Search Engine Optimization:
It’s a Brand New PR Landscape
By Carolyn Kim
earch engine optimization (SEO) is cen- ers will stop coming to use their service. That’s
tral to the life of any organization. It’s no why they’ve developed these algorithms to
longer a matter of simply having a good measure the value of a Web site in comparison
Web site or providing easily accessible to what a user is looking for. The process of
and relevant content—it’s about being SEO, then, is one of refining your site to be the
found when there are literally millions of com- best possible result for search engines to pro-
petitors. The result of the massive online growth vide to anyone who looks for your company,
over the past few years has led to PR professionals brand, product or service.
being tasked with understanding, securing and People often ask why they should invest in SEO
building an organization’s online presence. when they can purchase ads online, contribute
more to Web site design and online resources.
An SEO Primer The answer is two-fold.
Before getting into why SEO is central for
public relations, it’s important to know exactly Be Easy to Find
what SEO will (and won’t) do. SEO is about “or- First, no matter how good of a Web site you’ve
ganic” listings in a search engine. An organic created, if people can’t find it among the millions of
listing is what you’ll see directly in the middle other sites, it won’t matter. You won’t be reaching
of your screen after you type in a phrase to a your publics online. About 80% of sites are found
search engine. The listing of sites within an or- through search engines. Of every 10 people you’re
ganic section is based on an algorithm of mul- hoping to reach online, eight will be using a search
tiple factors (for Google, which is by far the in- engine to find what they’re looking for.
dustry leader, there are well over 200 factors at Without SEO, your site may show up in the list-
play). The paid advertising, which is purchased ing…but you could end up on page 5, 10…or may-
through a bidding system, is seen on the right- be 500. A brief search of “Public Relations” showed
hand side and sometimes in a colored box that there are over 81 million pages that come up
above the organic listings. for the phrase. But in reality, most users won’t ever
To do well in SEO, you need to understand look past the second page…probably not even
what search engines have as a goal. Search en- the first. That’s why the top listings (positions one
gines are in the business of making sure every through 10) are far more valuable than others.
user who comes to them finds exactly what If you’re not found within the top 20 (or the
they are searching for. If they don’t deliver, us- first two pages), it’s almost like you don’t ex-
The process of SEO, then, is one of refining your site to be the
best possible result for search engines to provide to anyone who
looks for your company, brand, product or service.
ist at all. Still not convinced? Consider the last
time you clicked for “more results” on a search Make Keywords Work
beyond the second page. Most people don’t
To have strong content that helps
ever do that (unless they’re looking for where
search engines match your site with us-
their own site comes up). ers, you’ll need to make sure you have solid
keywords used throughout. But this begs the
Building Your Online Credibility question, how do you select a keyword?
Second, SEO is important because it builds online
To begin with, in SEO, “keywords” doesn’t
credibility. When your product, name, and service necessarily mean a single word. In fact, most
comes up in organic search results, people auto- “keywords” are 3-5 words because few people
matically associate that with level of expertise. search for only one word at a time. You’ll also
By placing higher in the organic listings, peo- want to ask the question, “How will people
ple assume you’re a better fit than sites below search for us online?” This list will probably
you. By default, you’re gaining an impression of include your company name, brands, services
and products. You should also include the ge-
being the best match for what they need or are neric terms for these. If you’re having trouble,
looking for because they know you “earned” the ask 5-10 people in your company to make a
position. You can’t buy it. list of 5 terms they would put into a search en-
On average, a little less than half of people even gine if they wanted to find your organization.
bother to read the purchased adds on the right Next, pull out a Thesaurus and make your
hand side of the screen. And only about two or list longer by finding possible variations for
three out of every 10 will click on paid advertising. phrases and words. (If you’re running ana-
The others will remain in the organic listings. Not lytics on your site, you can also pull up the
report that shows what phrases led people to
only are organic pages more likely to be clicked
your site previously. Determine if they match
on, but the higher you are in the organic listings is your content, and, if so, include those as well).
also a factor. The closer you are to being the num-
A final way to build your list is by visiting a
ber-one result, the more clicks you’ll receive into search engine and typing in your phrases. Of-
your site. The lower you are, the more your clicks ten, they’ll make suggestions on other ways
will start decreasingly quite measurably. to search for content matching your query.
No one is arguing that you don’t need a strong You can add those phrases to your list.
Web site design, or user functionality, or solid and Over time, you’ll find that not all of these
compelling content. After all, once users get to your keywords are ones you’ll want to keep. This is
site, that’s when all of those come in to play. That’s a natural part of the process for SEO strategy.
And taking these steps will give you a great
why they’ll stay. But before you can get your pub-
start for your keyword list!
lics to stay on your Web site, they’ve got to find it.
You’re Not Done Yet up at the top? When searching for product by
At this point, you may be thinking that since
its description and not name, will your brand
your name is so well known to your publics, it’s
still show in the top five?
not really necessary to engage in SEO. After all,
When you employ SEO strategy, your site
everyone who needs to find you already knows
should start showing up not only for your brand
who you are. This line of thinking leads to missed
names but generic terms. This makes sure that
opportunities to engage with new publics.
you reach your current publics as well as new
You may find that you come up quite high
people who are unfamiliar with your organiza-
in search engines for your company name or
tion. (If you’re not reaching people on those
product title. That’s good news. You absolutely
generic terms, your competition will be.)
need to rank for those proper nouns. But what
The best SEO efforts involve collaboration be-
about generic terms? If you type in the indus-
tween departments. You’ll need to harmonize your
try you’re in, does your organization still come
online messaging and design with tech-
nical jargon and specifications. It’s not
an easy process and usually requires
people from PR, Marketing, IT and Web
Development along the way—but it’s
well worth it. Here are some pillars of
SEO to keep in mind as you begin opti-
mizing your site.
The Pillars of SEO
1. Content: Your online content is
possibly the most important as-
pect of your entire SEO effort. It’s where
search engines go to examine text and
see what your site is all about. And, it’s the place 4. Technical Aspects: Make sure your server is
functioning well, which will ensure that
people will go to get all the details they need (and your Web site loads quickly for users. Sometimes
determine if you actually meet what they are look- people share a server based on their hosting
ing for). Content needs to be crisp, original and agreement. If possible, have only your site on the
engaging to keep people from leaving your site— server. Also, make sure there are no technical in-
what’s commonly referred to as bouncing. At the structions on the server that keep search engines
same time, you’ll need to ensure that your key- from visiting your site (you can ask your IT team).
words are found throughout the text in a natural
way. Make sure you’re talking about your brand,
company, product and descriptions.
5. Monitor and Analyze: By monitoring your
SEO results, you’ll be able to refine your
content, meta tags and links (as well as numerous
2. Meta Tags: Meta tags are part of the
technical side of your site—but they
other areas within SEO) for higher performance.
