SEO has been a well-established practice for many years, yet it remains a mystery even to those thoroughly steeped in the art and science of promotion. This is a problem because the absence of SEO can negatively impact otherwise well-thought-out sales strategies, marketing campaigns, and even brand positioning. With every day that passes, it becomes more and more important for public relations pros to understand the significance SEO carries in crafting a smart strategy.
First, some basics.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. It is the practice of increasing content’s visibility with search engines (e.g. Google and Bing) through efforts like incorporating relevant keywords into content, writing descriptive metadata, tagging images, and much more.
Why should marketers and PR pros care?
Optimizing content for search engines increases visibility, thus increasing the number of people exposed to your messages – i.e. the most important thing we do.
“Content”, by the way, is anything you’ve designed to be seen by your target audiences. Your website, your whitepapers, your press releases, your social media channels, your thought leadership articles, your webinars – everything that requires a description, be it a handful of tags or a boatload of text, will benefit from being optimized for search.
If what you’re saying now is “But what does that actually get me in the end?”, consider key learnings like:
When a question or need arises, our phones are far and away our most trusted resource, with 96% of people using a smartphone to get things done.
To meet these needs, people are at least twice as likely to use search than other online or offline sources such as store visits or social media. Not only is search the most used resource, it’s the resource 87% of people turn to first.
think with Google, September 2016
And if what you’re saying now is…
“But I’m not an SEO expert. How am I supposed to help with any of this?”
Here’s your answer:
- Bulleted text. Breaking up text into bullets and numbers makes it easier to read. The longer your audience spends on your content (i.e. the better the user experience), the better it will rank in search results.
- Keywords/keyphrases. At the start of any PR program, you should decide on the keywords, keyphrases and topics that are most relevant to your brand. Their relevancy is determined partly by how you want to describe your brand, partly by how your direct competitors describe themselves, and partly by the specific terms your target audiences are using when they search for the products and services you provide. Make sure your content thoroughly (but not obnoxiously) incorporates the terms you’ve deemed important to your positioning.
- Links/backlinks. Search engines decide content’s value by the number of outside sites linking to it. If you want your content to perform better in search, make sure your various online properties, social channels and media friendlies link to it as much as possible.
- Descriptive anchor text. Search engines pay attention to the specific text you use when you hyperlink to outside content. As always, they’re looking for keywords, so be descriptive. “Click here” is wrong. “Read our latest eBook, Why SEO is Important to PR, by Matter Communications” is right.
- Image titles. Surprise! The file names of the images you use are important to SEO. Just like with anchor text, make sure the file names of the images you use online are descriptive and use hyphens, not underscores. “Why_SEO_is_Important_to_PR.jpg” is wrong, and for that matter, so is “pic for blog thing.jpg”. “Why-SEO-is-Important-to-PR.jpg” is right.
- Social Media channels. Remember the rule about how everything that requires a description will benefit from SEO? Social profiles are no exception. Make sure they feature keywords and appropriate links, and keep your activity up so the channels steadily grow over time. Engagement, however, is absolutely paramount. The more people you have engaging with your content – liking, sharing, commenting – the farther your content spreads, and the more links you have telling search engines that your content is valuable.
As you can see, there are a lot of little things we can all do to positively influence the visibility of the content we write, place and promote. You may now go forth, and optimize.
If your curiosity is decidedly piqued, however, remember that some very knowledgeable, very talkative PR and SEO people are just an email away.