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Which SEO tactics should PRs be using to produce stronger content and deliver optimum results for our clients? Our creative director and SEO expert, Roger Taylor, spills the beans…
Lifting the veil
SEO is often incorrectly thought to have come into existence after Google, the world’s most popular search engine. Early SEO (techniques that we now consider “black hat”, such as keyword stuffing) predates Google and came into existence in the early – mid 90s. As soon as websites became popular, so did SEO; the significance of Google to SEO is not just that it is the most popular target, but that it changed the rules for SEO experts with algorithms and regulations designed to enforce ‘quality control’ over websites. Since 2010, content has been king.
PRs are gradually beginning to incorporate SEO into client work – use of keywords/phrases and link-building in blog content and backlinks in press releases are a fairly common sight. But this is only the very tip of the iceberg in understanding and incorporating SEO for the benefit of both your PR team and clients.
Much of the work in achieving optimisation lies ‘behind the scenes’; competitor analysis, optimising code and web design are all just as important as using SEO in your content, if not more so. SEO strategies should ultimately be concerned with the ‘big picture’; whilst optimising html may not sound as exciting as blog writing, it’s the ‘behind the scenes’, less glamorous bits that can determine if anyone will ever find or read your content. Content is only king once you have built the castle.
Using SEO in your PR strategy
Using SEO and analytics can take the pain out of menial, time-consuming tasks for busy PRs, leaving you more time to work with clients on their goals. For your clients, SEO tactics can lead to increased digital connectivity and getting the most out of coverage. Here are our top three ways to use SEO in PR:
To save time…
Identify “fake news”
Many of the rules for search engine optimisation can be turned on their head to help PRs quickly analyse whether a source is credible and spot “fake news”.
While connecting with bloggers, journalists and industry experts is an important part of any digital communications strategy, it can be difficult to tell whether a source is credible or not. As soon as you step away from the broadsheets and journals and into the world of blogging, it’s a lot harder to determine who really is an ‘expert’ and who to trust.
A high ranking in Google doesn’t necessarily mean that a source is trustworthy. ‘Black hat’ SEO tactics are still in use today. While Google will eventually penalise any website using ‘black hat’ techniques, this can take time and the website may have a high ranking for weeks before being penalised.
Instead, you should be looking at the website design (anything badly laid out, packed with adverts and generally unprofessional looking should be avoided), what sources they link to and which parts of their content they choose to back up (it’s rather telling when smaller claims are backed-up, but their big claim that they are selling as “news” is not), their domain authority, and who is linking to them (reputable outlets or spammy sites?).
To improve your content…
Keyword and trend analysis
Securing publication in high-quality outlets is often a popularity game. Articles/press releases that are well-written but that are also relevant to the most popular current issues are more likely to gain coverage. Tracking industry trends closely has never been so important in the era of fast news.
Additionally, it’s important to perform regular analysis of keywords, not only to make sure you are actively targeting subjects of interest in your clients’ industries, but so that you can accurately determine how use of particular keywords/keyphrases is likely to perform. Which keywords are competitors targeting and gaining authority in? Is your choice of keywords likely to deliver the results you want for your clients?
To get the most out of coverage and connect with relevant people in your clients’ industries…
Track your link-building activities
Backlinks from credible outlets can increase domain authority, but it’s also important to close the loop. Linking back to the outlet in shares and mentions of coverage can further increase domain authority and also helps to strengthen the relationship with the outlet.
Tracking links to your clients’ content is also important, for two reasons:
You can discover who is talking about your clients and sharing their content; this might be a blogger, journalist or industry expert that it would be beneficial for your clients to connect with or, on the other hand, it could be someone your clients would not wish to be connected to.
Too many irrelevant links to your clients’ content damages their online credibility and can threaten their position as an expert in their industry. Irrelevant or spammy links need to be dealt with as soon as possible: ultimately, it’s about maintaining reputation. It may also be an attack by a competitor, using link spamming to damage a client’s credibility.
As PR becomes increasingly more digital, consultancies should start considering how SEO, one of the most powerful drivers of online connectivity, can benefit both your PR team and clients.
To find out how an integrated PR and SEO strategy can help your business:
By Roger Taylor