Lee Odden

3 Reasons PR & Communications Pros Need to Know SEO

The PR industry is in a state of flux with increasing importance on getting into the content and social web business. Consumers are spending more time with digital and social media. Advertising dollars are following. That means less budget to staff newsrooms and reporters, journalists and editors to pitch.

Understanding the needs of their “customers’ customer” is essential for PR agencies and communications professionals to remain relevant and productive. “Push PR” is increasingly being complemented by “Pull” tactics – optimization for discovery. Being able to provide value is essential and here are 3 ways a better understanding of SEO can do just that.

1. Fish where the fish are.

There were over 14 billion core searches in Dec (comSore) vs 285 million who watch TV in a given month (Nielsen). Consumers rely on search daily to find news and information. PR and communications types need to understand the consumer search behaviors and preferences (keywords) of their clients as well as the publications they want their clients to be covered by.

2. Journalists rely on search.

According to TopRank’s “Journalist Use of Search survey”, 91% of journalists, editors and reporters surveyed use standard search engines such as Google, Yahoo or Bing to do their job. That preference was mirrored by findings in a recently published “Social Media & Online Usage Study” (pdf) by George washington University and Cision where 100% of those surveyed use Google to research stories.

3. Optimization is about more than SEO.

Search engine optimization, digital asset optimization, social media optimization and even micromedia optimization (ie real time SEO) are buzzwords all representing opportunities for Media Relations and communications professionals to influence discovery by making it easier for various types of search engines to find, index and rank their content.

It’s imporant that communications people understand the different search options consumers and the media are using to distribute and consume news. If content can be searched on, it can be optimized. That includes everything from press releases to video to Tweets.

Search Engine Optimization or “SEO” as an umbrella term is typically concerned with any kind of work that influences any kind of search engine to do what it does best and hopefully in favor of the content being promoted. Most people mean optimizing content for better visibility in Google, Yahoo or Bing when they employ SEO tactics.

It’s important to note that many publishers are already using SEO tactics to make their news stories better suited for discovery and ranking on search engines. These efforts have resulted in substantial increases in traffic to online news sites, improving the attractiveness of advertising.

Digital Asset Optimization or “DAO” is a term TopRank has used and promoted since 2007 that makes reference to the different types of media search engines like Google have started to display (aka Blended or Universal search results) depending on the query. Search results are no longer limited to web pages and can include images, video thumbnails, news, blogs, books and local information. Optimizing for these different types of media involves understanding what digital assets can be created, keyword optimized and published online for search.

Social Media Optimization or “SMO” is a term initially made popular by Rohit Bhargava and added on to by several others in the SEO world including TopRank. While many social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn keep the bulk of their content behind a login and away from search engine spiders, many social interactions produce content that can be indexed and included in search results. Journalists and consumers increasingly participate with social channels to watch, share, contribute and curate information. If PR and communications can understand how to influence keyword use of social content then their news will be easier for analysts, reporters and journalists to find.

Here’s a story related to me by an editor in the TopRank Journalist use of search survey that illustrates the intersection of search and social media:

“I was writing a column about the planned partnership between Google and Yahoo.”

“I tracked down potential sources first using Google and LinkedIn, and came across a white paper prepared by a senior fellow at the American Antitrust Institute.”

“While I could not easily find an e-mail address, I went to Facebook where I located him, then sent a message. He replied and we followed up with a phone interview.”

Micromedia Optimization is a new term that basically means real time optimization of status updates and content sources that are indexed and included as real time content by search engines such as Google, Yahoo and Bing. The same micromedia content can be shared and discovered on platform specific search engines such as search.twitter.com and across social networks that provide the opportunity to syndicate such content. Google Buzz, Facebook status updates and LinkedIn updates are also included in this category.

The takeaway that I think is most important for communications professionals is to understand the nature of search and how to match up optimization tactics with channels of disccovery. Using keyword research for both standard search and social search optimization of news content along with ongoing web analytics and social media monitoring are key.

I’ll be discussing these strategies, tactics and a lot more at SMC Louisville tonight 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. ET on at the Louisville Visual Art Association. I hope folks can brave the snow (safely) and make it out. You won’t be disappointed!

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. hello , i’m just starting in this world of blogs
    I’ve been into SEO recently and gathering helpful information for this.
    and after reading your post it has become a little easier to me , thanks

  2. If it's of any use to people, we have a (free) UK meetup event on the topic.

    Details being threshed, but you can sign up herehttp://www.meetup.com/thupr2010/calendar/12578944/

    (Hope this won't sound self promoting)

  3. Avatar Elizabeth_H says

    Merely just having an informational website doesn't cut it any more these days. You're exactly right that you need to make yourself searchable by incorporating multiple media types and sources.

