At its core, effective public relations requires a few essential skills: clear and concise writing, the ability to understand the needs and desires of stakeholders, and the capability to work in a fast-paced environment with a multitude of personalities. While these elements of the profession will never disappear, there are new strategic communicators must adapt to thrive in an ever-expanding digital landscape.
For someone who is not familiar with digital marketing, the term “search engine optimization”, may sound like a daunting and complex process best left for those working on the web development or technical side of the industry, at least this is how I felt when first introduced to SEO. However, since beginning a course on the subject, I have a much better understanding of the topic and have not only been introduced to exciting professional roles I didn’t previously know existed, and have learned a few principles public relations professionals can apply to their own work to better enhance their content and its reach.
So, why is it important for public relations professionals to understand a few basic tenants of SEO? When someone has a question, oftentimes the first place they go to find an answer is Google. The answer to their question may be found in content produced by your organization, whether it be a blog post, original research, or other informational material written by you, the public relations professional, and published to your organization’s site. We want people to choose our site when searching for an answer to their question because this earned media helps to build our organization’s credibility and share of voice.
Keywords are an SEO principle public relations professionals can use to find ideas for blog content. For example, let’s say a client working in the beauty industry wants to create a blog for their website. One can type into the search bar “What mascara” and see the suggested searches provided by Google. One automated suggestion may be, “What mascara is best for sensitive eyes”. If your client sells mascara and other products that are safe for sensitive eyes and skin, this could be an opportunity to create a blog post around the topic because you know it is something people often search for.
The sites found on the search engine results page land there based on a number of contributing factors, one being the level of authority they hold. A way to enhance a site’s authority, and boost awareness of an organization and its campaigns, is through link building. When the content on a web page hyperlinks to another site, the site linked back to gains authority. This not only helps to boost that website’s search engine ranking but also leads readers to its content. Public relations professionals can track online mentions of their organizations and can provide bloggers and reporters with the appropriate links to guide readers back to the organization’s website. This generates awareness, drives referral traffic and ultimately boosts their site’s visibility on search results pages.
Does this mean public relations professionals should only look to the Google search bar for inspiration, or prioritize link building over the foundational public relations activities? Of course not. However, building a working knowledge of SEO principles leads to the discovery of excellent tools to benefit a strategic communicator working in the digital space.