You can also make sure your pages are indexed by
have a huge impact. You can find them in the search engines—or submit them for consider-
code of your Web site. First, check your title ation if they’re not included at this time.
tags. Each page needs a unique title (which As with many niche areas, SEO can be a full-
also includes Keywords) and makes sense to time job and involves a plethora of tools and
people when reading it. You’ll also need an in- implementation tactics. For the modern PR pro-
dividual description tag and keyword tag for fessional, it’s essential to understand what SEO is
each page. Check with your web developer to and the value it provides to organizations.
make sure the tags are in the proper order for In today’s world where more information is
the search engines to review. being created than ever before, publics are be-
coming increasingly difficult to reach. Breaking
3. Links: Part of being in the online community
is being part of the “Web” aspect of “World
through the noise and conveying information
is a skill that’s constantly evolving. That’s why
Wide Web.” That means, search engines like to see
reaching people right when they look for a prod-
connections between sites: Links. When someone
uct, service or organization is critical.
links to you, the search engine sees that as a “vote”
PR professionals who use SEO set their organi-
for the value of your site. By creating strong and
zations above others by being in the place people
compelling content (Point #1) you’ll be giving peo-
are looking, at the time people are looking, with
ple a reason to link to you. Then, you also need to
the information and service people want. PRN
selectively choose quality sites to link out to. Make
sure they are helpful in relations to the content on Carolyn Kim is an account executive at Ambassador
the page and worthy sites to be linked to. Advertising Agency in Orange County, CA.
Web Writing 101: Engage SEO,
Add SEM for More Online Success
By PR News Editors
ommunications executives already ■ Have you overlooked any keyword phras-
know that online content optimiza- es? In terms of planning an SEM campaign,
tion involves way more than choos- Blum offers communications and market-
ing keywords and embedding ing execs a key guideline: “Don’t pay for
hyperlinks. It is a nuanced process the top position in paid ads, especially if
that ties together strategies from public rela- your budget is limited. The third position
tions and marketing, and—when done effec- is very effective.”
tively—it embodies true integration of online
and offline, SEO and SEM and marketing and ■ Create SEO and SEM strategies that are
communications. symbiotic, not cannibalistic.
The best practices below address ways in SEO strategies, which center on organic
which communications executives can leverage search, are customer-centric, developed spe-
SEO and SEM together to facilitate this ultimate cifically with users’ search habits in mind. SEM,
integration and to reap the bottom-line benefits or paid search, is more marketingminded (see
as a result. sidebar for more on the differences between
SEO and SEM).
■ Analyze the competition. However, both rely on keywords, which are
Keyword optimization is a critical piece of the chosen by communications and marketing exec-
SEO puzzle. The second part of this keyword de- utives. If these two groups don’t work in tandem
velopment process is to analyze the competitive with one another, they could inadvertently com-
landscape to avoid choosing search terms that mit keyword cannibalization.
are already overused. “Keyword cannibalization is when SEO and
When analyzing SEO competition, Kai Blum, SEM [strategies] compete against each other,”
director of search engine marketing at MS&L says Robb Hecht, senior vice president and
Digital, recommends asking (and answering) digital marketing strategist at imc strategy lab.
the following questions: “Ensuring that SEO and SEM work together will
■ Who is top-ranked for your desired help prevent any overlaps and enable the cre-
keyword phrases? ation of synergies that could have otherwise
■ Did they optimize their site? Because SEM costs money—specifically in the
■ How many incoming links to they have? form of pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns—com-
(Check www.backlinkwatch.com to find out.) petitive strategies can be wasteful. Instead, “Use
■ How difficult would it be to outrank them PPC to supplement SEO,” Blum says. “Investing in
for the selected phrase? SEO will save you PPC money in the long run.”
As for analyzing SEM competition: ■ Don’t forget to follow through with
■ How many competitors do you have? evaluations of your conversion rates.
Conversion refers to whatever goals you estab-
■ What is the potential cost?
lished for your various Web properties, including:
■ Requests for more information Symbiotic Relationship
Between SEO & SEM
■ Downloads To confuse SEO with SEM would be
easy—with only a slight difference in their re-
When deciding how to revise and shape Web spective acronyms, some people mistakenly
content, it is important to see which past strate- use them interchangeably. (Throw in SMM
gies had the biggest impact on conversions. and SMO—social media marketing and social
“Invest in conversion rate optimization to media optimization—and all bets are off.)
increase ROI—your excellent search results list- For communications and marketing execu-
ings will be worthless if you don’t pay attention tives, though, the difference should be clear,
if not obvious; SEO leverages keywords and
to conversion,” Blum says.
content development to boost search results
“Test different versions of your conversion pag- organically, while SEM relies on paid meth-
es with tools like Google Web site Optimizer.” ods, including pay-per-click, to drive traffic. In
short, the former is PR-driven, and the latter
■ Marry online and offline strategies. mirrors more traditional advertising and
As always, digital and traditional strategies marketing models.
can’t operate independently of one another. Despite their differences, both models can
When they are two halves of the respective be used in conjunction with one another to
whole, you will end up with a sum that’s greater collectively enhance search strategies and to
than its parts—for the better. compensate for the others’ weaknesses.
Keywords—the crux of optimization—are an For example, SEO tends to be regarded more
ideal place to start the process of integrating highly because of its organic nature, but
your online and offline strategies. Robb Hecht, SVP of imc strategy lab, points
out its disadvantages:
“Know your keywords and use them online and
off—in media training, interviews, fact sheets, • Unpredictable
• Takes time to see results
etc.,” says Sarah Skerik, a vice president of PR
• Complex and dynamic
Newswire. “Build traction for your brand against • Requires an ongoing investment
key terms.” • Ill-suited for developing awareness rela-
tive to other channels
■ Optimize all social media content.
“You have to be patient about organic search
“Social media optimization and SEO are be-
results—it may take a few months,” says Kai
coming inextricably linked,” Hecht says. “Develop Blum, director of search engine marketing at
tools, applications and properties to activate your MS&L Digital. “Run pay-per-click ads in the
brand advocates, allowing users to aggregate, meantime.”
tag, rank, share and comment on your content. SEM is certainly more immediate and control-
Social input like tagging and ranking guide not lable, so it can be used early on in an initiative
only what information search engines present in while SEO efforts are gaining momentum.
response to user queries, but also the order and Plus, insights revealed by SEM metrics can
rankings of what they present.” help shape optimization strategies.
Whatever you do, Hecht says, don’t make your “A continual evolution of your search term
content all about you. research is achieved by analysis of all the SEM
“To affect search results positively, give your keywords that drive clicks,” Hecht says. “This
customers tools and a reason to generate posi- can be used to find the terms that drive the
highest volume and conversion rates, which
tive content about your brand,” he says. PRN can then be applied to your SEO campaign.”
