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THE NEW RULES OF SEARCH AND PR How to build greater brand visibility by integrating SEO into PR


White Paper The New Rules Of Search And PR

Introduction 2 Thinking holistically 4 Understanding the modern search results landscape How to evolve your processes



Conclusion and next steps 18


Introduction Introduction


White Paper The New Rules Of Search And PR

Technology is changing communications at a rate never before seen. For brands to thrive, their PR teams must be fluent in modern tools and techniques combined with an innate understanding of how changes affect their communications strategy. As influence shifts from traditional gatekeepers (such as media) to users, perhaps the most ignored, yet impactful, communications channels for public relations professionals to leverage are search engines. Why impactful? According to multiple studies, nearly all journalists use search engines, such as Google and Bing, to find information for stories. Why ignored? It is rare that a PR professional or firm has a true grasp on SEO. The fact is, media professionals are relying on search to do their job. Meanwhile, search engines and social media continue to integrate and innovate together. As a result, no one is effective at digital communications without optimization. And as we move forward, sophisticated companies will embrace a philosophy known as inbound marketing: the intersection of search, social, content and PR.


Thinking holistically

White Paper The New Rules Of Search And PR

The web does not happen in silos. Users (and media) don’t consciously think to themselves: “Now I’m using a search engine. Now I’m using a social network.” They simply use the tools necessary to accomplish their tasks. It’s a fluid experience. And yet many brands separate their digital teams as if this were not the case. For the most effective programs, SEO, social media and PR tactics need to function holistically and not be separated. If you’re not functioning holistically, you’re going to either make your company look bad, create false expectations for a certain audience or simply waste resources. And you’ll never realize the potential of a true SEO / PR / social intersection. As PR and marketing specializations intertwine, the point of intersection is simple: content. Content is what media find via search engines and react to organically. Content is what users can share via their social channels, amplifying a brand’s messages and building their communities. What this content should be helping brands achieve is sustained impact in search and social channels. With search engines taking into account social both explicitly (via the recent Google+ integration) and implicitly (via social signal), SEO without social is a thing of the past and content-driven programs will lead the future.


Understanding the modern search results landscape

White Paper The New Rules Of Search And PR

If you are completely new to SEO and are not sure of the basics, we suggest you start by reading Google’s comprehensive search engine optimization starter guide (available in 40 languages). These best practices will help you across all the engines, not just Google. But it’s not enough to just cover the basics. You need to stay abreast of the changing search landscape. The first step for communications professionals, as with any change in technology, is to experience it firsthand. Don’t be frightened or opt-out of changes. Embrace them, learn what they mean and become proficient in leveraging them. Let’s review a few of the more recent changes in Google.

1. Personalized Results = More Relevant, Faster, Social Search The web has continued to become a more social, real-time medium. With this, it is no surprise Google is melding its social product with search results. It’s time to push the envelope and change, or face disruption by more agile competitors.

Marketing tip: Google offers advice on how you can appear above the fold when someone searches on a topic related to your expertise. Explore some of the ways your brand and spokespeople can be directly recommended via Google.


White Paper The New Rules Of Search And PR

You’ll note, even when not logged in, when you search for broad concepts such as marketing, Google is serving up people on Google+ you might be interested in connecting with:

Brands active in social are already favored in search: the engines incorporate social implicitly (via signals – in other words social authority influences search engine rankings) and explicitly (within search results – with social profiles and pages, such as Google+ pages, appearing in search results). Google has experimented with social search in the past. But now it is going further and has brought it back, at scale, in a more useful and integrated way than we’ve seen before.

Marketing tip: build a large, organic community across platforms: on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and other sites. We see from our own client data that web users frequently participate on multiple social platforms. Therefore, reaching them holistically is critical. Google is incorporating social results from a variety of networks. While Google+ participation is being rewarded greatly, don’t stop there.


White Paper The New Rules Of Search And PR

2. Google Authorship Google already offers a whole host of tools for webmasters that all marketing and PR professionals should be familiar with. One of the more recent tools that provides a huge incentive for any brand publishing to the web is Google’s Authorship which allows site owners to display authorship visually in search results:

Our observation is that a majority of search results (in particular for brands) have yet to embrace the authorship functionality. And on text-heavy search results pages, being able to have an image helps make your links stand out. Further, Google is providing data to authors specifically to show them how their personalized pages are performing:

Marketing tip: brands should use Google+ to tag spokespeople to content they publish on owned platforms. The result will be more visibility in search engines.


