Many people today recognize that search engine optimization (SEO) and public relations (PR) have much to offer each other.
The latest Google changes have put a real emphasis on high quality, unique content that is linked to by quality sites. And this is where real public relations – as opposed to crappy news release distribution – can play such a crucial role.
There are real opportunities for great business. What follows are 10 reasons why SEOs should really get to grips with PR in 2013, based on my conversations with the people who are making the two work together.
1. The PR Industry is Definitely ‘Getting it’
Most of us who have been in link building for a while have in the past experienced a certain degree of frostiness from the PR industry. But that is clearly changing and people are breaking out of silos.
“Authentic and relevant link building, aimed at driving engagement, informing publics and building mutually beneficial relationships should be a part of every public relations and SEO effort," Cherenson said.
But not only should link building be a part of every public relations effort, public relations also has much to offer SEO.
“Public relations professionals are skilled storytellers and content generators and should be a part of every SEO effort," he said. "The future of SEO is not in the technology, it’s in the ability to tell stories that readers and Google will find interesting… and that’s public relations.”
And Cherenson understands the value of linking.
“Links need to provide value to the reader," he said. "Media will be more likely to link to content that is compelling and provides information that goes beyond the original reporting.”
Another PR professional is Ken Deutsch, EVP of JPA, a healthcare communications firm and a seasoned specialist in public affairs.
His company takes SEO and link building very seriously. But that’s still not the case throughout the industry.
“Many PR people stop at getting media coverage and think their job is done. They get a placement in the New York Times but they don’t follow up to make sure a link is put in. So they’re not taking advantage of the SEO side of the story.”
And while many media outlets provide links, there are some that don’t link out as a matter of policy.
That influences the targets he goes after, “because they don’t put links in, it’s not worth putting as much energy into getting placement there.”
2. There is a Tremendous Synergy Between SEO and PR
Putting it simply, SEO enhances a press release. Use popular keywords and the press release, never mind any stories it generates will continue to bring search engine traffic. And the editorial links the press release generates bring direct click-throughs and lead to higher rankings.
Public relations enhances SEO by focusing on what’s newsworthy, crafting a great story, finding editorial opportunities, getting coverage and building relationships with reporters and editors. And of course, they got the negotiation skills to ask for a link without really asking for a link.
“PR helps SEO directly by increasing branded traffic," said Lindsey Kirchoff, a Media and Speaker Relations specialist at HubSpot.com. "We always see a bump in branded traffic after a big campaign! Indirectly, PR helps SEO generate inbound links from quality sources that not only gets first-touch exposure to new audiences, but credibility in the eyes of search engines.
“SEO grounds PR with hard, measurable data. PR has always been notoriously difficult to pin down, but SEO adds hard numbers to the equation. I also think that SEO allows PR to be less isolated from the rest of the team – sometimes PR can feel like an island. SEO helps PR connect their work to the rest of the company's business goals.
“Finally, SEO establishes credibility for PR for keywords. You look much more credible to a news source if you come up high for the term they are reporting on!”
3. Editorial Links Bring a Big SEO Boost
Most PR links are extreme quality links, according to Jordan Brannon, the SEO guy at Coalition Technologies. Why? "Because getting them is not a free for all – you have to earn your media placements,” he said.
But the rewards are worth the effort.
“If you get 200 high quality editorial links, it’s worth more that 20,000 low quality links,” Brannon said.
However, most reporters work to a deadline and you have to be swift in your response to get in.
“Most editorial opportunities are time sensitive and you need to act quickly. That means you need to have the authority to reply on the client’s behalf," Brannon added. "And you have to have an email account on your client’s domain – it’s not good saying you’re a marketing agency.”
Will Marlow was formerly a Press Secretary for two congressmen before founding a company that specializes in search engine marketing. He knows that to get those all-important editorial links, sticking to deadlines is crucial.
“You need to understand that you’re dealing with someone who has a hard deadline. It’s like a train going by in the night and there’s one open boxcar that can take you wherever you want to go," Marlow said. "But jump too early and the reporter won’t write about you: jump too late and the reporter won’t write about you. You got to get it just right.”
And it’s not unusual to miss opportunities.
“If an SEO was learning from any PR guy, they would all have stories about how they missed opportunities because someone internally didn’t get back to them or didn’t give the reporter what they need," Marlow said. “If the reporter wants to talk to the CEO and the CEO is playing golf, then you’re not going to get the story. So you’ve got to collaborate with people within the company and make sure that the right people are available.”
4. There’s a Big Cascade Effect
Journalists will often quote, comment or enlarge upon other journalist’s work. Bloggers are also constantly citing other stories.
So if you get your story covered in one prominent media outlet, you’ll quickly see a cascade of similar stories and links spring up.
You’ll get links you never even asked for.
