The way we practice PR is evolving; however, the more things change, the more they stay the same. While many of our traditional tactics are getting a facelift with digital, that doesn’t change the impact of our tried and true strategies. If nothing else, it actually enhances them.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has earned a lot of attention lately, and rightfully so. It’s not difficult to correlate the rise in rankings to the increase in search traffic to increased sales. SEO and PR are both earned media, so there’s a natural alignment to consider how they impact one another. But how does SEO work? Isn’t it some sort of technical wizardry? Not entirely.
To be fair, Google considers over 200 different factors when determining how a website is going to rank for any given keyword. Although the majority of them are handled by the web dev team (site speed, proper indexing, etc.), here are a few things to know about how public relations professionals can make their mark on the rankings.
Although press releases themselves typically don’t do much for SEO, there are several ways to leverage them to boost your site’s appeal to Google.
Press releases of the yesteryear were lengthy masterpieces of word-art, each sentence meticulously crafted and approved by multiple teams, often taking weeks for development. In our modern world of online journalism, brevity is the soul of getting published; there is a reason that some newswire services limit your submission to 400-500 words.
That being said, do you know what does benefit from a verbose, well-articulated opus? The website. Whether your company has a Press page or you simply publish it as an article on your blog, research shows that long-form content outperforms shorter content, because it has substantially more keyword variations on the page, as well as a number of other helpful tidbits that helps your site rank.
And that press release? Link the abbreviated newswire release to the full article if they want to learn more. This will drive traffic to your website for potential writers to discover the keyword-rich content that inspires them to publish about you.
In the world of SEO, a hyperlink back to your website functions much like a vote from other sites that tells Google they think you have good content. But not all votes are created equal.
It’s likely your neighbor’s blog doesn’t carry as much authority as a national retail chain, so an inbound link from a well-established web presence with lots of traffic is one of the best ways you can earn organic SEO. And who gives some of the highest authority links? News sources.
A metric often cited to assess the value of a link is Domain Authority (DA); a score developed by Moz that predicts how well a site will rank, partially based on how many other sites link to them. Higher DA sites pass along that authority to whomever they link to, so it’s a valuable score when considering the merit of a mention.
When content marketers publish guest posts on sites to earn links, often they are writing for pages that have somewhere between a 30 and 40 domain authority. Local news outlets and stations in a mid-sized market often yield authority of 50 to 60, with a significant increase as the market size grows. For context, the newspaper The Dallas Morning News boasts a 90 DA, which is a similar authority ranking to Bluehost, one of the largest web hosting companies in the world.
Your average news story earns higher authority links, which can be exponentially more impactful that many of the guest blogging strategies. Connected news coverage is one of the best links a website could potentially earn, although it typically only points at the home page.
The difference is, content creators can often be very targeted in how they earn the link and can be more likely to facilitate guaranteed placement. And even if one was to earn the news media coverage, but the story does not hyperlink back to your page, does it still support your SEO?
Unlinked brand mentions
You’ve earned the story! But they didn’t provide a link. Does this still count? Sort of.
There are many SEOs that advocate for attempting to reclaim an unlinked brand mention. The content already exists, there is no story to pitch, you are just reaching out to request your brand’s name by hyperlinked in the story.
Some practitioners feel comfortable with this, and it can be extremely helpful when it works. Others feel like “link begging” is degrading and compromises the integrity of the relationship with the publisher.
When you can get the link, it’s always best. However, many SEOs are seeing signs that Google is also indexing stories, identifying unlinked mentions, and correlating them with businesses’ websites. What this means is, although the link is always better, even just a named brand mention helps Google learn about the value of your company. Plus, it drives traffic.
News coverage tends to lead people to either click through to your site or search for it, which generates some traffic to your page. But that traffic has a multiplier effect.
Research has found that the Click-Through-Rate (CTR) impacts SEO, as does the amount of time spent browsing your site once visitors are there. When guests visit your page, they are sending Google multiple signals about the value of that site, acting as a sort of endorsement for your page.
Additionally, when someone is intentionally searching for your content because they read about it in an article, more often than not, it is because they are interested. They are likely to invest some time on your page and browse other content, which are all positive signals for the algorithms.
Fending off the trolls
There is no doubt that moderating comments can be a time-consuming endeavor. However, are you missing out on some valuable SEO opportunities by disabling them?
A recent research study found that comments may be indexed by Google, suggesting that allowing discussion on your page organically allows for keyword variation. A recent study found that approximately 26.7% of the keywords that he was ranking for on the pages in the experiment were from the comments section, not the actual content itself.
Comments also provide a form of social proof, and it’s typical that users who comment on your page are more likely to browse other content, revisit the page to view the discussion, and spend more time on-site when reading the other comments; all things that Google’s RankBrain likes.
The downside to comments is that the internet can be a dark and dangerous place where trolls run rampant and without consequence. Not only do you have to create filters to eliminate spambots, but it will also require some additional time (or staff) to moderate the comments.
Some of these comments are less than friendly, and those untrained in handling these types of communication can act rashly. Although this can end up being quite amusing from an outside perspective, having a professional be able to, at a minimum, draft several templated responses to use can save a lot of time and embarrassment.
Although Public Relations and SEO are very different (often divided) practices, there is a value when coordinating these two teams’ efforts in tandem. The search team can certainly benefit from PR efforts if able to collaborate on insights and feedback in the initial planning stages of a campaign, however, SEOs can also increase the impact of publicity and provide meaningful metrics to the communications team.