  4. Avatar Pedro Matias says

    Thanks for introducing me to the concept of “Micromedia Optimization!

  5. Avatar firstsearchconsultancy says

    this article is exactly on point. thanks

  6. Avatar tomasmiranda says

    interesting blog on social media sites as business platforms – http://point-consulting.blogspot.com/

  7. Now more than SEO it is SMO that is actually making a difference in promoting a website.

  8. Yes. I do agree with that. I will update this to my team. Thanks a ton

  9. I hope people will understand the importance of seo with time. My whole team needs to know about how SEO works, in order to maintain a healthy relationship with the clients.

    Nice Article

  10. Avatar InsuranceNick says

    Good info and thanks for sharing the anecdote, it gives PR folks some perspective on how journalists do their jobs. Too many people are just chasing followers,fans and impressions when the focus should be serving influencers and the “customers’ customer with useful, compelling, OPTIMIZED content.

  11. Agreed. Keywords in press releases and social media content is critical to “getting found” by customers, potential partners, analysts and journalists. As a PR practictioner, I am always thinking about press release content in terms of what's most news worthy about the announcement AND search terms! This has changed the way we view the press release. Sometimes it's not just about getting media attn., but about getting discovered by customers.
    Good post — thanks!

    • That's a good point Bonnie, I didn't even touch on the direct to consumer reach opportunity via search in this post. If PR departments could show additional marketing value (direct to consumer reach) from optimized news content, it would be a step further to retaining the value of the PR function within organizations.

  12. I'm the first to say SEO is important but you're point on Fish Where the Fish are would suggest don't waste time online. Comparing searches and TV viewers is like comparing, for lack of a better analogy, apples and oranges. According to Compete.com, Google (who owns search) only had 150 million unique visitors in December but Nielsen shows that TV had 285 million unique viewers. The better argument would be a cost to reach each qualified unique.

    At any rate, good article. Thanks for sharing.

    • James I think the point of comparison is more different than apples to apples but it demonstrates an important difference. Monitoring TV viewers and search activity (BTW Google.com is only a slice of the search powered by Google).

      Would cost to reach each person be a better comparison? Yes, I agree. If you have that data for TV vs Search I would love to see it.

  13. This is really nice post.

  14. Thanks for the detailed post. It is important for publicists, marketers, and other industry professionals to understand the “nature of the beast” as it were. I imagine before long there will be classes on SMO and SEO in most universities.

  15. Thanks for the great post. Micromedia Optimization: Interesting new concept for me 🙂

  16. Great point about how closely related SM monitoring and search really are. I would also add that social media monitoring can actually help you define keywords. For example, one of our reports is called “topic discovery” and it helps you understand what words and phrases occur together with mentions of a particular brand, product, category, etc.

    Great post!

    @themaria @biz360

  17. Great article and for me the key points here must be the amount of time spent vs pay back -ROI. With the 100% of Journalists figure above using Google for their research, I would like to pose a question. How much time should we spend on Asset Optimisation, Social Media Optimisation and traditional website Optimisation? If ,for example we do a simple search for 'Sandra Bullock', lets look at the Google results. From this I should be spending a lot more time optimising Images, Youtube, Yahoo Video and finally twitter..what do you think?

  18. Not only the journalists, also the customers and every other stakeholder group is now online. That`s why SEO will be a big part of PR in the future and should be focused on when it comes to PR education/training. Really good post.

  19. always thinking about press release content in terms of what's most news worthy about the announcement AND SEO

  20. if one values his time when needs to gather SEO and SMO key data, one should use this free online tool called miniStatus (http://ministatus.com). be aware that there are always a pdf file generated for each query, ready for download.

  21. Avatar websitetraffic says

    I think whatever can be searched, should be optimized. Once things are optimized for search engines, the level of findability increases in them. This is what every online marketer wants to achieve. So, no matter what channel of marketing is used, if SEO is possible to be implemented, it must be done!

  22. i think it is so beautiful site and i really benifit from here to increasing the web site.

  23. If there be just three things about SEO that you require to know in relation to Internet marketing tips, they would have to adjoining the significance of Website content, Keywords and Linking to and from the website in a constructive way.n

  24. If there be just three things about SEO that you require to know in relation to Internet marketing tips, they would have to adjoining the significance of Website content, Keywords and Linking to and from the website in a constructive way.