PR professionals are well aware of the importance of links earned in their coverage, right? In an SEO’s world, a link from one site to the next is seen as a vote of confidence by search engines, and it’s the basis for Google’s Page Rank Algorithm. As PR Pro’s, you value a link as a pipeline for referral traffic and possibly additional coverage and even sales. What I’d like to do, is present a few ways that PR pros can help the SEO’s on your team, and in turn, help yourselves.
PR pros are content marketers and you just happen to be so much better at traditional SEO than the average content marketer. The content I’m speaking of can come in the form of a traditional press release, an article, online resource or blog post. Whether you’re writing the content or not, you’re responsible for spreading that content. So, a large part of a public relations professional’s job really is link building. And I love this!!! Modern link building is so hard, and I truly appreciate a well-connected, clever PR person.
1. How You Link Matters
A link is a precious commodity that needs to be treated with care. Technically speaking, search engines consider even the slightest difference in URLs as different pages altogether.
Here’s what I mean: a link to ‘http://clientsite.com’ could be a completely different page than its “www” counterpart ‘http://www.clientsite.com’. Mixing up the two isn’t the end of the world, but it does cause confusion for search engines. Ask your SEO what the “preferred” domain is and stick to it.
Canonical links are important because if you can access your website at both http://www.mysite.com/ and http://mysite.com/, then you have a “canonical” issue. Search engines don’t know which site is your preferred version. Really, it comes down to avoiding “duplicate content” issues, and you can use the canonical link element help clean up the confusion.
Note: There are other – more technical – ways to clean up these issues, but the Canonical element is a great workaround. If you really want to get technical, read more on the rel=”canonical” link element.
2. Page speed – Hi Res Images are a Drag
As PR and marketing have merged I’m sure you’re finding yourself publishing more of your own content on company sites and blogs. I tend to think PR folks are slightly more image-focused than their marketing counterparts, and by image, I literally mean images.
One of the major trends in ranking factors recently is page load speed. Large images (file sizes) are the main culprit in slow loading websites. A few years back in an ecommerce life, all I heard was “high res image” this and “high res image” that. To be honest, there’s almost no need for a high-resolution image – sorry graphic designers.
I have a sneaking suspicion that PR folks are also interested in high-quality images; however I’m here to tell you low-res, compressed images are the way to go for search engines, and more importantly, human website visitors.
3. What can you do to reduce image file sizes?
Re-size all images prior to publishing to your site (this includes any content management systems that re-size images automatically – I don’t trust them to do it right, because often they don’t).
In Photoshop, choose to “save for web” and choose the file type with the smallest size that maintains a decent resolution.
Make sure your html mark-up assigns a width and height value. For example, every image should include something like: width=”293″ height=”225″.
Next, talk to your SEO or IT people. If you’re responsible for any content on a corporate site or blog, ask them about moving images to a “sub-domain”. If you can split your content (html) and images onto separate locations, you can really improve page load speeds.
How can you test your page load? Try Pingdom Tools or the Y Slow browser plugin. These free tools will show you how fast or slow your site loads. If a page loads slowly, people will leave your site. If users Google your content, then click and only find a slow loading site, they’ll “bounce” back (often via the back button) to the search engine and I can assure you the engines just took notice of that poor user experience.
So again, work with your in-house or consultant SEO and IT team to decrease image sizes, optimize their location and keep clean code. We’ll all benefit in the end.
4. Dead Links = SEO Gains and PR Measurement Opportunity
By now it’s obvious my favorite links come from the hard work of PR’s. Now I’d like to share how one of my favorite link building techniques impacts public relations measurement.
Over time a website organically earns links from other sites. Sometimes those sites either link incorrectly (see tip #1) by using a non-preferred version of your homepage, or the page on your own site has expired and moved to new URL.
For whatever the reason, the link now sends referral traffic to an error page. That experience doesn’t benefit anyone. So, by registering your site with Google Webmaster Tools you can access a report that will show you your error pages. Also, using Google Analytics, you can see the error page URL’s if you sort your Content report to show:
Go to: All Pages > Page Title and then search for the page title of your error page. Those often include the phrase “page not found”. Then if you drill into the report, you’ll find the URL’s. The image below is an example:
Now that you’re equipped with all the problems page URL’s, let’s work on the solution and tie it back to measurement. The biggest thing to keep in mind is these are likely links that you helped EARN.
You worked hard and deserve these links (that’s my SEO pep talk for the day). If a site is not linking to yours correctly, contact the webmaster and politely ask that they edit the link. A link to an expired page on your site is a bad experience for visitors. To fix this, you need to take all the dead URL’s and ask your SEO or IT team to create 301 redirects to new pages on your site. If you have an SEO they already know this, but your IT team might not; these must be ‘301 Permanent Redirects’.
How does this help in measuring PR? Like I mentioned, these are links (coverage) you earned for your company. If the link isn’t helping your SEO as well as it should or if you aren’t receiving as much referral traffic as you should, that’s detracting from your return on PR efforts. Reporting public relation’s impact on leads or revenue for a company is easy enough in Google Analytics and you can usually show a measurable difference after a link clean-up project.
The SEO benefits alone are fantastic. The PR wins you had months and years ago are still the SEO wins of today. A company link profile is hugely important for all of us in marketing.
5. The Google Analytics Network Report
Many of the readers here might already know this, but I’ve run into this issue lately a client as well as in some blog post comments. Many site owners, marketers and PR professionals want to learn in Google Analytics EXACTLY who is reading their content.
Recently I saw this in the PR space as someone wasn’t sure which journalists were reading their client’s news. While you can’t get that exact detail in Google Analytics, you can see when someone from a MAJOR publication (or target customer for sales professionals) visits your site. A visitor from any large magazine, newspaper and even some large blog sites will come through with a “network” value that matches (exact or partial) their company name. Smaller companies and individuals will show with their Internet Service Provider name like Verizon, Comcast, or At&t. Check it out; it’s been a really powerful report for a client of mine lately.
If you don’t immediately see the publication you’re looking for, don’t worry there’s likely someone in your network who has seen how the Washington Post, or New York Times shows up while researching a story. You can compile these network names and create Custom Alerts in Google Analytics which will send you an email after those identified publications have been on your site and researching your pitch. Have your analytics person create custom reports that show you these networks and their activity on your site.
What about you? What SEO tips might you offer to PR pros?
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