PR pros should write for search engines

Four keys to knowing why and how to optimize your client’s online presence.

Four keys to knowing why and how to optimize your client’s online presence

Search is the new “earned media placement,” Kary Delaria wrote on her blog post. She drives home the point that PR professionals need to develop a skill set in SEO, or search engine optimization.

The best content in the world is useless if people can’t find it. It’s well documented that the first place that people—journalists, bloggers, prospects and customers—turn to find content is search engines. Brian Solis describes this as “findability.”

Every press release, white paper, contributed article, guest blog post—all content I produce—is reviewed by SEO experts. The exception is news pitches; no one but the recipient sees those.

Here are four points I’ve learned from SEO folks.

1. Link building. When any site links to your site, search engines recognize this as a vote of confidence, because someone trusts your content enough to provide a link. They are by extension, putting their own reputation at stake. Each vote boosts your search rankings. 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. Some search engines, such as Google, actively update their algorithms to discount such links.

2. Some links are bad. This is a harsh SEO reality. 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. If your text is lifted—cut-and-paste fashion—it could result in a bad link, which would have a 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 who 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 pros helping their client put their best foot forward. However, if people search for information based on the latter and not the former, that content is less likely to be read.

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”; 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.

Frank Strong is director of PR for Vocus and maintains a personal blog at Sword and the Script. Contact him on Twitter @Frank_Strong.

SEO experts and tips

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

If you don’t take my word for following these gentlemen 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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