The SEO Magic Act

March 23, 2010 at 4:05 pm

Many magic tricks work because of misdirection, a technique of distracting an audience. Does search-engine optimization doesn’t have a little of that kind of magic in it?

I’m not taking anything away from search-engine optimization or search-engine marketing. Obviously, SEO is a valuable tool in today’s search-engine-driven world. It’s wonderful to deliver our message directly to constituents, whether it’s a sales message or an opinion on an issue. And my internal clients, including my bosses, are very impressed when I can tell them that a release we put out drove X-number of people to our Web site and, depending on what service we use to distribute the Web site, that even more people saw the release on the Web, even if they didn’t click through.

Nice numbers, but what are we teaching our clients? Is this little magic trick I work regularly these days misdirecting my clients from what PR is really supposed to be about?

The problem comes for practitioners whose clients have a hard time grasping that public relations needs to be part of a proactive strategy to be effective. Even if they do sort of “get it,” 300 visitors to the Web site is something they really “get” – and like. After all, isn’t that what they’re demanding of their marketing and advertising folks?

There’s a danger here that the singular tactic with very visible result could become more important to clients, especially those short on funds, than a larger strategy about reputation, even if that plan secures our place in the market and helps with sales or meets other business goals. These days, when I say to my internal clients “community meeting,” “community relations event,” “interview with a non-too-friendly reporter” or other just talk about reputational issues, my clients tell me they’d rather see another optimized release and numbers to the Web site.

So why, you may ask, can’t you do all of these things? They should be tactics in a full campaign. You are right, of course. But for practitioners in my boat — a department of me, myself and I with no agency – we just can’t do it all at the same time. It’s complicates the constant education we have to do to explain what public relations brings to the table beyond eyeballs on the Web site.

So SEO can certainly help us work magic. But that magic itself can make it more difficult to explain the real goal of PR: Assuring that our company is one others want to do business with.

I’d love to know how other small agencies and departments are handling this challenge.  I’m in the process of writing a new communications plan to put a strategic rudder back in the water. I plan to emphasize that search engine optimization is just one rabbit in my hat of tricks to maintain my company’s good reputation. And I plan to be ready when I’m asked why all that’s necessary when I could spend my time writing more optimized articles.

I don’t want my magic act to turn into black magic and fail to contribute to my company’s business goals.

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Entry filed under: Dealing with social media, Optimized News Releases, reputation. Tags: , , , , , , .

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