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October 05, 2017

Team Member Renee Spurling

Renee Spurlin


Executive Vice President

When you think of SEO (search engine optimization), you probably think of a strategy that helps a website rank high in organic search results – and you’d be correct. Over recent years, digital marketers and PR pros alike have been following Google’s algorithms and implementing top keywords throughout clients’ websites, meta tags and blog posts to boost rankings. But, as the world of public relations continues to evolve in the digital age, and integration becomes the buzzword of the decade, we’re seeing SEO emerge as a key factor in even traditional media relations.

In the United States, there are nearly five PR pros for every one journalist. This, coupled with the  24-hour news cycle, consolidated newsrooms, and the looming threat of AI automating story writing, journalists are facing mounting pressures and are busier than ever – making it that much more difficult to get their attention. In fact, journalists say they receive upwards of 100 pitches per day.

Just like cutting through the cluttered web to improve search rankings, PR practitioners can break through a journalist’s inbox with SEO to ensure their email pitches get opened… at some point, but more on that later. SEO also helps press releases and placements show up when journalists search for resources. After all, they are just like us – turning first to Google when beginning their research. Below are the top four tips for leveraging SEO in media relations:

  1. Craft and distribute SEO-worthy press releases. Press releases are rich sources of SEO. Some quick tips to optimize your press release for search include:

    • Drafting a headline, sub-headline, copy and boilerplate with primary keywords, company names and locations. Insert them naturally, however, as keyword stuffing will result in Google flagging your content as spam.

      • Note: Only 50-60 characters of a headline will appear in search results, so make sure those keywords are used before the cutoff.

    • Including images with highly relevant alt-text (i.e. keywords)

      • While images enhance readability, Google places high value on good alt text to determine both the image and the topic around the text.

    • Attracting aggregators to pick up the release

      • When putting a press release over the wire, be sure to pick a distribution service with high online exposure. At ARPR, we use PRWeb, as it has the largest website distribution of 30,000 bloggers and journalists.

  2. Understand the web authority of the publication you are pitching. Before you pitch, it’s important to be familiar with the outlet’s website authority, or how trustworthy or valuable the site is (as determined by Google). Why? Google considers a backlink as a vote of confidence, and a backlink from a site with strong authority is very valuable in increasing your own website’s authority and search ranking. On the other hand, if a low authority site includes a backlink to your client’s web page in an article, your client’s website authority might decrease. While Google doesn’t disclose its metrics for determining authority, SEO software company, Moz, developed a Backlink Research tool that provides a score from 100-point, logarithmic scale based on a website's popularity. While not exact, it’s a good indicator as to the search ranking and authority of a given website.


3. SEO-ify your email pitches. I had the opportunity to sit down with a reporter from Inc., where he shared what it’s like to be on the other end of the pitching line. Biggest takeaway? Before he starts writing a story, he searches for keywords related to the story in his email inbox history to see if anyone has pitched him on that topic or if someone sent over cool insights about it. Then, he can reach out to this person for more information or request to interview a client on the topic. Meaning, even if you don’t get a response to your pitch right away, you may get a bite down the road if you utilized the right keywords and pitch the appropriate reporter.

4. Write it yourself. In a likely push for more advertising dollars, some reporters won’t include backlinks to vendors’ websites in their stories. One way around this is to contribute a bylined article to a publication. This way, you can not only own the narrative, but fill the article with keywords and incorporate your own backlinks. In references, for example, you can link to a data report, infographic or a blog post on your site. Of course, be sure to link to your company’s website in your title and bio.

The Future of PR demands that we begin to adopt these types of digital skills so that we can easily integrate the best strategies and tactics that allow practitioners to continue to #MakeNews… and yes, even #DriveLeads! Want to learn more about the relationship between SEO and media relations? Read the latest blog post on from Flynn Zaiger, founder and CEO of Online Optimism, titled, The Future of PR Cares about SEO (and the past did, too!).