In the PR realm, “SEO” often refers to optimizing press releases so they show up in search engines. In reality, search engine optimization is much larger in scope, describing the efforts—and the art and science—of fine-tuning your company’s content (the website and other assets) to appear at the top of Internet searchers’ results pages (the “SERP” or “search engine results pages”) for the words that relate strongly to the business and attract prospects. Earned media, and the social proof generated when people like and share content on social networks, together dominate the list of the most important factors that influence search rank. As we know, earned media is the domain of public relations. This is why leading SEO site Search Engine Land recently ran a post titled, “5 Tips For Working With A PR Firm To Build Links.” In my mind, the article misses an important angle: SEO pros should work with the PR team (in-house or agency) to align and integrate their efforts around the pages to which links are desired. The PR teams should be linking to a prescribed set of URLs and incorporating specific language (albeit naturally) into outbound communications, including pitches, press releases, blog posts, and articles. The public relations staff can (and should) include those URLs when pitching, penning posts, and writing press releases, so when journalists and bloggers do make digital references to the company, they are linking to and sharing the important URLs for which the organization wants to build rank. Illustrate the value of earned media We know that measurement continues to be a struggle for PR, but the SEO guys have it down pat. The search teams can reward their PR counterparts the search engine referral reports, which do a fine job of illustrating the value of earned media. Would you like to know how many people visited a particular Web page, and where they came from, and in many cases, what they did subsequently? Your SEO and Web teams probably know. They tabulate conversions and track revenue, and they can tell the PR team what out comes the media earned generated. One could even argue that search rank should be a defined PR outcome, and I would agree. The article intimates at—and gives an unfortunate example of—the issue of territory. Many PR pros aren’t thinking in terms of SEO and earned media, which is a crying shame, given the importance of earned media and social proof in the search engines’ ranking algorithms, and given the relative ease with which search rank and referral traffic can be measured.
It’s not a territory issue; it’s an education issue, and a huge opportunity for PR to generate immense and measurable value for the brands they represent. Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of the e-books Unlocking Social Media for PR and New School Press Release Tactics. Follow her on Twitter @sarahskerik.