Recently a client asked for my thoughts on doing PR for their website and the ROI vs. other link-building techniques. This is an important question, and the answer today is slightly different than the answer I would have given prior to the Google Panda algorithm change (the unofficial name was the Google Farmer update). This modification took place on February 24, 2011 in the US and is being rolled out internationally. One of the major changes was that Google discounted many links that weighed more heavily in the past. According to Google, this update had a major impact on approximately 12% of the websites that previously ranked well. As if in preparation for the very near future, Google directly targeted a few major companies such as JC Penny and Overstock and due to the link quality and method of generating them, these sites had major drops in rankings.
What does this mean for PR? In order to answer that question, we need to define exactly what PR is. According to Wikipedia, the modern form of Public Relations is maintaining a public image for businesses, non-profit organizations or high-profile people, such as celebrities and politicians.
In the realm of website marketing and SEO, many people weigh the value of PR as it relates to the syndication of articles and links across many websites, sometimes in the many thousands. This often includes not just PR, but also Publicity. Indeed, people often get confused between 3 different kinds of PR: Public Relations, Press Releases and Google Page Rank. Perhaps this was an intentional, inside joke?
According to Wikipedia, the definition of publicity is slightly different than that of PR: the deliberate attempt to manage the public’s perception of a subject. The subjects of publicity include people (for example, politicians and performing artists), goods and services, organizations of all kinds, and works of art or entertainment. In other words, publicity often includes shameless self-promotion whereas PR is not as blatant, and is more image-oriented. People often get these two confused, and group everything under PR, and sometimes they think you’re talking about Google’s secret sauce that was the green gold of yesteryear.
If properly executed, a good percentage of these press release articles will have links back to the website one is targeting, and those that don’t will often have links back to the original article on the syndication service’s website. Two such services are PRWeb and PR Newswire.
PR Newswire was one of the websites that had a major drop in traffic due to this update, according to public estimates from such services as Compete.com. A substantial number of their backlinks were from these syndicated articles, and when these links were discounted, their Google rank suffered.
So what does this mean for SEO?
Public Relations, Press Releases, Publicity and Google PageRank are all definitely an integral part of SEO and should be part of your online marketing mix. Even though syndicated articles and links no longer carry the same weight as they once did, they may help you grow your company and traffic indirectly (i.e. the old fashioned way). Consider the following:
Syndicated Online Press Releases
Think about what you’re doing when you syndicate a press release; ultimately you’re putting the same content onto thousands of websites. Some sites will have more authority than others and will thus have a higher rank for your article than others. Google’s filters are getting better at determining the source of content (i.e., the place where an article was first published). As for the rest… they don’t mean a heck of a lot anymore.
So is it worth it? Yes, I would encourage you to include online press releases in your overall marketing mix. You won’t get the same benefit that those thousands of links once had, but you will get some links to your site. At the very least the link from the service you use will carry some weight. This may not be worth the $300 +/- price tag that an article of this nature typically carries. However, let’s think outside of the box for a moment and go back to the meaning behind a press release, online or offline: the deliberate attempt to manage the public’s perception of a subject.
In other words, write your press release for people. Tens of thousands of people will look at the headlines on their favorite websites and scan yours. Of those, you should get a fair number of people who click through and actually read it. Having a professional company like Consorte Marketing write compelling headlines that drive click-thrus, and useful, newsworthy, interesting content that people actually read is critical. Some people will bookmark these articles – they’ll like them on Facebook, +1 them on Google or tweet them to your friends. This translates into links to the article, which in turn increases its authority, which in turn transfers some of that authority back to your website.
In addition, the media does monitor these PRs. I’ve had much success in this regard, simply using online channels to syndicate press releases. Quotes in e-zines and other authoritative, online publications, awards in popular print magazines – these are things I’ve experienced first-hand through the power of the press. And, this translates into more links to your website – authoritative links from original articles on popular websites. This is SEO.
Radio, TV and Print
In terms of SEO, people will remember snippets of radio ads and have flashbacks from TV and print ads. These sit in the brain until something triggers a search. If you are able to plant the right keywords in your advertisement, these will stick with a fair number of people who are exposed to your advertisement. They will then search for these keywords and if you’re ranking for them, you’ll get the traffic. So in this regard, these mediums may be seen as an afterthought, where you use the keywords you’re already ranking for as part of the script or ad copy.
In addition, whenever people get to your website, through whatever medium, there is the possibility for bookmarking. With Google +1, Facebook Likes, Tweets, shortened URLs and good old-fashioned links as part of ranking algorithms these days, you need every advantage to get people to your site and hopefully link to it in some way.