I recently attended an online webinar that dealt with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and public relations. The main purpose of the presentation, at least in my eyes, was to learn about easy SEO strategies to apply to PR to increase media attention, in both digital and traditional media. I was excited about attending, because I have been curious about this topic for some time. SEO is a practice that has been applied to nearly everything. But how exactly does it work, when applied to PR? This was the question that I was hoping they would answer.

I am very familiar with the internet, website creation, as well as SEO and SEM. But, their relation to PR has remained a mystery to me. I understand the point of optimizing a press release; but at the end of the day it does make me question the value. The purpose of a press release is to alert the media, gain their attention, and get them to write a story about a) your company, b) the story you are telling with the press release, or c) to get them involved with the news of your company so that hopefully they will contact you to cover your company in the future.

Now, here’s a little background for those of you who are not familiar with SEO:  Without exhausting you with a lengthy explanation; the main aspects of SEO are keywords, and their proper placement. Keywords are determined by a variety of factors; some people use a keyword creation tool, some simply know the term that they know customers use to find them, and some place themselves against their competition. When working on a website for example, you want to make sure that you have the following areas covered: The title, the URL, and the heading of the page. All three of these should align (or be similar to your keywords, in order for your efforts to be successful, as shown in the photo below. So as you can see, if I want my customers to find me when they type in “Tech PR,” I would do the following; a) make sure my webpage title is “Tech PR,” or maybe “Tech PR – We’re the best in our field,” b) I would make sure that my URL had the words “Tech PR” in it, or some variation like “www.techpr.com,” or “www.websiteprovider.com/techpr,” and finally c) I would make sure the heading of my page had “Tech PR” in it, like “Tech PR: My company is the best at Tech PR.”

These were all things that they explained during the webinar. Yes, they are helpful to know, but I really was more interested in learning about how SEO and PR could be utilized together. That, apparently, was part 2 of the presentation.  In opening the discussion, the presenter stated a quote from an author who said that during his time as a reporter he received thousands of email pitches over the years, and he never utilized any of them to create stories. Why? Because when he wanted to write a story, he simply went online to a search engine, and found the information he wanted to write about on his own. Therefore, the presenter rationalized, the reason that you should learn to optimize your press releases, are so that reporters like this author would find your release, and write about your company, or the story presented in the release. 

How do you optimize your release? You perform a), b), and c) that I explained above but instead of website title, you have a press release title. Instead of website URL you switch it to the press release URL, and website heading to press release headline, etc. It’s that simple. There was some more information in their overview/explanation, but that was pretty much it.

While this information is all true, again, it doesn’t really apply to PR for a variety of reasons. One reason is that a website is static; the information stays there. One of Google’s results factors (which is pretty much the search engine that everyone targets first and foremost) is longevity. So, it won’t really apply to a press release. If you are sending out a press release on a topic that is well covered, websites will dominate in the search results. It is possible that you will pop up in the latest news results, but that is likely to be a flash-in-the-pan, unless you can drive more traffic to your press release, thus making it a more reputable and well-visited knowledge base for said topic.

Those are all possible, yet unlikely, factors. The main issue that I had with SEO in use for PR, is that of keyword selection. In writing press releases, you are trying to attract reporters. By limiting yourself to a range of keywords, you are really only reporting on the same news. As pointed out earlier, in order for your keywords to be successful, they must all be in alignment. How do you then attract reporters, when you are basically saying the same thing over and over again? And, you have to consider this on a larger scale; if you are putting out multiple press releases with the same keywords, how are you creating news? Aren’t you simply rehashing what you’ve said before?

To summarize the presentation, and my own feelings about attending; I felt that this was a decent webinar about learning how to create SEO. It went over the highlights of keyword selection, directed you to some keyword-building sites, and told you (for the most part, with a little deduction) where to place your keywords to drive traffic to your website. However, in terms of learning how SEO relates to PR – the real reason I attended the session – it fell short.