decision path. If the traffic you are driving with your content is converting, taking an action like filling out a form, you are attracting high quality visitors at the right stage in the decision process.
A good smattering of both general terms for a product or service – “sewing scissors” – and very targeted descriptions – “Fiskars pinking shears” – covers your bases from the basic to the specific. Pay attention to which terms are most popular, and use that as a guide for the depth of information you include in your blog.
Once you have a good grasp on the words that attract just the right type of person at the right stage of their decision process, you can afford to be a little choosier and detailed in your writing.
Be in the Interest Sphere
It’s always hard to convince companies that pay you big dollars, that sometimes a “me-me-me” approach is the wrong one. Just talking, blogging or tweeting about yourself is a big snooze. Worse, it doesn’t expand your search relevancy beyond the small circle of what Company X does. A search-friendly approach is talking about your customers’ interest in an engaging and relevant way – even if it’s not directly about your product or service.
For example, a provider of employee benefits consulting for small businesses might want to engage in a larger discussion about business-friendly political policy. A maker of car seats could talk about family-friendly vehicles, high chairs and strollers. Nonprofit fundraising staff can report on other related causes in the same community.
Just like in face-to-face networking, your blog or site’s network gives weight to expertise and insight in an industry. The deeper your network of trusted sites or links, the better results you’ll get from your content.
Long Term Goals
Lastly, be patient and give it a few months (like five). Gaining great organic search rankings is like dating Google. Both parties have to learn about each other and grow trust before the real moving-and-shaking starts to happen.