Don’t Play Google Hide & Seek:
Some Tips to Improve SEO Rankings
By Devin Davis and Karianne Stinson
earch engine optimization is a valu- PR, SEO is smart, effective copywriting. Learning
able tool that PR professionals can how to incorporate SEO tactics into PR for greater
utilize to boost the effectiveness of visibility should be a key component of success
their campaigns, and ultimately, drive for any forward thinking professional.
greater awareness for their clients. SEO
is a powerful way to generate awareness because
it facilitates higher placement in the results on
search engines like Google. In this article, we will
Just like PR, SEO is smart,
give a basic overview of SEO and offer PR profes- effective copywriting.
sionals easy-to-implement essentials of SEO for
press releases and Web sites. With these SEO in-
sights, you can advise your clients on strategies
to improve their search engine ranking. What Search Engines Do
SEO is not about tricking search engines; it’s about
Intersection of PR and SEO Explained making the main focus of your content (a press re-
Good SEO practice in PR is quickly becoming lease or Web page) friendly to search engines and
an industry standard. SEO is the process of im- readers alike. The concept is not all that different
proving the volume or quality of traffic to a Web from how one would write press materials.
site or a web page (such as a blog) through opti- As PR professionals, we want to make our main
mization of the sites content, text, tags, links and point clear to the audience. In SEO, it is important
other elements. SEO drives traffic from search to clearly state the main point using specific words
engines via “natural” or unpaid (“organic” or “al- or phrases that people might enter into a search
gorithmic”) search results. More traffic means engine to learn more about your topic. These are
greater visibility for your clients. This is a piece of known as keywords and keyword phrases.
the search engine marketing (SEM) puzzle, which ■ Crawl: Search engine spiders are bits of
also includes paid online advertising like display computer code that find and analyze con-
and pay per click (PPC) advertising. tent on Web pages. As the spiders crawl, or
As the concepts of both the traditional news go from page to page, the code reads the
cycle and media continue to evolve, the need content to decide the topic. For example,
to make PR materials widely available via search if it is a library Web site, the spider should
engines is key to reach the appropriate audience read content about books. Spiders also fol-
and extend the life of your news. In addition to low links from one page to the next. The
the traditional media, SEO will help client news text around the link, known as anchor
be discovered by potential customers, bloggers text, will give the search engine some idea
and other key influencers. PR professionals must about the new site.
become proficient with SEO tools and tactics in
order to succeed in this space. Luckily, many of
■ Index: The spider is not just browsing
the tools are already in the PR toolbelt. Just like content, but also storing it in a giant database.
Spiders gauge how relevant the content is
against words searchers use (keywords). It SEO expert, suggests two to four occur-
also saves all content for future searches. rences of your keywords in a copy of about
■ Rank: Search engines follow a complex set 500 words. Anything more is seen as “key-
of rules to deliver the most relevant results word stuffing” and will hurt the search en-
to searchers. The formula search engines gine rankings and readability. If keywords
use is kept secret to keep the ranking pro- are used too often, search engines might
cess fair and effective. However, we know think the release is spam so it will penalize
that the content the spiders crawl is ranked the release in the rankings.
for a given keyword based on the content Most importantly, the release should be writ-
the spider reads and the links leading to ten for readers and not the search engines.
There are a few tools you can use to find the
SEO for Press Releases—The Basics appropriate keywords for your news release:
An optimized news release is a regular news http://adwords.google.com/select/Key-
release but with keywords and keyword phras- wordToolExternal—The Google AdWords tool
es specifically chosen and sprinkled appropri- is the easiest to use.
ately throughout the headline, subhead, lead
and body to ensure search engines can index it http://blogpulse.com/trend—blog-specific
easily for the words your audience will search. and a good way to find trending keywords.
Press releases optimized with keywords and link- http://www.wordstream.com/keyword-
ing back to the client’s Web site improves search niche-finder/—Find keywords targeted to your
engine rankings and can help secure greater specific niche audience.
coverage in the media.
■ Title: Headlines and subheads should
Keep in mind: SEO efforts in press releases
include the most popular keywords and
will be just an enhancement to your client’s SEO
keyword phrases relevant to the release
success. Good SEO is an ongoing process that
as these carry the most weight with
draws on a broad range of factors including au-
search engines and potential readers. For
thority of a domain, links to a particular site and
example, if your keywords are “new
how many users click through to a given site. In es-
homes” your headline might be, “ABC
sence, the best a press release can do is be a strong
Builds New Homes in Seattle.” Write like
linkback for a bevy of important keywords.
people search and speak.
■ Keywords: Be sure to clearly state the
■ Language: Understand and mirror the
main point of the release using words
language used by the intended audience.
people actually search. These are your
This will increase click-through rate and
keywords. A press release should focus on
the effectiveness of the message.
one keyword or keyword phrase; too many
keywords will clutter the copy and make it ■ Content: Shorter press releases are always
harder for search engines to identify the better for search engines. Keep announce-
focus. Use keyword tools to determine the ments between 300 to 500 words if possible.
best (potentially colloquial) keywords for Keyword-tagged rich media such as videos
your announcement. For example, if your and images can increase the rankings, as
keywords are “new home” but most people well. Search engines break out searches for
search “new homes,” you are missing out images and videos, so including and tagging
on the majority of relevant searches. these items with your keywords will open
your release up to these additional searches.
Repeat your keywords a few times, but
■ Links: Make sure to include anchor text
don’t overuse them. Lee Odden, PR and
(clickable text in a hyperlink) to impor-
tant keywords and link back to the client’s
Want to Learn More Web page with a similar SEO strategy. For
About SEO for PR? example, if anchor text is “accounting soft-
ware” be sure to link to a page optimized
Here are some blogs that will give you tips for the keywords “accounting software”
and effective strategies for incorporating SEO
tactics into your PR plan.
in the page content. So “accounting soft-
ware” will be in the title and the copy will
• Lee Odden and the TopRank Online Mar-
be about your accounting software.
keting Blog—Posts cover search engine
marketing, social media, and online public Optimize your boilerplate to include links (in-
relations. http://www.toprankblog.com/ cluding the http:// of the Web site address)
• Bruce Clay, Inc.—Topics covered include
and keywords. When you use anchor text,
Internet marketing, search engine optimi-
zation, PPC, social media marketing, online remember to use keywords. Avoid the
branding and Web analytics. http://www. “click here” words that tell search engine
bruceclay.com/blog/ spiders nothing about the content.
• Outspoken Media—Discusses news and
tips in Internet marketing, search engine Web Page Optimization
optimization and social media. http://out- For Web page optimization, consider both
spokenmedia.com/blog/ the quality of content and how the content
Want to dig deeper into SEO? is presented. Smart, effective keyword-rich
To learn more about search engines and the SEO copy remains a prime concern. All PR materi-
industry, here are a few blogs that cover current als should be written with SEO in mind and
news and trends in the search engine industry.
follow best practices to ensure the highest
• Search Engine Land—Content provides possible search engine ranking. Pay attention
information about search marketing and to the following details when advising your
how search engines work. http://searchen-
gineland.com/ client on SEO:
• Search Engine Journal—Topics focus on ■ Web site Structure: Search engines can’t
search engine industry news including see, access or index improperly posted
search engine optimization and search
content; thus crawl-ability is foremost
engine marketing. http://www.searchen-
ginejournal.com/ on this list. This is an important technical
• SEOmoz Daily SEO Blog—Provides news and requirement for the Web site. If the site
tips on search engine optimization and Inter- can’t be found, the content will languish
net marketing. http://www.seomoz.org/blog no matter how high quality.
SEO Experts on Twitter ■ Content: Like with editors and bloggers,
For quick SEO tips and the latest news about In-
the quality and relevancy of the content
ternet marketing, follow these industry leaders.
attracts interest and compels visitors to
share the information elsewhere. Inbound
@dannysullivan links (links directed to your Web site from
@audette other Web pages) are a key component
@andybeal of Web page success. Quality content will
@seosmarty consistently produce the highest link con-
@greywolf version rate (the ratio of those who visit to
@leeodden those who link after viewing). This increas-
@randfish es your audience as well as your search
engine ranking. The more links that lead
to your Web site, especially if they use your
keywords as anchor text, the higher the
search engine ranking. Be sure to include
your keywords in your content, but keep is good to understand the basics of good,
the content easy to read and understand. optimized Web design.
