Brad Miller serves as Director of Business Development for Fathom, leading strategic partnership efforts. He has worked in multiple capacities throughout his career including roles in production, management, consulting, and sales. His experience brings a first-hand multi-dimensional understanding of business to the hundreds of organizations he’s worked with.
Public relations and SEO have always been destined to converge.
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PR is about building relationships with media professionals and key influencers to help increase a company or individual’s visibility and profile; SEO is an iteration of that relationship. The only difference is that we operate in the digital sphere, and we measure these relationships through links, social signals, and other trust indicators. In the past, many SEO strategists focused on building a high volume of low quality relationships to get their company’s names out to the Web. Times have changed.
As Google’s ability to distinguish the quality, intent, and relevance of a link improves, SEO strategists need to start thinking more like PR professionals. Rather than “manufacturing” and “building” links, the SEO process should be more about the cultivation of key human relationships, and reacting effectively to real-time PR opportunities.
What can we learn?
PR has always been a multifaceted discipline. The techniques that PR professionals use to generate positive press are numerous and diverse. That said, there are three key areas of crossover that, if mastered, will help us all learn from the PR experts and improve your company’s SEO.
1. Content, content, content
This should come as no surprise since content has been one of the fundamental pillars of traditional PR for years. If you create content that is topical, timely, and can spark an interest in your target audience, it will get picked up.
So, what types of content can you use to create opportunities for positive PR, and what SEO value do they have? Sure, we should be posting slideshares, videos, images, and blog articles provide outreach to our target audience. To be honest, most people are getting pretty good at it now. The key factor when you are planning and producing your content is to always think about the PR opportunities it might be able to create.
For example, if you are writing a reaction piece to a blog you’ve recently read on an industry leading site, don’t just start with “I read this article the other day.” Use the author’s name, link to the article, and – once the article is live on your website – tag the author in a tweet and post your article link in the comments of the original article.
By alerting the author of the article to your reaction, they are likely to engage in return. They might retweet your article, comment on your website, or even “react” to your reaction. At the very least, writing your blog article with your PR hat on is going to ensure you show up on another industry leading professional’s radar. From a PR, SEO, and link building perspective, you’ve just earned all three.
2. The art of the PR (SEO) pitch
The Webspam team at Google will continue to find ways to improve how they measure the importance of a link. As the algorithms continue to evolve, your challenge will be generate links that make it past human gatekeepers. In most cases, these gatekeepers will be editors and journalists.
It doesn’t matter if you’re writing a guest blogging pitch, a press release, or a simple email to media: How you pitch your request is crucial if you’re going to generate positive PR and links.
The first rule to follow when pitching is to avoid mentioning links. Though it’s likely that whoever you are pitching to is aware that it is in fact links you’re after, by explicitly mentioning them in your pitch, you will come across “spammy.” Sometimes the best way to build valuable and hard-to-find links is to forget about links altogether. Focus on the opportunity to boost your profile, drive referral traffic, and deliver value to whoever reads your content. Do these things well and links will follow.
Remember to make it as easy as possible to those “gatekeepers” to say yes. If you are submitting an idea for a guest post, be flexible. Give them three ideas from which to choose. Make it clear that you have done this before and you know exactly what they need to make the whole process run smoothly. If you have only one option, make sure it is finished, polished, and ready for publication.
This same process can be applied to writing your press release. By crafting a relevant headline, attaching images, and showing that you understand what a journalist needs to run your story, you’ll drastically improve your chances of success. Be prepared to link them to a press packet – this could include background information about your company, branding information, and relevant photos and videos to illustrate your product.
3. Prepare to succeed
So, you’ve written a great press release or guest blogging introduction. How can you give your pitch the best possible chance of success?
If you were a PR professional, the first thing you’d do is figure out how you can leverage your existing relationships to help your pitch succeed. That’s where social media comes in. Use your existing connections on Twitter, Google+ and, most importantly, LinkedIn to see if you have any shared connections with persons of interest.
If you can’t find any common ground, you’ll need to build a relationship from scratch. If you know the name of the person you are trying to contact, try and engage them before you make your pitch. For most journalists, website owners, or industry experts, a simple @ reply or even retweets will be enough to show up on their radar. If you are able to thoughtfully engage with their content at least a few times before making your pitch, when that request drops into their inbox, they’ll already know who you are and that you’re probably worth a listen.
The most common mistake that SEO strategists make is to presume that traditional PR and digital marketing are somehow different simply because they use different mediums. PR professionals have been building relationships and creating exciting opportunities for years simply through targeted phone calls, emails, and face-to-face meetings.
We’ve never been more connected than we are now. Social media allows us to target our communications and bypass traditional barriers to success. To improve your company’s SEO, we must embrace the skills and techniques that PR professionals have been using for years. In the future, those that succeed will be those who can learn the fastest.