Many small businesses rely on tight advertising budgets, and they know that getting their name out there is necessary if they want more work. But how do you choose between TV and radio commercials, circulars, newspaper ads, internet marketingThis broad term includes everything from content marketing to display ads, PPC (pay per click) ads, social media marketing, directory listing work and online reputation management. and PR? The choices are seemingly endless – and a bit confounding.
These days, most business owners believe that having a good website is a necessity. We wholeheartedly agree. Especially according to the youngest members of the team here at Online Image®, if you’re not online you may as well not exist. But does that mean businesses don’t need public relations and advertising?
First, let’s talk about exactly what public relations means. Traditionally, it has meant managing information flow with the public and, in doing so, improving reputation. PR is different from advertising in that ads ask for a transaction. There are obvious connections between PR and website optimization, and in fact, there has been a mass migration of PR professionals to the SEO industry.
I spent my early career as a business reporter and editor, and that work in addition to my experience working on the client side has made it obvious: Almost all businesses need a mix of paid advertising, PR and organic website optimization. And they all need to work together.
A few years ago I researched a new smoothie shop for the local paper, after getting a press release. I checked out their website, their social media accounts, any online reviews I could find and any ads I could find, either in print or online. I also compared them to the competition. The resulting article was about that company’s newest franchise and the popularity of smoothie shops in general. Undoubtedly, the shop got new customers from the (unpaid) article.
I’ve done similar research as a customer, and I think most people do. This is especially true for large purchases. Rarely does anyone purchase a vacuum cleaner or hire a contractor without checking them out online, and that means you need good Internet presence. But the companies selling those products need to make themselves known somehow – and that’s through advertising. People buying a new house or even a new furnace want to make sure the company itself is on stable footing. That takes good PR.
How Can PR Help My Website?
At Online Image® we’ve taken a few tips from the public relations playbook as we work to help our clients and their businesses succeed.
- Engagement: PR has been around for centuries, and the industry has gotten pretty great at turning customers into fans and fans into brand ambassadors. From the PR industry, we have learned things like how to write compelling content, how to reach out to industry leaders and how to build reputation.
- Branding: It’s vital for the success of your company that all your customer outreach methods work together. From PR, we have learned how to craft messaging strategies that ensure this happens, even if your business has multiple markets and products. The process of brand development can be a hairy one, but it’s well worth it in the long run.
- Effective Frequency: As anyone who’s been through advertising classes knows, most people won’t jump to make a purchase the first time they see a company’s name. In fact, back in 1885, communications researcher Thomas Smith said people need to see an ad 20 times before they’re willing to buy. He said they don’t even notice the brand until they’ve seen it 3 times. Later, researchers said 3 times was plenty, as long as the customers were walked through 3 phases: curiosity, recognition and, finally, decision. The idea of how many times customers need to see your brand before purchasing is called effective frequency. In today’s digital age, however, everyone is bombarded with advertising all day long. When trusted sources in the news or on blogsThis term originated as shortened version of “web log” and has come to be known as a regularly updated web-page, often containing news, opinion and personal stories. are talking about your brand, and then customers see ads online and in print, they may then want to visit your website. By then, they’re engaged and it’s decision time.
- Links: We don’t know how much Google counts links from press releases toward its algorithm, and for that reason using press releases alone as a link buildingBecause search engines judge reputation partly by looking at the number and quality of hyperlinks that point to your site, this search engine optimization process is aimed at attaining more and better links. strategy isn’t wise. But we do know that links to your site from trusted news sites and blogs are ranked very highly. We have seen sites shoot up in the rankings after they get these kinds of links. Press releases lead to articles, which lead to having a good reputation.
How Can SEO Assist PR Efforts?
If PR is focused on reputation, there are truly incredible ways that SEO can contribute. In fact, there is no such thing as a good PR strategy anymore without the help of SEO. Here are a few ways this happens:
- Keyword Integration: With the tools available through Google Analytics and Online Image®, it is now possible to find the exact words customers use when they’re looking for the products you sell. PR and social media efforts can integrate this knowledge in ways that have never before been possible. No longer is PR wholly a guessing game.
- Measurable Analytics: On that note, it is now easier than ever to tell whether PR (and SEO) efforts are working. We have more information on where customers are coming from, both geographically and digitally. That allows companies to know how effective advertising or press releases are so they can adjust strategies on the fly. Through ROI and traffic tracking online, marketing and outreach have become agile.
- Reaching New Audiences: Even a few years ago, press releases were only read by journalists and, maybe, investors. Now, press releases are widely available to the general public. This means more customers are reached, making the process of reaching effective frequency easier. It also means that your message isn’t always filtered through news organizations before reaching potential customers.
What your customers and prospective clients think of you is vital to your business, whether it means retaining customers or gaining new ones. If you have an organized communication strategy that includes building your online reputation, paid ads and public relations efforts, you can control the message. We have PR expertise in house and we love to work with outside PR and advertising services, either as a channel development partner or directly with businesses. If you’re interested in learning more or would like to see how having a better site could boost your business, give Online Image® a call or fill out this contact form. If you would like, we can throw in a free website analysis to get you started.