Publicity is about getting media outlets to mention the name of a product, company or person. For several years Internet marketers have recognized the importance of getting their company and products listed in the top rankings in search engines. So called efforts at Search Engine Optimization (SEO) involve concerted efforts and specific techniques to attain higher rankings.
While at first glance SEO may not seem like a responsibility of public relations, it would appear to contain the main characteristics for making it so, namely getting a third-party media outlet (i.e., search engine) to mention the company (i.e., search rankings) at no direct cost the company (i.e., no payment for ranking). And, just as PR people can use methods to affect coverage within traditional media, optimizing a website can work to influence results in search engines by using techniques that allow a website to fit within ever-changing search engine ranking criteria. In this way SEO does what PR professionals do, namely obtain good placement in third-party media outlet. Consequently, SEO may soon become an important PR function.