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PR pros should write for search engines


Photo: Google screen capture

by Frank Strong

Search is the new “earned media placement.” So said Kary Delaria on this blog post recently. Clear, concise — makes the point in phrase. It nicely drives home the point, in words we understand, that PR professionals need to develop a skill set in SEO, or search engine optimization.

That point is the fact that the best content in the world is useless if people can’t find it. And its well documented that the first place people turn to find content — journalists, bloggers, prospects and customers — is search engines. Brian Solis describes this as “findability.” Nice word Brian, I’ve been echoing it everywhere, but try to remember to give you credit for coining the term.

As a PR professional, almost every piece of content I produce, I have reviewed by SEO experts: Every press release, every white paper, every contributed article, every guest blog post. Not my pitches though. No one but the recipient sees those.

Each time I take content to SEO folks for review, I learn something new. In the process, I’ve found there are four key points that are important for PR people to understand — link building, bad links, key words and writing for search engines.

1. Link building. When any site links to your site, search engines recognized this as a vote of confidence. It’s a vote of confidence because someone trusts your content to the enough to provide a link, they are by extension, putting their own reputation at stake. Each vote boosts your search rankings a little bit. Some sites have more “link juice” than others — a major media outlet like The New York Times has more clout than a link from the online version of your hometown newspaper. Generally speaking, a link in the context of a blog post, has more juice than a link on a blog roll. In fact some search engines, like Google, actively update their algorithms to discount such links.

2. Some links are bad. This is one harsh SEO reality this otherwise excellent post almost gets to making. A link from a site that is irrelevant can hurt your search engine rankings. Nefarious sites, of the adult variety are a prime example. Links from sites that post content relevant to your industry are far better. Keep in mind the audience for a given site when pitching or including links in content. If text is lifted from your content — cut-and-paste fashion — it could result in a bad link might have a far more adverse impact on your business than a dreaded post in the Bad Pitch Blog.

3. Key words. PR professionals like to use words that reflect well on an organization. For a hypothetical example, those that represent a genetically modified food producer might prefer to use the term “agricultural biotechnology” in their writing as opposed to “genetic modification.” Genetic modification has a negative connotation, so this is a natural inclination for PR pro helping their client put their best foot forward. However if people search for information based on the latter and not the former, your content is less likely to be read, and you’ve missed your opportunity to influence. In another example, a point I’ve made before, if you are writing for the PR industry, the acronym “PR” has more searches than “public relations” so PR is the optimal term.

4. Write for search engines. Actually don’t do that. Write for people. People read content, not search engines, and my word choice for this headline was precisely made to illustrate this point. However, it is important to consider search engines when writing your content for people. Search engines look for certain items in a document to help it understand how to classify or categorize that content, among them the title, tags, summary and hyperlinks. Get familiar with each of these terms.

Sometimes is best to learn from the experience of others. To that end, here are three of the top experts in search that often provide advice that PR pros will find useful. All of their names are linked to their Twitter handle for an easy follow and are listed in random order:

Three expert SEOs PR should follow

  •  Greg Jarboe at SEO-PR a boutique firm that specializes combining search and PR efforts. Greg once said to me “The difference between search and social [media] is the difference between information and influence.” I interpreted this to mean, social is the next step after search — you want people to not only find your content, but act on it. Greg is also a contributing writer for Search Engine Watch, a publication I’d recommend spending some time perusing.
  • Lee Odden is the guru behind TopRank Marketing. He’s recently written a blog post on this very topic called, “3 Reasons PR & Communications Pros Need to know SEO.” Lee’s firm is so savvy, it’s got it’s own badge program for blogs. I’d very much like to earn one of those one day.
  • Marty Weintraub is the founder of AimClear. The Aim Clear blog has a category of posts dedicated to PR. Marty is even big in image searchnews searchblog search and video search. Alas, nothing shows up in finance search, which is just as well, since he’s a Jedi of SEO and not finance.

If you don’t take my word for following these gentleman and their work, maybe you’ll take Google’s. Google any of their names and see what comes up first.

Useful SEO news sites:

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8 Responses

  1. Amanda Miller Littlejohn

    Fantastic post, Frank! Great info. I often think about the importance of how to "find and be found" on the web and am always thinking about the search aspect whenever I publish online. Thank you for writing.

  2. KaryD

    Thank you for the reference to my recent post and for these great SEO tips. I should note that I certianly didn't coin the phrase, "search is the new earned media placement." I've heard it spoken by other in the industry by such folks as Lee Odden of Top Rank Online Marketing.

  3. Frank Strong, MA, MBA

    Duly noted Kary, thanks for pointing that out! I think you’re covered though since you put the term in quotations in your original post. That’s said, I’d see nothing wrong with going back and offering a link to another source! You wrote a great post, it’s worth everyone taking a read.

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