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Marketing consists of two complementary but very different strategies: advertising and public relations (PR).

Generally speaking, advertising is your message that says "buy from me!" In the online world, these advertising channels include pay-per-click, contextual advertising, affiliate marketing and comparison shopping sites. PR should deliver a more educational message, which tends to be presented by third parties. Search engine optimization (SEO), online articles posted on other web sites and press releases distributed via online newswire services are good examples of online PR channels. Although you might see your blog as being presented in your voice, it's the content of your message that makes it more "hey-let-me-share-something-with-you" PR as opposed to "buy-this-now" advertising. (Well, an effective blog would anyway.)

Online PR enables you to reach potential customers who are more in research mode as opposed to a "buy now" mode. This side of Internet marketing is essential to helping you grow your lead database as well as develop brand awareness. Both lead to more business. And the huge bonus is that online PR, if done right, improves your SEO rankings too.

Optimizing PR for SEO

If you're running an online PR campaign without considering its impact on your SEO efforts, you're missing out on a really easy opportunity to reach another audience. Let's look at two critical components you should absolutely be applying to your online public relations campaign.

  1. Link Popularity

    Search engines prefer to give higher rankings to sites that are expert resources for particular topics. That makes sense. A wildlife nonprofit organization should probably outrank Bob's personal site about wildlife because more people would likely be served by finding the non-profit's site over Bob's. So, one way the search engines determine which site gets a higher ranking is to evaluate the number and quality of links to the sites. The nonprofit's site will likely have more web sites linking to it than to Bob's site. The number and quality of back links to your web pages, the higher your link popularity score from the search engines. Your online press releases distributed via online wire services, web articles written for other web sites, and your blog should all link back to your site. Creating greater link popularity to your site is one way of making your online PR campaigns work for your SEO campaign.

  2. Content Optimization

    A second critical component to making your online PR campaign support your SEO campaign is to optimize the content of your PR content for the search engines. That's right: A press release shouldn't just be written to grab the attention of the press. It should be optimized for search engine spiders too. Spiders are constantly crawling the web looking for content to put into the search engines' databases. Make sure they find your juicy content. Now, this can be tricky because you don't want to overdo it so that it reads like a bunch of gibberish to your target audience-the press as well as your potential customers. Turning off your human audience would make your entire effort a waste. But certainly you can fit in a keyword phrase in the press release heading and sprinkle a few throughout the copy. Use this approach for your online articles and blog too.

Online PR has something offline PR doesn't: stickiness.

See, if an article that references your company is printed in a magazine but not the publication's web site, then the value of that article is gone once it's been seen. Unless of course, readers save that article and refer back to it. That's not too likely.

An online article, however, can be found over and over again by the same readers and by new ones. The value lasts as long as it's on the web...and found by readers and search engine spiders. Once spiders have indexed it (and hopefully given it a decent ranking for relevant keywords), you've created two pathways to your site. Press, prospects and even potential partners can find your article on a related web site they're surfing, as well as via search engines during a keyword search.

The more pathways you can build to your web site, the better. Online PR enables you to do this quite effectively.

Choosing an Effective Professional

If you're going to hire a consultant or agency to work on your online PR campaign, you've got to make sure who you choose is well experienced in SEO. Otherwise, your efforts will completely miss the search engine audience. That would sad. With a slight shift in focus, you can easily connect with people surfing the content side of the web and the search side of the web. Reaching these two types of audiences is huge benefit of online public relations.

Take this time to evaluate your current online PR strategy. Can you adjust your campaigns already in motion? Do you need to optimize campaigns waiting to be launched? Hopefully, as you move forward with your online publicity plans you'll see the second opportunity just waiting to be seized: improved visibility in the organic search engine results.

By optimizing your online PR campaigns for search engines, you'll build your brand while boosting your rankings. You'll get two opportunities to grow your business for the cost of one campaign.

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