Search engine optimization (SEO) and public relations (PR) have been two exclusive branches of marketing for quite some time, each offering different benefits and working toward distinct goals. However, with Google's Panda (Hummingbird and Penguin, too) updates, the two practices seem to be crossing paths more than ever before. As digital platforms, including social, and search drive more and more consumers to your brand, integrating SEO tactics into PR plans and PR practices into SEO strategy is critical to compete in the online world.
The Missing Link
The art of acquiring backlinks, also known as inbound links, to increase website traffic is still important, but has taken some radical turns over the past couple years. Old black-hat tactics, like link buying and content farms, have been replaced by the need to build relationships with key influencers to earn quality backlinks. This shift has evolved SEO into a content-oriented practice, melding PR and SEO tasks and goals.
Creating informative, engaging content driven by the target audience; building valuable relationships with key influencers and media professionals; and gaining quality, earned coverage are now goals shared by both SEO and PR professionals.
There is a lot SEO experts can learn from PR professionals, and vice versa. Here are some ways you can integrate both practices to maximize the coverage, traffic and awareness of your brand.
Creating Quality Content
The first step in gaining valuable coverage is to create quality content. For starters, the content should be relevant, non promotional and should always add to the current marketplace of ideas. Incorporating quotes from an expert, offering a new solution, or displaying current information in a new format, like a video or an inforgraphic, are all ways to get started. You can also use current affairs to your advantage, so utilize sites like Google Trends and "holiday" calendars to find timely topics.
Ask yourself if the content you are creating is of value. Whether you use an emotional or practical method, find an angle that is going to hook readers.
Secondly, the content should appear on credible sites. This is not only important to the audience, but to the bots who are checking out your links. To avoid being penalized for "spammy" links, you should share your content with sites that make sense.
Think quality over quantity when you decide where to invest your time. Coverage from one site with the right target audience and appropriate keywords provides more value for your site than several links from general sources that are not directly related to your product/service or geographic location. This type of coverage means your traffic is more qualified, and gives your site a bigger boost with search bots as they now recognize relevancy.
Let's pretend you are pitching a story about baseball. Getting coverage from a niche baseball site is of better quality than two links from general sites, or a site with stellar domain authority that focuses on car sales - to a bot and a reader looking for content about car sales, your baseball content looks out of place.
Another element of creating quality content is conducting keyword research. Keyword research is a great starting point when crafting your copy and is a way to identify language choices that you may not have considered.
However, keywords should not become the main focus of your piece. Google is now able to comprehend more than just a single keyword, like "diabetes" and understands ideas surrounding a keyword, like "dialysis" and "blood sugar," so emphasizing a single keyword is not as important as it used to be. This also means you should concentrate more on long-tailed keywords like "treatment for Type I diabetes."
Without being redundant, incorporate these keywords into your pitch, too. Doing so will keeps those words top-of-mind when the influencer or journalist you are reaching out to rewrites the content you send over.
Ditch the Mass Press Release
In addition to changes in SEO practices, Panda updates have also affected rankings of "wire sites" including PR Newswire, PRLog, Businesswire and PRWeb.com, according to Search Engine Land. The purpose behind this hit was to decrease the use of a press release as an SEO tool instead of a communications platform.
If you are going to continue using press release sites to get out your message, clean, quality content is more important than ever. Avoid the overuse of links and create content that is shareable. Take the time to create rich media like videos and infographics to help boost the virality of your content - this will make it much more valuable than having it live solely on a wire site!
Update Your Media List
With the blow to press release sites and old SEO methods, relationship building in both PR and SEO is at an all-time high. Again, it is about quality over quantity. Take the time to unearth influencers and journalists who tend to cover your industry or region. Google has also put a stronger weight on social signals, so reaching out to your fans who are active on social is another relationship you shouldn't skip!
When building your list, tools like FollowerWonk can help you find influencers who are in your geographic region or are interested in your industry. For example, searching Twitter bios can help you unearth bloggers in Iowa who discuss clean eating, or users focusing on weather in the state of Kansas.
The key to your media list is to get beyond the news desk or general email. An ideal media list contains publications read by your target audience, the specific writer who covers that beat and a site with high relevancy to your brand.
Craft an Expert Pitch
Once your list is ready, establishing a relationship is the next big step. Your initial outreach is key, so crafting an expert pitch is important. Here are some tips to get you started:
- Keep the subject line short and include the idea of your content.
- Address the recipient by name.
- Give a very brief info of who you are and link to your bio page so the recipient can learn more if interested.
- Get straight to the point of your pitch (keep it around two paragraphs).
- Wait to send the content. This lets you know if the influencer is actually interested in your topic and is an important step in building the relationship.
- Make each pitch unique and add a personal touch. Mention a recent article the recipient published or thank them for their continued loyalty to your brand.
Monitor Your Coverage
Using Google Analytics or a trackable link, monitor traffic from each post you garner and watch for a boost in rankings. Add sites that published the article to your media list if they weren't already, and reach out to the author or site to thank them. This is another great way to build rapport and could even lead to a follow-up article.
How is your marketing team evolving to incorporate online PR tactics? Have you seen success with any of these methods? We want to hear from you!
Stay tuned for more on how SEO and PR are evolving, and how you can continue to update your strategy to drive quality traffic and brand awareness. Interested in learning how Blue Compass can help you execute online PR? Contact us online or call us at (515) 868-0010.