A crucial task of publicity is convincing 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 information listed in what has become an influential media outlet – search engines. Using methods dubbed search engine optimization (SEO), marketers employ specific techniques in an effort to attain higher rankings to relevant search queries.
For instance, an online clothing retailer may attempt to be one of the first websites listed when someone enters the search phrase “men’s suits.” If the retailer’s website meets the search engine’s criteria for ranking, then the website could appear at the top of the search results page, without cost to the retailer.
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 (e.g., keywords) that allow a website to fit within ever-changing search engine ranking criteria. In this way, SEO does what PR professionals do by obtaining good placement in third-party media outlets.