Social, Not Search, is the Future for PR

Search traffic to websites is declining. Social referrals are exploding. So where are you spending your PR dollars?

Back in 2008, when I was getting PitchEngine off the ground, search engine optimization for PR was all the rage. PRWeb had laid claim to the search optimized press release and services like Business Wire and PR Newswire were all about it too. And, it made a lot of sense.

That was then.

With PitchEngine, we never wanted to be the next big “SEO thing”. In fact, I pissed off countless search experts who saw us as the next, great SEO thing. Granted, we had thousands of big brands creating and sharing a truck load of content, which generated great search authority for pitchengine.com. But, for us, SEO was always just a byproduct. I never wanted to hitch our wagon to a service that we really had no control over. If a pitch got good SEO, that was awesome, but it wasn’t our software’s value.

The growth in social referrals, particularly for publishers operating on social networks such as Twitter and Facebook, is clearly impacting traditional search engines. Now that users are following their favorite brands, and businesses are backing these platforms with ads and promoted content, there are fewer scenarios where the user needs to type in a search query. Services such as Google and Bing are still popular, but it seems their influence is being eroded.

The Next Web

I’m not shy about my view on those traditional services that haven’t changed since we entered the fray five years ago. They’re still touting SEO and distribution, and as I’ve heard time and time again, there’s still a place for it. I can’t disagree 100 percent. I’m sure some corporate lawyers make it hard to stray from a decades-old strategy. But just like it did with print advertising and compact discs, corporate (and small business) budgets are going to shift. And, they’re shifting to social.

It doesn’t take a computer scientist to understand that the world is moving to mobile. Half of our traffic on PitchEngine already comes from mobile. This means that if someone is going to read your content, it had better be engaging and concise – mostly concise. If you’re going to create content that translates to the social web, you’re going to have to do more than use an old-fashioned press release (people barely read those when they were on desktops).

This is now.

In 2014, you need to be looking for ways to make your news relevant and contextual. Stop assuming that people are going to just “find it” by searching. Instead, they’re going to see it commented on, liked or shared by someone relevant – like a friend on a social network – or maybe directly by their favorite brand. In some cases, the social network is going to deem it relevant for you and serve it up. But, keep in mind, no one is going to share branded content unless it’s great.

Does a 600 word press release constitute great? I leave that one for you to debate.

This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

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