"Google's first page - that's where the battle needs to be fought," says James Clark, Partner at Room214, an Internet marketing and PR firm.
"The PR person's highest goal has always been to get a mention on the cover, above the fold, of the Wall Street Journal. But the most powerful place you can be on the planet is on the front page of any search engine. That's the new cover page."
Clark believes keywords should be at the heart of every marketing program. It's easy to understand the value of keywords in, say, search engine optimization, but how important are they, really, in media relations, which is, after all, all about human connections?
"It happens to the best of us. We work on relationships with editors and journalists at a magazine, we're on great terms with them, they understand our message, and then one day there's a cover story on our industry, and it features our competitor," says Clark. "What happened? They hired a freelancer who didn't know the industry and did a keyword search to figure out who the players were."
PR pros may not like writing in the strange new dialect of keyword. But it's impossible to have a successful PR program now that doesn't pay attention to keywords.
Five steps for adding keywords to your PR mix effectively:
Step #1. Create a list of keywords
A keyword can be a single word you'd like to be most optimized for, or several words. It should be a term a potential customer or member of the media would typically use when searching for products or services like yours.
So, it's not your tagline (how many people search for companies like General Electric using the term "imagination at work"?) It's also not a buzzword that no one outside of your management team and maybe a few analysts use.
Tips on creating this list:
o Brainstorm a list with marketing, customer service, sales, tech support, and anyone else who routinely speaks to customers and can say what words the marketplace uses to describe your services.
o Ask the Web department to check logs to see both what search terms site visitors use to find you in Yahoo and Google now, plus also what are the most popular terms used in your internal site search box by visitors.
o Analyze your collection of the past couple of month's press stories about your industry. What words do journalists use to describe your niche?
o Keep an eye out for related news trends, if there's a major news item such as a competitor M&A, newly released statistics, laws or lawsuits, etc., you can use related keywords in a quick release to capture search traffic.
o Check services such as wordtracker.com to discover how competitive your prospective keywords are, and to brainstorm more specific niche terms that might be easier to rank under.
o Don't forget regional variations on keywords if you want local press pick-up, local search is booming.
Step #2. Use keywords religiously in your press releases
Press releases get an automatic SEO boost when they're distributed through any of the major wires. Your site may not come up on the first page of Google for your top keyword, but your press release just might get top ranking for that keyword in Google or Yahoo News.
You should only optimize each release for two-three keywords maximum. Any more and the impact is diffused for search spiders. Be sure to use your keyword of choice in the headline and the first 50 words of the release.
Step #3. Include keyword-loaded hotlinks in your distributed content.
Search engine spiders crawl Web content looking for hotlinked text. Then they examine the precise words in that hotlinked text to determine what the site the link leads to is all about.
For example, a hotlink reading "Click here for widget x100 data" would make the spider think your site is about "Widget X100", whereas a hotlink that simply read "click here for more information" would tell the spider nothing.
The more hotlinks with keywords you have in content posted around the Web, the more spiders will trace those words to your site... and rank your site higher and higher as an important source of information on that topic.
PR plays a critical role because you are responsible for placing corporate messaging on other sites. This messaging could include: o Contributed articles and columns on relevant news sites o Directory listings in online trade directories (such as trade magazine sites, trade show exhibitor listings, and association member listings online) o Articles, email newsletter copies, press releases, and white papers posted on your own site
o Responses posted by you on relevant Blogs that allow commentary, and message boards
o Taglines and information posted along with your logo on distributor, partner, division, vendor, and affiliate's sites (never allow your logo to be posted alone without an accompanying text-link)
Step #4. Train your spokespeople to use them in interviews
"Every spokesperson at your company should have a list of your top 10 keywords," Clark says. If they're quoted using a keyword, it raises the chances that the interview will show up on a search on that word.
Make sure your spokespeople practice expressing the company messaging using keywords, because you don't want the added burden of remembering specific words to crimp anyone's style. It takes a bit of work to be able to speak keyword fluently, but we humans are remarkably capable of learning new languages.
Step #5. Measure results
Be sure to add a keyword results section to your regular PR results report for upper management. It's another tool to justify your budget and activities. Measurements might include:
o Press releases featured under keyterms on major search news sites such as Yahoo News and Google News
o Number of clickthroughs on links contained within press releases
o Number of clickthroughs on links contained in other content you place on outside Web sites
o Number of hotlinks to your site from other sites on the Web, especially as a stat growing over time
o Data provided by wire services such as PRNewswire or PRWeb on the readership and projected impact of your release via search engines
End Note: The importance of keywords doesn't mean that the age-old PR skills, writing well and treating people well, no longer apply.
"The 20% of journalists who are real influencers will always be important. The firms that are successful will be the ones who maintain those contacts with the Walter Mossbergs of the world," says Clark. "But for the other 80%, keywords are how you reach them."Useful links related to this article:
Fascinating samples of a press release that an eretailer used to get high rankings and plenty of clickthroughs from Yahoo and Google News under the keyterm "online shopping" in Dec 2004: http://www.marketingsherpa.com/shopping/ad.html
MarketingSherpa Case Study: How Southwest Airlines Sold $1.5 Million in Tickets by Posting Four Press Releases Online
How-to Kit: Tweaking Your Site's Copy to Get More Search Engine Traffic (Note: This is a report for sale in MarketingSherpa's store) http://sherpastore.com/store/page.cfm/2113