The Ultimate How-To Guide: Search Engine Marketing

Web 2.0 - that is, the collective name of the services that let people collaborate and share information online - has given birth to an ornery, brilliant, sometimes-deceitful offspring: PR 2.0. According to Todd Defren, principal of Shift Communications and presenter during the July 31 PR News Webinar "Search Engine Marketing Strategies for Communicators" - PR 2.0 is "about human relations. When people talk to people, they care about authenticity, trust and relationships. These principles of PR 2.0 can bring clients' voices closer to the edge via the social networks where people congregate and converse."

PR 2.0 presents communicators with challenges and opportunities.

"For the first time, our audiences are talking back to us," Defren says. "It's a virtuous or vicious cycle, depending on where you fall on any given day."

Because of this unique set of challenges and opportunities, PR execs must alter their communications strategies to protect brands and build relationships with constituents. Consider, then, two offspring of PR 2.0 - the grandbabies of Web 2.0 - to be search engine marketing (SEM) and search engine optimization (SEO). Simply put, these concepts create some order out of the chaos of social media and digital communications platforms. Below is a how-to guide for creating this relative "order" in an era of Google-inspired anarchy.

*Step 1: Know how online users are searching for your company. Before taking proactive steps to assert your brand in cyberspace, it is essential to understand how your target audiences search for information. A number of tools - news tracking services, Google and Yahoo! news alerts, blog search alerts - will alert you when your organization appears in the news or on blogs. Poring over this information will begin to shape search trends and popular keywords - these will be integral to SEO and SEM down the road.

*Step 2: Leverage social media sites. PR News Webinar speaker and Lycos PR Director Kathy O'Reilly identified the following steps for using social media to your advantage:

  • Identify and develop relationships with bloggers and key industry influencers (for a quick primer in blogger relations, see sidebar).

  • Pre-brief and treat these contacts as you would traditional media targets.

  • Read the blogs the top bloggers read.

  • Subscribe to free newsletters like eMarketer, iMedia Connection, Search Day, MediaBistro and Click Z News.

  • Respond to negative or false news via blogs ASAP.

  • Follow the same corporate communications policies online and offline.


*Step #3: Optimize content. Once you have become engaged in social media sites, it's time to optimize your own content for searches. There are a number of things that must be taken into consideration, the first of which being content. According to O'Reilly, the following factors influence press releases in relation to search results:

1. Keyword Density: Search Keywords using subscription and free tools like Keyword, Google's Keyword Suggestion Tool and

2. Related Phrases

3. Headers, Bullets, Etc.

4. Location, Location, Location

5. Write Good Copy

6. Root Words

7. Word Count

8. Title Tags, Meta Tags: "URLs, title tags and meta tag components are all information that describe your site and page to visitors and search engines," O'Reilly says. "Keeping them relevant, fresh, compelling and accurate are key to ranking well."

Defren adds to the best practices list by identifying ways in which communicators can build social media news releases that will also rank well in search engine results. He encourages PR managers to "Democratize access, ensure accuracy, embrace content, build community and be findable." Shift's social media press release template does all of the above by embedding things like RSS feeds, Digg/Technorati tags and links to photos, podcasts and videos.

Then, says O'Reilly, "Search-friendly text in HTML format is critical to ranking well and getting properly indexed, [as is using] the right keywords and phrases in headlines, title tags, meta tags, URLs and image/file names on the page."

Brian Kaminski, managing director of iProspect San Francisco and Webinar presenter, offers these best practices for choosing keywords:

  • Avoid duplicate content

  • Make content user-focused

  • Create site content around the terms that searchers are using to find your site

  • Every page should have unique, text-based content

  • Primary keywords should not be overused


He offers these best practices for optimizing your Web sites for search:

  • Have clean URLs

  • Take advantage of sitemaps programs

  • Limit the use of Javascript and flash

  • Optimized unique meta data should be at the top of the code for every page


And, finally, Kaminski offers these tips for linking:

  • Quality over quantity

  • Text links are preferred

  • Use relevant anchor text

  • Don't forget internal linking



"Linking helps you connect with 'like sources,'" says Tara Hall, Webinar presenter and account supervisor at Weber Shandwick. "Cross-link across different platforms - Web sites to blogs to social networks."

Finally, measure results (see sidebar) and always remember to stay engaged online.

"With SEO, it's not a once-and-done by any means," Kaminski says. "It's about understanding and leveraging all your assets."


Todd Defren, [email protected]; Tara Hall, [email protected]; Brian Kaminski, [email protected]; Kathy O'Reilly, [email protected]

Ways to Measure SEO & SEM

  • Online impressions: Unique visitors per month

  • Ad equivalency: Online ad rates

  • Increased Web site traffic

  • Number of friends in a social network

  • Links and Trackbacks

  • Reader Comment Frequencies

  • Post Comment Frequencies

  • Creditable mentions on other online sites

  • Podcast downloads

  • Visits to Videos

  • Discussion "chatter"/SOV (Share of Voice)

  • Contest/sweepstakes entries, if applicable

  • Number and tone of mentions in blogosphere

  • Number of RSS feeds


Blogger Relations 101

  • Read at least 10 posts and comments before you pitch a blogger to get a sense of his readership and personality.

  • Customize every pitch.

  • Care about what they care about: trackback and comments.

  • Only pitch a story that is relevant to a blogger's area of interest, or prepare to be ridiculed.

  • Don't assume that a blogger, like a journalist, has space to fill and a beat to cover. Bloggers write about what they want, when they feel like it.

  • Remember that bloggers exist in a community - they know what you are saying to other bloggers.

  • To build trust, become friends with bloggers online via MySpace and Facebook.


Online Resources for Communicators

Blogs & Bloggers

  • Brian Solis,


  • Danny Sullivan,

  • GigaOM,

  • Gord Hotchkiss,

  • Greg Sterling,

  • John Battelle,

  • PandiaSearch World,



  • Search Engine Lowdown,




  • Webmaster World,


Search Engine Marketing & SEO



  • SEO PR,

  • Search Engine Land,





Online Reputation

  • Delete Your Bad Web Rep,,72063-0.html

  • Using Search in Reputation Management,

  • Online Reputation Monitoring Beginners Guide,

  • Online Reputation Management & Consulting,

  • Online Reputation Management, Are You Doing It?,


Social Media