■ Web Page Elements: Getting the keyword Incorporating effective SEO techniques into
targeting right in the most important Web your PR campaign can improve your search
page elements (titles, URLs and internal engine rankings and click-through rates. How-
links) provides a big boost in the poten- ever, SEO certainly cannot stand alone and con-
tial ability of a page to perform well. For tent is still the most important element.
example, in a press release that mentions Never underestimate the power of the message
a product, make sure the key product de- youcreatetodrivetraffictoaclientsite.Athoughtout
scriptors are in the title tag, the URL and and well-executed public relations campaign will
that your text links to the product. always attract far more links, and results, than a
■ User Experience: An uncluttered, clean bunch of well-placed keywords. PRN
and fast loading site will make it easier
Devin Davis, senior account executive, Sterling Com-
for your visitors to find what they want.
munications, works with technology clients in the
The easier your Web site is to use and un-
wireless, silicon and testing spaces. Karianne Stinson,
derstand, the more likely it is that your account associate, Sterling Communications, sup-
visitors will link back to you. While typi- ports clients in the enterprise software, consumer and
cally beyond PR professionals’ control, it B2B Web services markets.
Cut Through the Competition
Online With Quality PR Content
By Andrea Walker
company’s public relations/mar-
keting plan boils down to a main
objective: create public awareness, Content creation is a
which in turn generates leads to proactive approach for
customers/clients. As part of this your company to build brand
objective, your company’s marketing team will recognition and credibility
probably go buy radio spots, billboards, and
while being a part of the
sponsorships and conduct media outreach.
All these outreach methods are fine as long communication process.
as they meet your company’s marketing goals.
Outbound marketing can still be effective but
people (not consumers) are also likely to be bet-
ter leads if they come seek you out. Also, think erally like the content will then seek out the au-
about the amount of time it takes to send press thor to learn more about them or their company.
releases, follow up with media, secure interviews Content that provides value will connect with
while waiting for those phone calls your out- people and keep your company top of mind.
bound advertising should be generating. To reach people, you have to figure out not
Content creation is a proactive approach for only what your content will be, but also how to
your company to build brand recognition and distribute it to your audience. Also, think about
credibility while being a part of the communica- how your content can provide value and whom
tion process. Communicators need to understand it can help. Your content will be ineffective if it
their marketing message and be active in helping comes across as self-serving or promotional.
craft a plan to communicate your message. Content that is authentic and helpful will
Content creation should be part of any compa- build better brand relationships. This can even
ny’s marketing plan. It is more time-consuming apply to articles about your company in print
on the front end to craft various types of con- media. The more transparent and authentic
tent. But from a long-term perspective you will your company is, the easier time you will have
spend less time searching for business. Instead, getting people’s attention. This boils down to
the business will come to you. how you want your company‘s message to be
perceived by the public. All your content has to
Choosing Your Content reflect back to your company’s brand.
Before we talk about your company’s different
types of content creation, we need to figure out Make Your Content Stand Out
what kinds of content people would find inter- What types of content does your company al-
esting or informative about your company. Basi- ready produce? Press releases, brochures, e-mails
cally, people read content that is interesting, in- or even direct mail? This type of content is more
formative or entertaining. Your content can have or less information about your company. This is a
one or all three of these values. People that gen- good building block.
Our Web content, including words and the as-
sets our words describe (i.e., images, video, au- Align Your Web Copy
dio, ecommerce transactions and downloadable With Strategic Goals
material), must strategically support our pur-
pose, our reason for being, our promise of value. Is your Web copy communicating your
brand? A strategic approach to writing Web
In marketing, our brand is the entire experience
copy replaces any ambiguity across all prod-
we convey to our audience(s). It’s what we stand uct and/or service areas with strategic clarity.
for, our promise of value. Whether we’re a com- When planning your site, or when adding
mercial enterprise, a non-profit organization or content to an existing site, this checklist will
even an individual looking for a job, everything help ensure that your words deliver value
we say in any communication—including a Web and align with your brand strategy:
page—must align with our promise of value. 1. What is the purpose of this site (or page, or
Our brand promise must live in the words of new content area), and does it align with my
promise of value?
our Web copy and on the pages of our Web site,
whether it’s in a product or service description, 2. To what audience am I communicating and
does my message align with that audience’s
or as a headline for a call to action or online do-
3. Am I providing my audience something of
If I’m a manufacturer of PCs and my promise of
value, something that they can’t get else-
value is to help every customer succeed through where?
technological expertise and innovation, then I
4. Is the content benefits-driven or features-
want to make sure that every page of every piece driven?
of marketing communications material aligns
5. What is my call to action? What do I want
with this promise of value.
my visitor to do and how does that action
Similarly, each page of your Web site must com- align with my promise of value?
municate, on some level, your promise of value
and help differentiate your organization from a
crowded field of competitors—whether you’re a tion or am I providing, in clear terms, value that
cause-driven nonprofit or a product- or service- will engage my audience and prompt action?”
driven commercial enterprise. This important distinction is crucial to delivering
A strategic approach to Web content, one that on our brand and promise of value.
aligns all pages with an overarching brand prom- We rely on the Web as the ultimate repository of
ise of value, provides the contextual foundation information. When we want to learn more about a
we need to understand the experiential aspects topic, we visit Wikipedia or “google” it, but informa-
of our brand and define the organizational per- tion delivered in a readable format is not enough.
sona in concrete, unambiguous terms. What we write on our Web sites, and the words we
Ultimately, a Web site and all associated copy and use to support the assets we provide must serve a
assets must deliver value and encourage our audi- singular purpose—to provide a clear and valuable
ence to take action, whether that action is to pur- brand experience that encourages action. PRN
chase, donate, join, agree, read more, etc.
A strategic approach to our site (or page) Andrea Walker is CEO/owner of W. Social Marketing, an
means that when we write, we take a step back integrated public relations/marketing firm.
and ask objectively: “Am I presenting informa-
Put Brand Strategy in the Driver’s
Seat When It Comes to Web Copy
By Alex S. Kasten
or anyone venturing into creative Web
content, one simple Google search will
unearth hundreds of “top ten tips” articles In essence, the essay
on effective Web writing. Most of these
lists establish two things right off the bat:
strategy is not unlike a
1) Studies of Web use suggest that you have brand strategy, and an effective
just a few seconds to capture your reader’s at- Web content strategy relies on a
tention, and similar approach.
2) Web site visitors will read about 20% of
the content on your page—you need to write
and organize information accordingly.
Writing for the Web, we’re told, flies in the face
of everything we ever learned about composi- Back to Basics
tion. On the Web, for example, we’re taught to Ironically, if we really want to engage our
repeat, repeat, repeat because repeating key audiences effectively and deliver real, sus-
words “optimizes” a search engine’s ability to tainable value, then I maintain that concep-
scan and pick up these words. We’re advised to tualizing and writing for (and more generally,
eschew formal prose and conventional narrative providing content for) a Web site is vastly
in favor of short bites of information driven by more akin to what we learned in school than
action-oriented headlines, bullet lists and hooks not. Let’s turn to the conventional essay. For
because if you don’t engage your audience in the essay, we’re taught to pick a topic and
three to five seconds, you’ll lose them. And this then decide what we want to accomplish—
is just the tip of the iceberg. our purpose—i.e. to inform or to persuade.