How to evolve your processes

White Paper The New Rules Of Search And PR

SEO should, ideally, be applied to all online marketing and PR initiatives. It is in the interest of search engines to deliver relevant, useful content to users and it is in the interest of PR pros to publish content that answers consumer and media demand. In a world where every company is a media company, it is not a choice to take this approach; instead it is the future of our industry. SEO is a win-win situation for companies and search engines, which is one compelling reason why the engines open-source search data. Companies can either use the data to answer consumer and media demand, or competitors will—it is as simple as that. Even with the proliferation of social, search demand holds steady: with comScore reporting more than 17 billion explicit core searches conducted in November, 2011, and with 100 percent of journalists responding to the Cision and GW University study using Google, no PR pro can ignore search. The news for PR also keeps getting better: SEO as a stand-alone tactic is dying a slow death. Why? Because it is no longer just the domain of SEOs: all communications professionals need to be fluent in optimization. They need to know what makes up a technically-friendly website and how to effectively market web content in a way that reaches and gets passed on by users while improving search performance. The two tactics do not happen in isolation. Marketers of the future simply won’t hire those not skilled in these areas, and it already makes little sense for a company to hire a consultancy or team member on the wrong side of the digital divide.

Contact us to talk about integrating SEO into your campaign

Here are the basic steps to get started with integrating SEO with PR.


White Paper The New Rules Of Search And PR

1. Develop a customer / media-centric keyword glossary Start by creating a list of keywords that are pain-point oriented, words customers and media will use to search for information they need to find. Ensure that these keywords are not just terms you think are important, but are terms that have search demand behind them. Free tools like the Google AdWords keyword tool or paid tools like SEM Rush provide the data necessary to help you make decisions when creating the glossary. Be sure to group your glossary into relevant categories to provide greater ease of use, and begin to matrix out web pages that are already optimized for each keyphrase. This way, you not only have a guide for how you should title new content (via meta title and on-page) but you have a record of how to reference existing assets. After the glossary is created and approved, you’ll need to do two things. The first is to socialize the glossary to your team members and existing marketing partners and ensure its use is enforced as part of content creation processes. The second is to consider the glossary a living, breathing document you add to over time as consumer and media demand is in a constant state of flux. The benefit of this actually goes beyond search rankings and traffic: by creating content following a keyword glossary that is research-based, you’ll always be creating content that is of interest to your target. One of the more powerful ways interest is expressed in our world is simple: search demand.

2. Conduct a technical (code-level) SEO audit of your website Today’s PR teams must be literate in modern web languages, able to analyze / make recommendations to a content management system and understand web usability. Without having an optimized home base on the web (in the


White Paper The New Rules Of Search And PR

form of a company website or blog), any signal you are generating that a search engine might want to reward you for could be accomplishing nothing. We have seen examples where just a few tweaks to a CMS or removal of a few lines of code (for example, if the search engines are blocked from accessing a significant portion of a site via a poorly-coded Robots.txt file) have caused significant improvements to natural search traffic. The point is to eliminate self-imposed roadblocks to success. If your team is unable to assess websites or blogs from a code-level standpoint and make recommendations, it’s time to train your team, hire someone new or get help. Technical roadblocks should not be barriers to success at this point in your marketing.

3. Optimize your content: for users first, then search engines This sounds obvious, but we’ll say it anyway: actually optimize your content. A lot of PR pros and marketers only go as far as talking about optimization but don’t actually follow through with it. It is a fundamental shift for most communications professionals to think of how their content will be found from an inbound perspective as they’ve focused on outbound for so long. But flipping your team’s mindset from outbound to inbound is critical to scale SEO results. The key part of optimization is to understand it is not simply to create content for search engine spiders. Rather, it is to improve the usability of content for users first, then also be findable by search engines for terms that matter. At the end of the day, optimization is still people-driven as search demand is driven by humans, not robots.


White Paper The New Rules Of Search And PR

4. Acquire organic links and social signal to your site Once your site is technically friendly and the content is optimized for popular, relevant terms, it’s time to market your site. Engage in activities with partners, the media, bloggers and other digital influencers to connect them with your valuable site content and encourage propagation across the web.

