There are a few fundamental duties of a PR professional. In many ways, all activities boil down to two major categories: proactive efforts and defensive strategies.
Whether the focus is on storytelling, building a brand, or navigating a communications crisis, search engine optimization (SEO) is an important piece of the puzzle.
Proactive SEO activities involve technical considerations, site architecture, content optimization research, and the use of offsite platforms for promotion. Defensive SEO comes into play when managing a crisis.
Start with an audit to be sure your online assets can be crawled correctly by search engines. This may include making some changes to website structure, content, metadata, or navigation. Content audits should look for correctly titled and tagged videos, keyword hyperlinks, and unique and keyword-inclusive URLs for standalone pieces of content.
Invest time in research and benchmarking before creating new content. Find out which current videos, articles, photos, pins, blogs, etc. are the primary drivers of traffic and which of those assets are most shared.
A sentiment analysis on different content categories can offer insight into what your audience craves. Looking at stats about what is most popular and drives interaction on social networks is important, too.
Use free resources such as the Google Keyword
tool or Google Insights
to gain a better understanding of how your company or client fits into search activity for your category, important keywords, or phrases and association with timely, relevant news stories.
Using information gathered in research and performance metrics from previous PR efforts and existing content, you’ll be well equipped to inform future content production and promotion. Most proactive SEO strategies will boil down to a few major practices:
• Build the “meat” of any contest, story, etc. on your owned Web property and promote via social platforms to drive traffic back to the site.
• When relevant, include high-volume search terms in social media status updates, on content titles, and throughout article or release copy.
• Consider SEO in your pitching strategy, targeting reporters or bloggers with high-traffic sites to get the most SEO benefit from resulting coverage.
• Think opportunistically based on current events or trends and push relevant brand content.
Defensive SEO is critical to reputation management during a crisis. Press releases, interviews, videos, blog posts, and other forms of content are good ways to share information and help manage a negative story or event.
But if the content isn’t optimized, it won’t be as effective. Most searchers will not necessarily seek out brand-managed properties for information, which makes general search results an important place to appear.
Search engines can amplify a crisis via autosuggested searches, which are collected based on trending search behavior. Take the 2011 Taco Bell meat lawsuit for example. A simple search for the brand or a location could lead people to discover the negative story by accident.
Taco Bell got ahead of these searches by developing multiple content assets to help rank for these negative, autosuggested searches. Things such as YouTube videos, landing pages (with embedded YouTube videos), press releases through online wire services, blog entries, and social media updates were successfully employed by the brand to tell their side of the story and outrank negative headlines.
For more examples of proactive and reactive SEO strategies for PR, please see my presentation from Social Media Week Chicago on SlideShare
Nick Papagiannis is director of interactive/search for independent marketing and communications firm Cramer-Krasselt.