The common theme throughout all the articles Then we plan how we’ll go about getting
we read is how vastly different writing copy for from point A to point B.
the Web is from writing for print publication. To do this, we develop an outline that includes
Focusing on the tactical details for successful our thesis, our supporting ideas, our introduc-
Web copy is certainly important, but if, in the tion and our conclusion. In short, we develop a
process, we lose sight of our strategic goals, we strategy that aligns everything we write with one
will confuse or, worse yet, lose our audience. goal. In essence, the essay strategy is not unlike
Often, when I evaluate corporate or non-profit a brand strategy, and an effective Web content
Web sites, I find that they may be easy to read, strategy relies on a similar approach.
but fail on a much larger, strategic level. The pag- Your brand lives in every interaction you have
es lack consistent messaging, don’t represent with your audience(s). Much more than a logo
the brand effectively, don’t deliver value to the and identity package, your brand is also con-
reader, and, arguably most critically, don’t com- veyed in the content you deliver—in sales pre-
municate a clear and compelling call to action sentations, marketing material, proposals, and
that aligns with the organizational goals. the words on your Web site.
Now, let’s build another value into your com- scribe your company’s brand. Now, think about
pany’s content. How can you make your content how your content can reflect those keywords.
stand out from competitors or other similar in- Now that you constructed your content’s val-
formation? Interesting content can involve po- ues, evaluate the content you already produce
sitioning your company as a thought leader in for your company. In the previous paragraph, I
your industry, which also helps with brand cred- mentioned a few examples of typical company
ibility. Or, you could look at creating content that content. Are you currently measuring your con-
shows off how innovative your staff or company tent’s effectiveness? How many leads or referrals
is in your industry. If your company is more gen- have you garnered? To make it a little easier, you
eral consumer or lifestyle oriented, find an enter- can start with what you already have and build
taining angle to your products or services. more content ideas from there.
Sometimes, your own great content can even
spawn more business ideas for your company. Keep Your Site Current
There are some companies that produce such Also, every company has a Web site. Think
compelling content they are more known for about updating your site’s content on a more
their forward-thinking ideas as well as what the regular basis with articles, buyer personas, and
company provides. To get your creative juices white papers or even embedding your compa-
flowing, write down unique adjectives that de- ny’s e-newsletter. This will keep people coming
Think Like an Online Journalist
Try following these six tips to create potent 4. Package Your Story
online PR content: Think about elements you can incorporate to
bring your story to life and add more depth.
1. No Waiting Around These include:
Media is great but it’s not the only way to tell
your story. Create content you can share with the • Video;
public as well as distribute through traditional & • Photos;
online platforms. • Graphics; and
• Sidebars—polls, quizzes, contests
2. What’s Your Story?
Figure out what kind of story you want to tell 5. Share Your Story
about your company. Does company news cen- Send your press release to media contacts, but post
ter around… a longer press release on your Web site. This also
helps with the Web site’s search engine optimiza-
• Company accomplishments & milestones? tion. Also share company news on the following:
• New products?
• Company developments? • Blogs—keep content conversational;
• Company expertise? • Social networking sites;
• Video press release;
3. Is Your Story Interesting? • Newswire services;
• Think about your story’s relevance to your • RSS & Subscribe widgets; and
audience. • Web site & project partner sites.
• Does your story provide some kind of value 6. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
to the public? For example, does the story • Ask customers/fans to share content on their
inform, entertain or both? own social networking sites or blogs.
• Know what, when, where & why when craft- • Also, tap into your professional network &
ing your story. friends for help in sharing your company news.
• Encourage company employees to help
back to your site regularly for fresh content as line that will keep you focused on your writ-
well as help with your SEO. Post your media re- ing and help generate blog ideas. Do some
lease on the company site, as well. When people research and find company blogs you like to
(or even journalists) search for keywords relat- read. Figure out what your targeted audience
ed to press release’s content, they will have an would like to read and start writing.
easier time coming across the press release and As far as content distribution, post and link
your Web site. This is a little easier and less time- your content to social media sites, newswires,
consuming than sending out press releases and your site and other content hosting sites like
hoping to get a journalist to jump on the story. Flickr or Slideshare.
If your company produces a newsletter, include Have good tracking tools in place to see how
action items in your newsletter that can be “how- many people are clicking to your content, length
to” tips or even personal stories or thoughts from of time spent consuming content and then sharing
company staff and CEO. Be creative with this your content to their networks. Track where your
approach and create themed content for your prospects are coming from in terms of how they
newsletter if it’s published regularly. are finding your content. Ultimately, everything
needs to link back to your Web site so prospects
Before You Branch Out can take the next step to find out more about
If you want to venture into other types of your company and want to talk with you. PRN
content, make sure it fits into your content
strategy and whom you want to target. If your Alex S. Kasten is lead strategist and writer for Kasten Con-
company is thinking about blogging, have sulting. Previously, he was director of communications
some ideas in place on what kind of blog you for the Building Wellness Institute.
want to write and then create a content time-
Get Your Company ‘Found’ With
Robust Content and SEO Strategy
By Veronica Fielding
ong gone are the days when link swap-
ping, paid submissions and link farms
Once your team has
worked towards a site’s search engine
rankings. Today’s link building—a criti- devoted the time and
cal component of real SEO—is both a resources necessary to build an
science and an art. It requires a robust content engaging and user-friendly Web
strategy that incorporates many aspects of the site, it’s time to plan a content
corporate communications spectrum, as well as
strategy that drives links, site
a thorough understanding of how to leverage
social media as a link-building tool. visits and, ultimately, more
Links Aren’t Given, They’re Earned
Before developing your link building strategy,
first take a hard look at the Web site you are opti- tant, as it needs to attract readers. The process
mizing. If a Web site is aesthetically unattractive of creating compelling content in many ways
or the content is largely geared towards “selling,” mirrors public relations’ challenge of creating
people will be less inclined to link to it than they content that results in media pickup. Some
would a well-designed site filled with interesting types of content that are likely to generate in-
and regularly updated content. Once your team terest include:
has devoted the time and resources necessary to ■ Lists
build an engaging and user-friendly Web site, it’s
time to plan a content strategy that drives links, ■ Videos
site visits and, ultimately, more business. ■ Case Studies
Create Compelling Content ■ Reviews
Follow these three important steps to ensure ■ Infographics
that you’re creating compelling Web content ■ Interviews
that supports your SEO program:
1. Work toward creating both optimized
and link-worthy content. Content that is
written to support your link building program
should always provide some type of value to
3. Make it easy to share. To encourage post-
ing of your content across multiple plat-
your target audience. That value can be educa- forms, include a message that says, “If you en-
tional, entertaining or thought-provoking. joyed this, please consider sharing it” at the
bottom of the page. Facilitate social sharing by
2. Utilize buzz-worthy formats. The format
of SEO and link building content is impor-
including a “Like” or “Share This” button on each
page piece of content you create.
