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The Marriage of Search and PR

9 02 2009

1 + 1 = 1 by Grrrega. “Google is not a search engine. Google is a reputation-management system, and that’s one of the most powerful reasons so many CEOs have become more transparent: Online, your rep is quantifiable, findable, and totally unavoidable. In other words, radical transparency is a double-edged sword, but once you know the new rules, you can use it to control your image in ways you never could before.”    These were the sage like words of Clive Thompson in a piece called the ‘The See-Through CEO’ in Wired. March 2007. He identified a major new challenge for the PR industry; the need to consider and deliver against the results of relevant search.

Many forms of PR related content are starting to rank highly in search.  Social networks have become important in terms of creating searchable and relevant content. Considering the increasing importance of public relations generated content we now need to deliver that content in a way that is itself optimised for search. The public relations industry needs to start adopting some of the techniques of search engine optimisation or SEO. For example the type of language that we use in our written output needs to use terms more likely to be used when our audiences are using search engines. We must avoid complex or convoluted terms and phrases that in the past have been favoured by some branding campaigns to more straightforward and descriptive terminology that will raise our search rankings.

The need for this and the positive results are becoming increasingly clear. Properly used editorial content can push web sites to the top of Google search rankings without spending a penny on traditional SEO.

 

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6 responses

9 02 2009
Jeremy Porter

I couldn’t agree more on the importance of merging PR and SEO strategies and tactics in some areas of communications. I think all public relations professionals should have a basic knowledge of SEO (and online reputation management for that matter).

Positioning PR content to the top of search rankings is only part of the equation, understanding what terms you want to appear on top of – and who is already there – are also important factors to consider.

9 02 2009
michelle goodall

Rob, you write, “Many forms of PR related content are starting to rank highly in search.”

I’d argue that this has always been the case.

In the heady days before YouTube, Facebook, Blogs and social bookmarking my clients ‘coverage’ on forums and online media always had an effect on Yahoo, MSN, Ask and then Google visibility – but the penny has dropped more recently and not just for PR practitioners…name a search agency without an ‘online pr’ offering?

So, everyone is trying to define Online PR and a budgetary and ownership battle ensues, especially when organic search rankings are important to clients and for industries where everything has been uber optimised e.g. insurance and travel

Issues from a client perspective can be:

a) their Search agencies or internal search specialists get ‘online pr’ from a link building and keyword/onsite offsite optimisation perspective, but struggle with the key elements of good online media/social media relations and ‘PR’ activity (stories, dialogues, conversationalists, reputation management etc) as well as understanding organisations from a PR perspective

b) their PR agency or internal PR specialists have no access to web analytics and little or no understanding about the clients organic search strategy and the keywords/phrases that they should incorporate into their PR campaigns which would deliver volume/value traffic and lead to conversions (whatever ‘conversions’ might look like, e.g. sale, whitepaper upload etc)

I developed an SEO PR training course last year in conjunction with a leading search specialist to help increase understanding and practical skills in this area. Mainly because I wanted PRs to understand exactly why the phrase ‘Google is a reputation management engine’ was originally coined.

What is striking is the rapidly evolving effect of social media on natural search and how it affects organic rankings. Creating proactive as well as reactive PR strategies around these, not to mention the ‘hygiene factors’ of optimising traditional online media materials and client owned properties is an essential part of PR, but skills are lacking on both sides.

I personally feel that this is one of the biggest challenges for PR practitioners over the next 18 months or so. Fail to skill up on search and see your clients take their ‘online PR’ and social media budgets elsewhere. From a PR perspective, what’s your take on this Rob?

P.S Your excellent book is on our recommended reading lists

10 02 2009
raxraxrax.com » Blog Archive » links for 2009-02-09

[…] The Marriage of Search and PR Google is not a search engine. Google is a reputation-management system, and that’s one of the most powerful reasons so many CEOs have become more transparent: Online, your rep is quantifiable, findable, and totally unavoidable. In other words, radical transparency is a double-edged sword, but once you know the new rules, you can use it to control your image in ways you never could before (tags: google pr) […]

10 02 2009
Rob Brown

Michelle, I think you are right that it has always been the case that PR activity has generated good search results but since Google introduced universal search where blogs and news results are blended with old style web results it has accelerated.

You have absolutely identified the challenge for PR people, which is to understand the tools avalable, like analytics and to use them to refine the service we offer. The PR people that don’t will be left on the sidelines.

10 02 2009
michelle goodall

I agree Rob. Universal Search and Google Search WIKI do have an impact on online PR strategies.

Understanding the tools is essential and I’m afraid that it is a about getting your hands a bit dirty, getting to grips with the tools and technology and viewing them as PR enablers rather than a waste of time and resource.

Social networks such as Facebook and other forms of UGC (blogs, Twitter, video and image sharing sites) mean that most PRs now have a fairly firm understanding of how to create an on-network presence for themselves, their clients etc, but very few understand how to measure ROI and the link between on-network and on-site activity and search.

For example, how many PRs have outreach/media lists with information such as whether a site has no-follow tags or know the Page Rank of their ‘target’ sites.

Web analytics is a biggy. We discussed this at Measurement Camp and most non-PR people couldn’t believe the barriers that many PRs face accessing clients’ web analytics. I am keen to shout about this as much as I can. If you are part of an integrated communications team, surely you must be able to measure and benchmark your activity in many ways. Understanding the effect of your activity on a clients web traffic, customer acquisition, conversion and retention.

At the risk of this being edited, I’d like to suggest that as well as reading your book and spending time fully understanding the social media channels that they have personal presences in, PRs who need to develop online PR/social media marketing, search and analytics skills consider some of the training courses that we have that address these skills gaps.

Our next SEO PR course is on the 26th Feb:

econsultancy.com/training/courses/seo-pr

10 02 2009
Rob Brown

Michelle, thanks again for your comments with which I entirely agree …no editing required!

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