SEO PR is a buzzword that is both over-hyped and under-hyped at the same time. You see, while SEO PR is currently in buzz overkill mode in the search engine marketing (SEM) industry, it is drastically underutilized in the traditional PR world. In fact, many traditional PR agencies are misinformed about SEM in general, and can be completely taken aback by certain SEO particulars. But it can be a very effective discipline, once it has been demystified.
SEO PR, by definition
So what is it? Search engine optimization public relations (SEO PR) is a blend of search engine visibility and traditional public relations that disperses a company's message across the internet by way of online media outlets and search engines. SEO PR not only helps disseminate an organization's messages, but it also incorporates search engine-friendly communication through specific techniques, including optimizing copy in online content (press releases, articles, whitepapers, blogs, RSS feeds and websites).
A successful search engine public relations engagement harnesses the power of search engines by focusing on relevant keywords within the content being created and distributed. Careful attention must be paid to the content to ensure a good balance between search engine-friendliness and good copywriting. Ultimately, readers need to be able to understand the message without being bombarded by keyword spam and without copy that is overloaded with keywords affecting readability and comprehension.
As with any marketing campaign, integration with other marketing initiatives is crucial. A good SEO PR campaign heavily complements any PR, SEO or pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns in place while strengthening a firm's brand overall.
Some traditional PR firms are beginning to partner with SEO firms to add this service to their portfolio and vice-versa. This is good news for many firms, as the incremental costs of adding SEO PR to existing marketing activities should be relatively low if both SEO and PR services are already in place. Much of the additional work is simply connecting the SEO efforts with the PR efforts.
Getting started with SEO PR
The logical first step is to integrate press release activity with search engine marketing. By optimizing and distributing press releases online (assuming the right online wire service is used), not only will the release be well positioned to get picked up by thousands of sites, but it will often be picked up and archived by Google News, Yahoo! News and by a multitude of other sites that pull relevant news feeds.
This means that the press release's message gets instant online visibility, and these SEO efforts can be further strengthened by having strategic keywords included in the release's copy, with the most important ones linked to your website with relevant anchor text. Besides the link-building benefit, the relevant anchor text makes this "off the page" SEO activity very powerful. Moreover, the sites that are likely to pick up your online release are usually relevant to the content being distributed.
However, there is a point of diminishing returns. You cannot keyword spam or add dozens of links to a release. The press release needs, first and foremost, to make sense to readers. Secondly, if you litter the release with too many links, it's likely that the major search engines will actually punish you in terms of rankings. In addition, delivering press releases too frequently just for SEO purposes will not be likely to achieve your desired results either. Press releases should be newsworthy. Otherwise they won't get picked up, even online.
Beyond the press release
The next steps can be easy or more difficult, depending on whether content generation and distribution are part of your current marketing activities. By taking the same approach as described for online press releases (minus the online wires), content such as whitepapers, articles, micro-sites, advertising sites, et cetera, can be optimized, distributed online and used to both enhance brand and bolster SEO results. The same principles apply as with online press releases: keep the content focused on its purpose, whether it's educational, technical, marketing-oriented or a combination thereof. Again, avoid keyword and link spam.
Choose your distribution wisely
A word of caution when looking for ways to distribute your content online for SEO purposes: avoid companies that offer services where you pay them to host your whitepapers or optimized content. These firms can deliver leads in many cases through various mechanisms -- which they usually control -- but the content usually disappears as soon as you stop using their service. Such firms may be a fit for a demand generation program, but I don't advise using them if your goals include a solid, long-term SEO uplift, as you could easily see a significant amount of your content disappear the moment you end the relationship.
Many sites, directories, online media firms and related industry sites are open to distributing content via their electronic outlets if it's of a certain quality, adds value to their readers and meets their editorial guidelines. Just like a traditional PR firm identifies a target media list, the same needs to be done for your online media efforts.
Like traditional PR, SEO PR can be hard to measure in some ways, but tends to be easier in some respects, especially when it comes to search engine rankings, online press release pickup and traffic generated from the release.
SEO PR can be much more involved than the basic ideas discussed above, but most organizations can get immediate benefits just by combining their existing SEO and PR efforts.
To learn more about SEO PR, I suggest checking out resources such as Search Engine Watch, SEMPO or simply searching in your favorite search engine for terms such as "SEO PR," "Search Engine Public Relations," "Online Reputation Management," "Online PR" and related phrases.