Keep Your Content Updated you are optimizing, and, if applicable, another
With the launch of Google’s Caffeine indexing link in your boilerplate, “About the Company” or
system, Web sites are crawled quicker and more “About the Author” section. These links should
frequently than in the past. To make the most of point to two different pages of your Web site as
Caffeine, update your Web site content regularly. research indicates that Google only considers
The more often the content is refreshed, the more the anchor text of the first link to a page from
often Google will visit. In addition, the freshness a given URL. Instead of having multiple links
and relevancy of your inbound links is more im- pointing to a single page of your Web site, it is
portant than ever as Google is also discovering better to have multiple links pointing to mul-
new links at a faster rate. This means that attract- tiple pages of your Web site.
ing inbound links should be an ongoing activity, Also, post relevant links in the profile content
not a one-time event. of each of your social media properties, and
include links back to your Web site in your
Social Media and Link Building posts and updates. If you upload product im-
Think of social media as digital word-of-mouth ages on Facebook or Flickr, include a link to
marketing. The original content starts with you, the product page in the image description.
and because you’ve created something deemed When uploading videos to YouTube, include
“share-worthy,” your content is passed along— links to related pages of your Web site in the
links and all—to blogs, Web sites, other social video description.
media sites, etc. Sharing content is one of the Whether the site utilizes the NoFollow attri-
most popular aspects of social media participa- bute or not, it’s a good idea to post links with
tion, making the entire medium a powerful tool your content. Once you’ve posted content that
full of potential for gaining valuable links that someone else finds interesting, entertaining or
support your optimization efforts. valuable, it may be posted on other sites that
Just relying on posting links within your own do pass along “link juice.” These links also help
corporate social media content on other blogs drive traffic to your Web site, a goal in and of
and outposts is not enough, since many social itself, but also a way to capture valuable brand
media sites apply the NoFollow attribute to links fans. People who visit your Web site are more
(see sidebar). likely to link to it from their own Web sites,
Incorporate Links Into Your Content blogs or social media profiles if they like what
When developing content, embed hyper- you have to offer.
links directly on relevant keywords that link Encourage Online Conversations
to optimized pages of your Web site. For ex- Around Your Brand
ample, a fashion Web site writing about the Certain types of content inspire people to,
Emmy Awards might hyperlink the words essentially, work for your brand—sharing links
“Jimmy Choo pumps” in the sentence “Heidi and launching discussions about your products,
Klum looked amazing in her Jimmy Choo services or Web site within the online commu-
pumps and Lorraine Schwartz necklace.” The nities to which they belong. Contests, special
link in this example would point directly to offers, interesting/exciting promotions, etc.,
the page on the fashion Web site about Jim- are all techniques you can use to build a buzz
my Choo shoes. around your brand online, encouraging user-
Search engines give the most value to links generated content and links that support your
within content that follow this general format, link-building program as well as your branding
as this supports their mission of serving up and marketing efforts.
Web sites highly relevant to search queries.
As a general best practice, aim to embed one Plan For Multipurpose Content
link within the first 250 words of the content Clearly link building and social media are not
just activities for the SEO team—these tactics
should be well integrated into your overall mar- The No-Follow Attribute
keting and communications strategy. In fact,
The No-Follow attribute was cre-
almost any type of content created by the com- ated to combat black-hat optimization
pany can be made to work for link building and techniques that were designed to trick the
optimization purposes. search engines into assessing the value of a
Your marketing, public relations and product Web site higher based on the mere quantity
teams should be incorporating optimized an- of inbound links it had amassed.
chor text links into the body of press releases, It is an HTML attribute that webmasters can
blog posts, multimedia content descriptions, etc. assign to links which signals to the search en-
The key is to keep these teams educated about gines that credit should not be given to the
linked site in a way that influences its ranking.
the target keyword/phrases that are important
to your brand and ensure they are all supported Used to prevent blog spam and other spam
content posted for the sole purpose of gaining
through everyone’s link building and social me-
inbound links, the No-Follow attribute is a way
dia communications. for webmasters to discourage off-topic and
When looking for publicity opportunities, self-promotional content from being posted
target publications that have a strong Web on the site, taking away from the original pur-
presence. A media outlet that is active online pose and value of the site for its visitors.
will have a Web site with a strong link profile Many social media Web sites utilize the No-
and social media outposts set up to promote Follow attribute for this same reason.
their articles. These Web-friendly publications Google also encourages webmasters who are
understand the value of links within content. selling ad space on their sites to include the
They will likely allow you to build strategically No-Follow attribute for all paid ads, ensuring
that the advertisers are not “buying” link value.
placed links into the content you provide them
in bylined articles and will keep links active in Sites that utilize the No-Follow attribute include
your company description when writing about Twitter, LinkedIn and most social bookmarking
sites. Digg has an interesting approach to No-
your company or interviewing someone em- Follow, removing the attribute once a user gets
ployed there. enough “Diggs” on their content.
The most important thing to remember when
While the No-Follow attribute can frustrate
strategizing for your link-building program is optimizers, it serves an important purpose and
that there are no shortcuts. Links are tied directly does not usually have a negative effect on a
to quality content. PRN quality optimization and link building program.
White hat optimizers with a solid content
Veronica Fielding is the president/CEO of Digital Brand strategy don’t have to depend on comment
Expressions, which specializes in findability marketing links, artificial promotion of links through
solutions, as well as brand-aligned, integrated SEO, paid social bookmarking sites, or a steady stream
search, and social media marketing programs. of link-filled Twitter posts.
Develop Your Digital Identity
With a Savvy Online Style Guide
By Adrienne Lea
ou did all the requisite research
before starting a rebranding effort, Keeping the Focus Tight
carefully reviewed logo designs and
Focus your style guide on your
selected the perfect logo to help employees and what they need.
move your organization forward. With
that behind you, it’s essential that the language Correspondence, presentations
in all company material supports the rebranding and reports:
• Identify the reader and point of view.
initiative, and that’s hard to do:
• Know why you are writing; is your most im-
■ The logo change and rebranding may re- portant point obvious? Don’t bury the lead.
sult from a merger or acquisition and two • Keep it brief, simple and specific.
organizations often possess different cul- • Maintain a professional tone.
• Avoid improper or confusing jargon.
tures and styles. • Tell the reader what outcome to expect;
■ The current style, and current style guide, will the reader know what to do next or
are outdated but pervasive and everyone what will happen next?
• As the writer, it is your job to make reading
is comfortable with them.
easy. Don’t try to impress with flowery writ-
■ A lot of employees produce material for ing; the more technical or complicated the
your organization; many of these people subject, the more plain and understand-
are content experts, not professional writ- able the written explanation should be.
Avoid unnecessary words and syllables.
ers and style guides bore them.
• Read what you have written out loud and
Logo and graphic guidelines are usually see if it sounds cluttered or pretentious.
produced by a third party; the style guide should • Is the spelling and punctuation correct?
be produced internally. That way it will fully • Are you using the right word, since spell
check doesn’t know you wrote “kiddy” but
reflect the philosophy of rebranding, your organi-
zation’s culture and the specific needs and skill lev-
els of your employees.
• Make e-mail messages easy to read.
Why Bother? • Start with the most important point.
• Use standard writing conventions: complete
Do the rules of grammar change? Your style sentences, correct spelling and grammar.
guide centers on the basics and still seems useful. • Use a subject line that will help recipients
The new logo won’t rebrand the company on find the e-mail later.
its own, it just signals a change. The current style • Be careful with your tone; in business e-
guide doesn’t reflect rebranding, and was prob- mails stay away from too chatty, abrupt, or
ably written before the digital age. While some abrasive.