Marketing tip: register

Further, think about how you can develop more content on your site that will attract others organically and inspire them to link to you. Scaling your website content (with high quality, usable and interesting pages) is actually one of the better ways to acquire organic links.

your site with both Google Webmaster tools and Bing Webmaster Tools to get the full picture of how the engines view your content.


Other items you’ll need to consider as part of an SEO process are creating a measurement process to show improvements and make data-driven decisions, as well as integration with other online marketing tactics like social media. But evolving your communications processes to play to a web-friendly world is something you can approach iteratively. Don’t feel overwhelmed or that you need to do everything right now. Start by nailing down the basics and then incorporate them into a more holistic digital marketing process as you get comfortable.

White Paper The New Rules Of Search And PR

Marketing tip: Use the below best practices in order to optimize the meta content on each of your web pages, blog posts, press releases, etc. Remember to also optimize on-page information as well.

Title Tag: Meta Description: Meta Keywords:

8-12 words, important keywords on the left. Focus on 1-2 keyword phrases. This is the MOST important location for keywords in a document used to rank web pages. 10-25 word elaboration of the title tag. Used to describe the site in search results. Search engines do not use these for ranking purposes.

Lists, Awards, Reviews

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Conclusion and next steps

White Paper The New Rules Of Search And PR

Search, plus Your World is an exciting advancement from Google that continues the trend of the last several years: bringing search and social together. Of course, there was an organic intersection between search and social long before this. Brands with large social communities have greater reach than competitors on the web through social channels. So, when they publish a new piece of content, they reach a larger audience, a percentage of whom will also be content creators (journalists, bloggers, etc). Those content creators then re-share, link back and generate organic signal to the original piece of content. This organic boost from the web provides an advantage for establishing authority of a domain (and with it, search visibility). Years ago, we noticed many marketers were putting their SEO and social media programs in silos. Those who embraced an integrated approach are well ahead of their competitors in search visibility and community size today. This is the crux of organic marketing. Google’s recent search innovation is exciting but doesn’t actually change what marketing and PR pros should have been doing all along: building a platform-agnostic web community and optimizing content using the tools and data available. So what should marketers who are lost today do to find the right path tomorrow?

Learn SEO and social media marketing If you’re a communications professional and only understand social media marketing but not search engine optimization (or vice versa), it’s time to learn both. PR professionals and marketers who do not are going to get left behind. Skills from community building to keyword research to content creation and analytics need to be a part of every marketing team’s bread and butter. Kill the digital marketing silos, think holistically: even integrate push tactics like email and paid with your organic tactics.


White Paper The New Rules Of Search And PR

Use Google+, but don’t stop using other networks either The social web is more frequently “and” than “or,” especially for brands. If you have a team already executing an effective social marketing program, adding another social outpost to your approach (such as Google+) should not be a difficult process. Integrate Google+ and nurture communities in multiple outposts you’ve identified as relevant for your target audience. As Google’s head of webspam ‘Matt Cutts’ points out, Search Plus surfaces public content from the open web, so participation across platforms is going to get rewarded. One cautionary point: we’d recommend you not just contribute content to other people’s platforms, but that you also continue to scale up unique, useful and optimized content on your own domain (blogging is an elegant way to accomplish this).

Explore Google’s tools We also recommend taking advantage of the robust set of tools Google is offering, such as Authorship, to stand out in the search landscape and integrate Google+ features such as the +1 button or adding your Google+ page to your own site to give your content the best visibility possible in search. The magic answer, as always, is to integrate the web tools that make sense for your strategy.

The bottom line It’s time to get serious about creating a digital strategy that sits at the search / social intersection. Savvy companies are already here, but many still need to catch up.


White Paper The New Rules Of Search And PR

About us LEWIS was founded in 1995 by a former journalist and, since then, it has grown to over 300 employees based in more than 25 wholly-owned offices across the US, EMEA and Asia Pacific. Its regional headquarters are in London, San Francisco and Singapore. LEWIS is known for delivering bold digital communications campaigns that enhance revenue, value and reputation for global brands. Digital communications services span PR and media relations, social media marketing, search engine optimization and digital content production.

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How to build greater brand visibility by integrating SEO into PR