Blending the traditional tools of public relations with innovative search marketing techniques is opening a new avenue of promotion for savvy content providers and site owners.
A special report from the Search Engine Strategies 2004 Conference, March 1-4, New York City.
Understanding how news search engines operate is as vital to a public relations (PR) campaign as understanding how to contact reporters. In this session, both PR professionals and search engine marketers learned how to influence paid and unpaid listings to ensure the right message is getting out.
News search engines
According to Greg Jarboe, President and Co-Founder of SEO-PR, search engines have become an indispensable utility for journalists. "They've been assigned a story they are going to do some relevant searches," he said. "Do they find you or don't they? Where are they going to go look?"
98% of journalists go online daily:
- 92% for article research
- 81% to search
- 76% to find new sources/experts
- 73% to find press releases
"Normally, it can take up to 30 days for a search engine to index a new page of content and get found," said Jarboe. "So by definition, what the search engines are serving up is old news."
"A couple of years ago, along came news search engines. They fill a very strategic gap," he continued." The only pages in the search engines are articles and press releases less than 30 days old. So if you are a journalist and you are about to do a story, you're going to go to news search engines and poke around. You will find everything that has been there 30 days or later. If you are doing historic research, that is very useful."
Journalists are not alone in using news search engines. According to Nielsen Net Ratings in the month of January, 19.8 million people visited Yahoo News (as opposed to just Yahoo), which makes it the third largest news site on the Web, behind CNN and AOL.
"We use news search, mainstream search, and other channels that will drive traffic directly and will be in the mainstream search results," said Nan Dawkins, Co-Founder of RedBoots Consulting. Dawkins recommends using a gateway site into news search engines.
"In the environmental sector, we have found a great little site called Environmental Media Services," she said. " Google will pick it up within 2 hours."
"You have to roll up your sleeves and figure out what those are gateway sites are for you," she continued. "They are out there. There are sites that Google News and Yahoo News like a lot. Yahoo has 'full coverage' where they group the news with other coverage about that news topic. To get content in, email the editor of that topic. It does not have to be your news, specifically."
Newsgroups are another good source for PR. "If you have content that relates to the topic of a topic specific news group, and if you are a contributor to that news group don't be afraid to post a message to that newsgroup," Hawkins recommended. "Let people know you have some content they might be interested in. When you do that be sure to treat it like a press release. Put keywords in your subject line and in the message you post."
Countering negative publicity
Rob Key, President and CEO at Converseon, warned about negative PR tactics. "Reputation attacks are characterized by organized individuals or groups publishing damaging fact and fiction about an organization or individual which is then distributed globally through mechanisms such as blogs, chat rooms, email, newsgroups and Web sites," he said. "All which are available through search engines. They range from sophisticated to juvenile or amateur."
One way Web site owners can protect themselves from negative publicity is litigation, contacting site owners directly, and even spam checking/reverse link look-ups.
"Companies have a vast amount of content they under optimize: articles, press releases, investor information, white papers and third party content," Key continued. "If you fully optimize compelling relevant content, you accomplish two goals: (1) articulate your key messages to your target audience, and (2) push down the negative, irresponsible rankings down to the 'visibility diff' or out of the top rankings."
Paid search (paid inclusion and pay-per-click advertising) can also be useful in combating negative publicity tactics. "Paid search is very important to PR because it is friendly and you can control it," said Dawkins. "We use paid search a lot to take advantage of breaking news. When there is a hot topic and breaking news you want to be there when people go looking for information."
Tips for writing press releases
David McInnis, Founder of PR Web, offers a free press release distribution service. "About a year ago our feed began to get picked upped by Google News," said McInnis. "PR Web carries every press release that is posted on our site, the media wire carries up the better of those releases."
When writing and distributing a press release, McInnis recommended posting the release on your site as well as the wire service. Sometimes, when distributing through the wire services might only post it on their site for a week, not archiving them.
Both McInnis and Jarboe offered more following tips for writing effective press releases:
1. Keyword research. Know what your target audience is typing into search engines, and use those keyword phrases in your press release.
2. Keyword placement. Use keyword phrases in your press release headline, in your lead paragraph, and a couple of other places in the press release.
3. Use subheadings with keyword phrases. If you use a single keyword phrase three or four times, you have optimized the press release.
4. Company name. If your company name contains a targeted keyword, take your rough draft and replace the "its" with the company name.
5. 200-400 word count. This is a good range for both search engine visibility and PR.
"Every release is given an editorial score," said McInnis. "Press releases with a high editorial score will get on the media wire, and that is what is actually picked up by Google News."
Scott Rafer is the President and CEO at Feedster, a blog search engine. Feedster allows searchers to tap into the world of blogs easily and quickly finding the information they need. "Feedster is the second generation in news search. We are looking at the conversations around news."
Rafer offered the following tips for blog publicity:
1. Be proactive. Find out where your company is spoken about in the blog world.
2. Use the comments area. "Most blogs have a what's called a comments area and you can go in and put in the facts and what was discussed," said Rafer. "It is a good idea to disclose who really are because people will figure it out. Often those comments are going into the search engines. So you end up with a news search engine but one with all the comments about you."
3. Start a blog. Write a few dozen words. Anyone doing a good job of parsing blog data has some number of words cutoff (40-50 words). "So if you write a few sensible sentences, you are going to start seeing your content get picked up," said Rafer.
News Search Engines
Optimizing Press Releases to Show Up in Search Engines
RSS: Gateway to News and Blog Content
SEM and Online Publicity
Want to discuss this article or share experiences and thoughts about managing an effective public relations campaign via search engines? Visit this thread at the Search Engine Watch Forums: Search Marketing and Public Relations.
Grant Crowell is the CEO and Creative Director at Grantastic Designs, Inc. He has 15 combined years of experience in the fields of print and online design, newspaper journalism, public relations, and publications.