• Avoid ALL CAPS at all costs.
specific elements may remain unchanged, creat- • Slow down.
ing a new one will emphasize that rebranding • Proofread.
the organization requires full participation of all • Check recipient list before sending.
staff members, and goes far beyond changing
Help Employees Avoid Common Mistakes
Avoid clichés: • In the final analysis • Continue to remain
• A heartbeat away • It is obvious that • Each and every
• Add insult to injury • It is often the case that • Exact same
• Bite off more than you • In the event that • Final completion
can chew • In the final analysis • Final result
• Easier said than done • It is often the case that • First and foremost
• Handwriting on the wall • Needless to say • Focus in
• Make a long story short • Of the opinion that • Free gift
• Worth its weight in gold • Regardless of the fact that • Permeate throughout
• The fact that • Prove conclusively
Avoid empty expressions: • Until such time as • Repeat again
• As previously stated in the • Well aware • Rarely ever
introduction • Whole new • Round in shape
• As you can see from the above • With regards to this matter • Resulting effect
• By virtue of the fact that • Eliminate redundancies: • Revert back
• Came to the realization that • Add back to • Separate out
• Concerning the matter of • Attached together • True fact
• For the purpose of • Basic fundamentals • Yellow in color
• For the reason that • Combine together
• Hopefully • Connected together
logo, typeface and color palette. If this describes your organization, your new style
Most important, whatever drove your organiza- guide can be more technical since writers and edi-
tion’s decision to update its brand must drive your tors are conversant with the rules of grammar and
organization’s use of language. While the use of regard language as craft. In some ways that’s easier,
paper declines, we rely more on the “written” word you can rely on professional style guides and just
than ever before: e-mails have replaced many add the information specific to your company, and
phone calls and often convey the first image peo- worry less about the basics.
ple receive of your organization. However, using professionals requires you to
Promotional material we put online is usually over-emphasize when the rebranding philosophy
longer than paper versions, without printing costs trumps grammar and syntax. If you use freelancers
driving size. We send broadcast e-mails with ever- you must include in the style guide information that
increasing frequency, leading people to “more in- makes the brand identity clear to people who work
formation available online.” for other organizations. In either case you should
emphasize two seemingly contradictory goals:
Think About Your Users
You’ve researched the interests and percep- ■ Flexibility: this is a transition, and not every
tions of customers, potential customers, mem- effort to reflect the organization’s identity
bers of your organization, stockholders. And will work.
you’ve conveyed to all employees the purpose ■ Consistency: the material produced for the
and philosophy of the rebranding initiative. For company must convey the organization’s
the style guide to work, you have to add another identity, not the writer’s or editor’s identity.
layer: your employees. Employees must carry Someone in the company who worked closely
out these philosophical changes daily, and must with rebranding and understands the philosophi-
have tools they can use to do the job. cal changes should supervise the work of these
Some larger organizations employ professional writers and editors to ensure they make the transi-
writers and editors or use a cadre of freelancers.
tion to the new brand identity. In addition, many than that. Address the following with specificity:
professional writers and editors were trained be- ■ How to write e-mails that convey your
fore widespread use of electronic communication; company’s image and stay within profes-
they must adjust their perceptions of the written sional bounds;
word to the electronic age. And you must require
that they resist the most common fault of writers
■ When not to use e-mail;
and editors: putting rules ahead of content. ■ How electronic communication is differ-
Other organizations use staff members to pro- ent: your message must hit people imme-
duce almost all materials. If the majority of your us- diately, shouldn’t make them scroll down
ers are not professional writers and editors, make the page, and should take into account
the style guide something that they can digest. shorter online attention spans;
Forget some of the most technical questions of ■ How and when to use broadcast e-mails;
grammar and syntax—including all those ques-
■ Use of graphics online vs. graphics in print;
tions will bore most employees and prevent them
opening the style guide a second time.
Think about the common mistakes staff mem- ■ Online fonts vs print fonts.
bers make, and include those in the style guide [see
Guide Not Gospel
box below]. Think of employees who are awkward
Finally, you will not bring employees on board
or inept writers and write the style guide for them.
by turning into the style police. Make it clear in
In all cases, professional writers and editors, free-
the style guide why the changes in language
lancers, or full-time employees, use before and
are necessary and important, recognize your
after examples to make your point [see box be-
organization’s limitations when rolling out wide-
low]. This is the easiest and least judgmental way
spread changes, and emphasize repeatedly that
to bring everyone on board, to help all employ-
rebranding is an important and ongoing process
ees see how much more clearly the new graphic
dependent on everyone’s support. PRN
designs and appropriate use of language reflect
the image of your organization.
Adrienne Lea is director of communications for the Ameri-
What’s Online and What’s Not can Society of Nephrology. For the past 15 years she has
This is the digital age. Most style guides give a nod managed publications and communications for nonprofit
professional societies in science and medicine.
to electronic communication but it deserves more
Provide Before and After Examples
Instead of: Before After
“The American Society of Nephrology, in partner-
ship with the National Kidney Foundation and
Dialysis Patient Citizens celebrates World Kidney
Day on Thursday, March 12, 2009.”
Why not try…
“ASN will host a Congressional Reception on March
12 to celebrate World Kidney Day. ASN is educating
lawmakers on the need for increased research funds
for studying chronic kidney disease and its known
causes. The event is being held in partnership with
the National Kidney Foundation and Dialysis Patient
Citizens and will feature special guests…”
For Best SEO Results, Think Outside
The Usual Search Engine Suspects
By PR News Editors
ne needn’t look far to identify recommendations will help them do so effectively.
the crux of SEO—after all, it’s
embedded into its very name. Start by Developing Keyword Strategies
Search engines’ primary raison Search may be evolving, but keywords are still
d’être is to account for all Web a founding pillar of any optimization effort.
content and, in turn, provide results perti- “Keyword phrases are the core of SEO,” says
nent to specific search queries. These engines, Lee Odden, CEO of TopRank Online Marketing,
known more ubiquitously by their names— outlining the following steps to choosing the
Google, Yahoo and Bing, to name a few— best keywords:
acted as stopover points that delivered users ■ Create a keyword glossary: Structure
to their desired destinations. should include categories, primary phras-
This remains search engines’ main function, es, derivatives, permutations, popularity,
but their integration with other social media relevance and competitiveness.
platforms has expanded their applications ■ Brainstorm phrases.
exponentially. This in turn requires commu-
■ Use a keyword research tool: Google Key-
nications professionals to broaden their own
word Tool, Google Insights & Trends, SEM-
horizons when shaping and executing SEO
Rush, WordTracker, Keyword Discovery, etc.
and SEM strategies.
■ Find popularity and variations.
Search Is Everywhere
“[Executives] need to realize that search Think Links
doesn’t just happen on the major search Keywords are the basis of SEO strategies, but
engines,” says Jon Wegman, vice president of links—specially, inbound links—make online
planning and innovation at Moxie Interac- content shoot to the top of research results.
tive. “It happens as consumers look for mov- “Links electrify content in search,” Odden says,
ies, books, locations, reviews, options and facts recommending the following best practices:
across social networks, technology platforms, ■ Earn links with content;
media and mobile devices.”
