Search Engine Optimization (SEO) should, ideally, be applied to all online marketing and PR initiatives. It is in the interest of search engines to deliver relevant, useful content to users and it is in the interest of PR pros to publish content that answers consumer and media demand. In a world where every company is a media company it is not a choice to take this approach; instead it is the future of our industry.
SEO is a win-win situation for companies and search engines, which is why (along with for advertising purposes) the engines open-source search data. Companies can either use the data to answer consumer and media demand or competitors will, it is as simple as that.
Even with the proliferation of social, search demand holds steady: with ComScore reporting more than 16.7 billion explicit core searches conducted in June. And with 100% of journalists responding to the Cision and GW University study using Google, no PR pro can ignore search.
The news for PR also keeps getting better: SEO as a stand-alone tactic is dying a slow death. Why? Because it is no longer just the domain of SEOs: all communications professionals need to be fluent in optimization, what makes up a technically friendly website and how to effectively market web content in a way that reaches and gets passed on by users while concurrently improving search performance. The two tactics do not happen in isolation.
Marketers of the future simply won’t hire those not skilled in these areas, and it already makes little sense for a company to hire a consultancy or team member on the wrong side of the digital divide.
Digitally savvy public relations and social media professionals already understand how to flesh out and follow an SEO strategy. However many are not quite there yet. So today we wanted to share some basic steps to get started with integrating SEO with PR.
1. Develop a customer / media-centric keyword glossary
Start by fleshing out a list of keywords that are pain-point oriented to customers and media. But ensure that these keywords are not just terms you think are important, but are terms that have search demand behind them. Free tools like the Google AdWords keyword tool or paid tools like SEM Rush provide the data necessary to help you make decisions when creating the glossary.
Be sure to group your glossary into relevant categories to provide greater ease of use, and begin to matrix out web assets that are already optimized for each keyphrase. This way, you not only have a guide for how you should title new content, but you have a record of how to reference existing assets.
After the glossary is created and approved, you’ll need to do two things. The first is to socialize the glossary to your team members and existing marketing partners and ensure its use is enforced as part of content creation processes. The second is to consider the glossary a living, breathing document you add to over time as consumer and media demand is in a constant state of flux.
The benefit of this actually goes beyond search rankings and traffic: by creating content following a keyword glossary that is research-based, you’ll always be creating content that is of interest to your target. One of the more powerful ways interest is expressed in our world is simple: search demand.
2. Conduct a technical (code-level) SEO audit of your client / company website
Today’s PR teams must be literate in modern web languages, able to analyze / make recommendations to a content management system and understand web usability. Without having an optimized home base on the web (in the form of a company website or blog) any signal you are generating that a search engine might want to reward you for could be accomplishing nothing.
We have seen examples where just a few tweaks to a CMS or removal of a few lines of code (for example, if the search engines are blocked from accessing a significant portion of a site via a poorly-coded Robots.txt file) have caused significant improvements to natural search traffic.
The point is not to create self-imposed roadblocks to success. If your team is unable to assess websites or blogs from a code-level standpoint and make recommendations, it’s time to either train your team, hire someone new or get help. Technical roadblocks should not be barriers to success at this point in your marketing.
3. Actually optimize your content: for users first, then search engines
This sounds obvious, but we’ll say it anyway: actually optimize your content. A lot of PR pros and marketers only go as far as talking about optimization but don’t actually follow-through with it. It is a fundamental shift for most communications professionals to think of how their content will be found from an inbound perspective as they’ve focused on outbound for so long. But flipping your team’s mindset from outbound to inbound is critical to scale SEO results.
The key part of optimization is to understand it is not simply to create content for search engine spiders. Rather, it is to improve the usability of content for users first, then also be findable by search engines for terms that matter. At the end of the day, optimization is still people-driven as search demand is driven by humans, not robots.
Other items you’ll need to consider as part of an SEO process are creating a measurement process to show improvements and make data-driven decisions, as well as integration with other online marketing tactics like social media. But evolving your communications processes to play to a web-friendly world is something you can approach iteratively. Don’t feel overwhelmed or that you need to do everything right now. Start by nailing down the basics and then incorporate into a more holistic digital marketing process as you get comfortable.