Miranda Miller wrote about How Google Rakes In Over $100 Million in Search Advertising Daily, based on research from Larry Kim of WordStream.
In writing that report, Kim was directly targeting the Wall Street Journal for a link – and succeeded. The story really benefited from the cascade effect and attracted coverage and links from literally hundreds of quality media outlets.
5. You Win Bragging Rights For Your Client
Clients just love to write “As featured in ..." on their website, whether its the Washington Post, Inc. Magazine, or whatever.
That builds consumer trust in their brand and makes it more likely they’ll buy.
And you also increase trust from other reporters. If you’ve already been quoted or covered by a respected publication, then other reporters will think you’re a safe bet to write about, too.
6. PR Skills Can be Learned – or at Least Understood – Easily
Kirchoff has this advice for SEOs who know little about PR:
“SEO experts should think of PR as a way to build strong referral links – something that should be on their radar already. If you have a PR expert in the office, start by taking them out to lunch and chatting. After all, PR is all about building relationships.”
But of course, learning about public relations will help you understand the process – but it might teach you that there’s a lot you don’t know. If that’s the case you might do better to partner with a PR resource.
7. It’s Easy to Partner With an Up and Coming PR Person
Mona Moore is an SEO who has teamed up with a small PR company, Hepner Communications, to pitch their services together.
“I think SEOs are always so focused on getting those links back to the client, we sometimes forget how important it is to nurture those long-term relationships necessary to continue working with specific media outlets,” Moore explained. “And PR reps are great at finding opportunities - but, they don't always take full advantage of those opportunities from an organic SEO standpoint. By working together, SEOs and PR people are able to maximize exposure to a higher level than either of those entities by itself.
Joel Gross, who works with Brannon at Coalition Technologies, describes himself as the SEO tech guy.
“I know how to build and code websites so that they are search engine friendly, and I understand that in order to achieve visibility and revenue for our clients we need to build high quality links and work in tandem with traditional and social media," Gross said. “I know what needs to be done, but Jordan is able to bring in the creative aspect and wow factor that is needed in order to gain the attention and keep it focused where it needs to be. He devises how we frame the content and package it for the consumer in the most digestible and memorable way.
“The best advice I’d give to an SEO would be to get to know your client’s people, their background and story, what’s unique about the company," Gross said. “And remember, this is news and human interest so your stories don’t always have to be selling product. You can have perfectly good story and link from a story on say, ‘work places that are pet friendly’!”
8. You’ll Build Media Contacts That You Can Use Time And Time Again
Contacts are essential both to PR people and to reporters.
“One mistake I made at the start was sending out too much poor stuff," Kim said. "Blasting out press releases is over-rated. What you need to do is get to know the reporters or bloggers you’re targeting.
“Read their articles every day, get a sense of what they’re interested in and only approach them with what you know they’ll be interested in,” Kim continued. “Start small and work your way up. Once you’ve built a relationship, they’ll start contacting you.”
He said he has found that PR is the fastest way to generate those backlinks on related industry websites, but you’ve got to go past distribution services and build your own contacts.
“We are diligent in keeping a database of related editors here," Kim said. "So we're sending press releases directly to the editors and not through a service. However, we also post the press releases to PRweb or PRnewswire to get the added Internet news site exposure (i.e., Yahoo News)."
Kim said those personal relationships increase the chances of coverage so much it’s "unreal."
"We now get lots of calls from editors who ask – is there an engineer over at such and such a company that we could talk to?" Kim said. “Now, when they see our press releases, they always read them. And they’re more likely to publish them because we’ve been helpful.
If you’re an SEO who new to PR, the best place to start is by reading the editorial guidelines of the publications you’re targeting, Kim advised. Then you know what they’re looking for and can pitch accordingly. Don’t pitch something they clearly don’t want.
And don’t forget editorial calendars – you can see months in advance what the publications are going to be covering.
9. It Strengthens and Extends Your Relationship With the Client
If you learn how to do proper public relations effectively or bring in a competent professional that you work well with, then you increase the respect your client has for your work. That can only strengthen your relationship and help ensure that they’ll stay with you.
10. It Opens up Additional Income Streams
It probably goes without saying that with the increasing interest in this area, it should offer some profitable and additional income streams to your agency.
There are tremendous publicity and quality links available through effective public relations. You’ll probably have failures to start with but if you keep at it, your skills will grow and you’ll get the benefits.
How do you cope with failures?
“I don’t believe in failures – it’s a matter of setting your expectations," Kim said. "You can’t start out and immediately get coverage on CNN. Far better to pick a local target and learn from it. Every time you do it, you have more experience. Say you approach 10 journalists and you get nothing but two reply and say I’m not interested because it’s not exactly what I do – you’ll get a better idea of what will work next time.”
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