■ Promote socially;
As such, communicators must consider this
evolving paradigm not just when optimizing ■ Link up with partners;
all online content for search, but also when ■ Cross-link internally;
putting together the best mix of platforms for
■ Embed links in news releases;
marketing efforts. Plus, they need to equip their
own Web properties—corporate Web site, on- ■ Social bookmark pickup; and
line newsroom, etc.—with robust search capa- ■ Use keywords in link text.
bilities that connect users with the information
they want in the click of a mouse. Think Beyond Google
With that in mind, the following strategies and Keywords and links optimize content for
search of any kind, so why only apply keyword to break news, respond to questions and
and link strategies solely to “Google-able” engage with the public.
results, such as news releases? Instead, Weg-
man says, think more broadly to include news- Measure, Share Results and Adapt
room optimization, PR optimization and even Measuring the outcome of SEO initiatives can
people optimization. be done by considering a number of available
He offers the following examples of each: metrics, including:
■ Newsroom optimization and Target: Tar-
■ Newswire service metrics;
get has created an easy-to-navigate and ■ Google and Yahoo alerts;
resource-rich destination for consumers ■ Rankings;
and journalists alike. Features include
■ Social media monitoring;
detailed search functionality, distilled
content areas, result filters a multimedia ■ Inbound links;
library, deep links and more. ■ Pickups on blogs, publications, Web sites, etc.;
■ PR optimization and Taylor Guitars: ■ Web analytics for landing pages;
United Airlines’ “United Breaks Guitars”
■ Monitoring blog search engines via RSS;
YouTube fiasco helped increase singer
Dave Carroll’s visibility, but the incident
spawned another, more unlikely celeb- ■ Press release landing page conversion
rity: Taylor Guitars, the maker of the in- tracking.
strument that careless United baggage
handlers destroyed. Tell the Right People
Then, Odden says, it’s all about communicat-
The company attached itself to the vi-
ing that value to the appropriate audiences,
ral video craze started by Carroll by op-
be it top management, marketing, etc., to help
timizing content on its corporate Web
inform their efforts moving forward.
site and newsroom to include popular
Two effective means of making a point to
search terms like “Dave Carroll,” “video”
these audiences are demonstrating cost/sav-
and “United Breaks Guitars.” The result:
ings, and demonstrating what’s lacking.
It became the third-highest result on
“Set keyword ranking goals and estimate the
Google when a user searched “united
cost of achieving the same goals with PPC (pay
per click),” says Odden. “Then demonstrate the
■ People optimization and Whole Foods: cost of organic search traffic versus PPC traffic.”
Whole Foods has operationalized their As for demonstrating what’s lacking, re-
approach to social media, PR and people search a keyword glossary and run a ranking
optimization. Wegman points to the com- report on those phrases to show the lack of
pany’s robust portfolio of inter-connected search visibility. Run a test of a few news items,
social media platforms. Individual stores take benchmark measurements and then show
and categories have dedicated personnel progress. PRN
So, You Think You Know SEO?
A PR News Pop Quiz
By PR News Editors
hough critical to any organization Tool, WordTracker or WordStream.
looking to drive online eyeballs and 7. Which types of files are indexed and ranked
sales, search engine optimization tac- by search engines?
tics and terminology can confound a. Flash
SEO expert Lee Odden, CEO of TopRank Online c. Ajax
Marketing, to create a quiz that would seriously d. PDF
test your SEO acumen. Here goes: e. MS Office documents
True or False f. All of the above
1. Search engine optimization (SEO) is best 8. Which link-building tactics represent best
managed by the corporate IT department. practices for competitive keywords?
2. Google, Yahoo and Bing each have their own a. Submit the company Web site to directories
crawlers and algorithms and should be opti- and search engines once
mized separately. b. Publish a blog, interact with other blogs,
promote content on social sites each week
3. Google Caffeine is an infrastructure update c. Perform backlink analysis on sites already rank-
that involves increasing Google’s ability to index ing well and solicit links from the same sources
larger amounts of content more quickly and has d. Include links in press releases, cross link be-
little to do with rankings. tween pages, microsites and partner sites
4. The MayDay update on Google was focused e. Solicit links in media placements, contrib-
on adding a third column of faceted search op- uted articles and guest blog posts that use key-
tions to the left side of Google search results. words to company content
5. How fast your Web pages load in a brows- f. All of the above
er can affect the ranking of those pages in 9. What are the three most significant influenc-
search results. es on search engine rankings?
a. Meta keyword tag
Multiple Choice b. Meta description tag
6. What are the two least effective methods of c. Title tag
researching keywords? d. Keywords on the page
a. Use content from advertising and marketing e. Links using keywords from other relevant
materials Web sites
b. Analyze competitor Web sites
10. Which list represents the top 3 search en-
c. Use exact matches for proper product and
gines according to comScore?
a. Google, YouTube, Yahoo
d. Survey customers, sales and customer ser-
b. Google, Yahoo, Bing
c. Google, YouTube, Bing
e. Leverage research tools like Google Keyword
Google has over 65 % of market share and war-
Writing for the Web: rants the most attention. Yahoo and Bing will
Some Best Practices soon blend their technologies, thus reducing the
major search engines to two. For most sites, best
According to Jon Wegman, associate di- practice content optimization and link building
rector of Moxie Interactive, there are a hand-
are productive for any major search engine.
ful of tried-and-true best practices when it
comes to writing for the Web, and they all 3. True: Google’s ability to find fresh content and
hinge on the three R’s: recency, responsive- deliver it in search results has improved greatly and
ness and relevancy. With that as a backdrop, will scale as increasing content sources publish on-
consider his specific recommendations: line. Caffeine has little to do with sorting or rank-
• Provide open access to assets, resources ing search results, but may mean your content gets
and content. into Google search results pages quicker.
• Cross-promote, link and utilize social media 4. False: Google made a significant algorithm up-
properties to spread news.
date that occurred in early May 2010 affecting large
• Use automated opt-in feeds to deliver con-
tent to users on the fly. numbers of Web pages containing minimal content
• Provide links across your organization for that previously ranked well for long-tail keywords
contact and escalation points. (three or more words). The MayDay update rein-
• Provide assets in mixed-media format in a forces the need for improved Web content quality.
simple and intuitive way. The third column added to the Google search results
• Proactively make contact with journalists
page design is not related to the algorithm change.
and influential consumers.
• Allow users to choose the format and cat- 5. True: Google announced in April 2010 the
egory for the information they want. addition of Web page load time as a ranking fac-
• Measure and track usage and assets, and tor. Faster-loading pages equate to a better user
solicit feedback. experience and increase in the number of clicks.
6. A & C: What companies name products are
not always what customers or the media will use
ANSWERS TO THE PR NEWS POP QUIZ to search for those products.
1. False: For most organizations, IT will help 7. A, D & E
implement technical and on-page SEO changes, 8. F: There are literally hundreds of link-build-
but a partnership between marketing, PR and IT ing tactics, and any activity that results in an in-
should set the direction, strategy and oversight bound link from another topically relevant Web
of implementation of keyword research, opti- site is good for users and for SEO.
mized copywriting, link building and analysis of 9. C, D & E
Web site visitor data. 10. A
2. False: While each search engine is different, PRN