Online PR – Theory and Practice, Part Two by Richard Hoy

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Last week I talked about the two principles that comprise my general philosophy of online PR, which are: 1.) Be a good friend by being a good source of information, and 2.) The Internet has its own system of influencers with as much, if not more, impact than traditional media and they are easy to find if you know where and how to look for them.

This week I’ll begin the process of sharing with you how to put these principles to practice. (I discovered after writing this that there is no way I can squeeze all of this in a two-part series.)

In any online PR campaign, there are two major strategies:

1.) Getting links to your site (a linking campaign), and

2.) Getting stories and/or announcements about your site (a media campaign)

Let’s take each strategy one at a time…

Linking Campaigns

Linking campaigns come in two flavors. The first one is the registration campaign – registering your web address with the search engines and directories. The second one is link requests – asking another web site to link to your web site.

Let’s tackle the registration campaign for the rest of this article.

Before I tell you how to do a registration campaign, I should explain the difference between a search engine and a directory. The terms are often used interchangeably, but you have to understand the difference before you can conduct a registration campaign correctly.

A search engine is a site that, when you submit a URL, it sends a piece of software out called a “robot” to that URL. The robot reads what’s on the page, then creates a summary of what it finds. It then stores that summary in a database. The process is called indexing (as in “my site was indexed by this search engine”). When a person searches on a particular term at that search engine, the engine ranks and displays the summaries based on what it thinks is relevant. Google is an example of a search engine.

A directory is a site that, when you submit a URL, a human being looks at what you’ve submitted and decides whether to include it or not. Generally, you don’t just submit a URL, but a whole slew of information about the site so the human reviewer can make a decision. Yahoo is an example of a directory.

Correct listings in a search engine depend on the actual content of the page you are submitting. Each search engine has a different way it goes about summarizing the content it finds. And because this summarizing goes on without human intervention, it is possible for some people to unfairly trick the search engine for their own benefit.

Correct listings in a directory depend on the information you submit, plus what the human reviewer thinks about the page. So the quality of the listings in a directory tend to be better. But human beings can’t process submissions as fast as the robot of a search engine can. That means it may take months to get listed in some directories.

To complicate matters further, hybrid sites that are both search engines and directories are now the norm. Yahoo, for example, is at its core a directory. But some of its search results come from a search engine (Google, to be specific).

Many moons ago, doing a registration campaign was easy and made a difference. But in the last few years registration campaigns have become more complicated and their effectiveness is questionable for a few reasons.

First of all, there has been a flood of content on the web – billions of web pages all vying to be the first in the search results for a particular search term. It is nearly impossible to come up first for common terms just because there is so much competing content that is equally worthy of coming up first.

Second, there are thousands of people trying every day to manipulate the way search engines create their individual summaries and rank them. At one point, search engine Altavista estimated that 50% of the submissions it received were from people trying to manipulate how they come up in the search results.

Third, in the last 12 months there has been a trend toward paying for placement. The search engines and directories are charging for listings, just like in the Yellow Pages of the phone book. If you search, for example, on the term “romance novels” in Altavista you will discover that the first results are listings that have been paid for. They are not from people submitting their web site to Altavista. So no matter how qualified your page on romance novels is, or how much you manipulate the system, it will never come up in the top results unless you pay.

With all I just described, you make be thinking a registration campaign isn’t worth it. Well, it is if you don’t spend all of your time doing it and if you don’t expect it to be the major source of your web site traffic.

Here is the fast track to doing a registration campaign:

1.) Read the “Search Engine Submission Tips” section of Search Engine Watch. This will give you the scoop on how to set up your pages to make them more search engine friendly.

2.) Consider buying a copy of AddWeb 4.0, an auto submission tool by Cyberspace HQ ($69.00). Auto submission tools automate the process of submitting to search engines and directories.

3.) Focus on finding and submitting to subject-specific search engines and directories. There are literally thousands of search engines and directories dedicated to specific subjects. Find the ones that are most appropriate for your site/book. Because there is less competition, the chances of coming up first are greater. And the people using them are more targeted prospects. A resource to get you started is InvisibleWeb, which is a search engine of search engines.

Next week we’ll talk about the second type of linking campaign, requesting links from other sites.

Type at you then!

Richard Hoy is the co-owner of Booklocker.com, the most author-friendly epublisher online offering up to 70% royalties on ebooks, 35% royalties on print on demand books (the highest in the industry), and non-exclusive contracts. Booklocker.com strives to help authors make money by combining epublishing with Internet marketing.