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Sunday, 5 September 2010

SEO is key to PR and all corporate communications

PR can have a significant impact on digital marketing and SEO. Indeed the marketing and SEO benefits of a press release can far outweigh and outlast the immediate PR benefits.

The digital marketing and SEO effects can reach an unlimited number of target customers. They can last for months and years after publication - indeed the benefits can increase over time, as inbound links to the article accumulate, building link equity. This link equity can benefit relevant web pages that are linked to by an article.

Corporate communications and PR can benefit digital marketing in three main ways...

The three principles of SEO in corporate communications:

1) Favouring publishers who are more likely to link

2) Using important SEO key words and phases in all communication

3) Providing helpful, relevant links for inclusion

Virtually all press releases end up online, on media websites and blogs, if they are carried at all. And many PR-driven stories and blog posts are accompanied by a link to the company's website. Those links can be are good for SEO because they help users and search engines find relevant content on your website.

This is not limited to formal press releases. Even the spoken words of a spokesperson, whether at a press conference or in a telephone conversation to a journalist, blogger or other publisher, may be quoted in an article that links to their company's website. So all communications should employ the three principles above.

Let's not forget that links should be built for users, not search engines. SEO should be a natural by-product of your other activities. Your customers may well find articles about you using your chosen keywords - and follow links to your website from there. Search engines will too.

Examples of PR with links

Below is an example of a BBC article about HSBC. Notice that there is a link to HSBC's website at the bottom, for users and search engines to follow:

In this example, not only has this blog picked up on Vodafone's news from the Vodafone website: the blogger actually deep-links to a relevant page on Vodafone's online shop:

Here's an example of an executive's spoken words appearing in a news story - complete with link to Apple:

(The BBC led the way with relevant corporate links on news stories (PR-driven and otherwise). I see this becoming increasingly popular as mainstream media organisations rush to become more like bloggers in order to stay relevant, and indeed for their very survival.)

Here is CNET picking up an Apple press release - complete with a deep link to the press release itself on the Apple website;

Here is a valuable deep link from a Sky News article directly to the product page on Samsung's website:

And here there is a deep link to a relevant page on right in the first paragraph:

This is what links are for! Relevant links are helpful to readers. If you help journalists and bloggers by providing relevant (and keyword-relevant) content then they may well link to that in their work. Almost any link - especially a keyword relevant link to a relevant page, is good news. But there are many things that can improve the quality of a link. So SEO and digital marketing strategy really needs to feed into PR and all corporate communications.

Relevant links are good news for:

1) Users, who get to follow those links to your relevant content.

2) Search engines, which are better able to judge the importance and keyword relevance of your content.
3) Your sales, conversions and goals. When your target audience follows links to your web pages - from search engines, blog posts and news articles - your digital marketing strategy is a success.

If target keywords get into articles with links, that can be beneficial. So providing helpful, relevant information to journalists and bloggers - and building good relationships with them - can increase the chances of getting quality links and preferred keywords into their work.

So I suggest it is extremely important that SEO is considered in all corporate communications. If your communications are not SEO-friendly then opportunities will be missed. If your competitors seize those opportunities then your organisation may fail to achieve its goals.

Mainstream media is becoming more like blog-like. Most news websites have blogs, which are increasingly integrated with their news content. And I see a growing trend towards linking. That is what the internet is all about.

Not all websites provide links to relevant company websites. So for SEO purposes I recommend giving priority to publishers that do. Favouring publishers that give you the best links is likely to encourage all publishers who want your news to link to you in their content.

If your organisation is very newsworthy, and as more organisations favour SEO-friendly publishers, the trend towards quality linking in news articles and blog posts will continue to accelerate.

I do not recommend paying for links in any form, because Google does not approve of that and it could harm your SEO campaign if you are caught. But building good relationships with journalists and bloggers and giving them helpful information to work with may increase the chance of getting a link, or increase the quality of the link. Helpful information can include keyword-rich quotes, and relevant links for publishers to include.

Users and search engines will want to be able to follow relevant links from web content to other web content. Sites that fail to cater for this internet fundamental do not support the browsing experience that the web is founded on. They will be made obsolete by more web-centric competitors.

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