By Melissa A Vitale
Ten years ago, if you asked a journalist or publicist about SEO, we probably would’ve asked if you meant SEC or CEO; fast forward and search engine optimization plays a major role in shaping the media landscape today.
For today’s publicists and journalists alike, SEO is now a staple phrase in our strategy, planning and everyday vocabulary.
Search engine optimization can often be the difference between an epic sales month and staying in the red for a brand. I’ve even heard a horror story that when google changed their algorithms, the resulting loss of business from trailing their first-page placement was so daunting, the owner ended up losing his business. For those who aren’t fully aware of the impact, when you google say, “CBD Eye Cream” the brands who pop up the first in the search page will often have the highest sales. Brands compete for that coveted spot at number one through back-linking, press hits and driving traffic to their website.
It was a monumental day for me when my website was the first result on google when you search “Melissa Vitale.” It took two years and over twenty press placements, but now, wherever you are in the world, if you google Melissa Vitale, you’ll see my website first. Seeing that there are 10+ Melissa Vitale’s in New York alone, that’s a huge achievement for brand positioning.
The goal of being listed first drives much of brand strategy and messaging in PR. SEO increases when the name of product containing the link coincides with the URL name. Going back to the CBD Eye Cream – a mention in Forbes of a “CBD Eye Cream” will preform better than “CBD-Infused Eye Cream” in getting that product to the top search of google because the listing doesn’t have Infused in it. All this is to say, Publicists need to be sharper with positioning product titles to match that of the listing on the website as it drives SEO.
Something that’s also become more relevant is the connection between SEO and Affiliate Marketing. Many media outlets are encouraged to use affiliate links (typically to retailers like Saks.com & Amazon) where they receive a portion of every purchase from the recommendation. Some media editors can only feature products that are associated with an affiliate platform. Many times, while coverage will feature a brand, it will drive the sales to Amazon, losing the SEO traction for the brand. SEO traction is how brands stay relevant to curious consumers. Many brands often put more thought into their sourcing than retailers like Amazon, so first-time purchasers through google are being pushed to Amazon, not a brand that can help them make an informed buying decision.
It’s not surprising that brands and publicists are interested in SEO: all brands are always searching for ways to boost traffic and sales.
What is surprising about SEO is the way it has dictated the media landscape in a bursting media bubble.
It’s no secret media is a tough industry right now. Every quarter we expect waves of layoffs, subscriber rates have plummeted, and people expect their news free and accessible through social media. Media houses have had to get creative to drive traffic to their websites to appease advertisers, keeping the lights on another day.
Publishers have gotten smart. They’re taking advantage of all of those late-night google searches that usually lead readers down a rabbit hole. “Why does my breath smell bad,” “How to regrow my hair,” “What do I do if I’m attracted to someone other than my wife”. Many media outlets have SEO teams that run reports on the most searched questions. They hand those reports over to editors who assign writers to answer those questions with an article. Instead of those millions of searches going to forums and blogs, reputable news outlets are sweeping up that traffic. Once users end up on a website, they can stay for hours on the suggested articles of the site.
While this may seem sinister – using consumer curiosity for website traffic – it’s actually created a consumer-first environment in media. First, media outlets have to uphold un-biased ethics and credential-based reporting. Journalists can’t just make up facts and figures like anyone with a blog. For every fact, there needs to be a source, one with expertise or recognition in the field. What we call “Airtight.” Now when consumers turn to google for the answer to their personal questions, there will be articles with sources and resources for further investigation.
By placing SEO searches at the front of their editorial strategy, media houses are catering to what interests consumers, not advertisers. Advertisers want to see website traffic in the volumes to drive sales. When there are more readers, there are more potential customers. Consumers have become ad-adverse – we can spot an ad a mile away and we want no part of it. Advertisers understand the benefit and opportunity cost to having more content that drives consumers and higher traffic than brand-centric pieces.
While SEO has added another level to media relations, the natural evolution of the digital media landscape allows for more organic media coverage of brands and topics that excited audiences, not just brands who can afford advertising packages.
For brands looking to explore cost effective public relations packages, learn more about MAVPR at: melissaavitale.com/services.html
A public relations agency specializing in brands and startups across plant and intimate wellness