Home > Marketing > How PR can Put the Search Back in SEO [UML]

How PR can Put the Search Back in SEO [UML]

How PR can Put the Search Back in SEO [UML]

It seems to me that no single on-page SEO technique matters in isolation.  In other words, one web page or blog post that isn’t perfectly optimized isn’t going to make a difference one way or another.

So a PR pro shouldn’t sacrifice good copy just to stuff a keyword in a headline or force fit a link. People read copy and search exists to deliver it to people in response to queries.

However, that’s not to say SEO isn’t important.  Adhering to SEO principles, in aggregate over time, makes an enormous difference.

Corporate Blogging and SEO

Case in point?

A business I helped didn’t rank in the first three pages of Google SERP for key phrase even though the business itself had that phrase in its namesake. We began producing a corporate blog, which changed all that — and according to Forbes, put the effort on par with likes of amazing content brands like Coca-Cola.

In just a few months we started to rank competitively for that key phrase. In less than a year, we were consistently showing on page 1, for that phrase and variations of it as well.  By the second year, we were topping the charts at #1.   Even today, it retains a ranking of #2 or #3 for that phrase — and it is doing so in spite of formidable new competition.

These SERP results I’m citing are incognito and I fully recognize the days of agnostic-search are long over. However, I’d say that because of the niche, and the associated topics covered, individual search history and interests probably helped us.

After all, that’s the purpose of relevancy in search — it is highly targeted marketing that pulls rather than pushes. Getting those search rankings wasn’t magic – it was work.  Long, hard and honest work.

We published useful, fresh, original, and editorially driven content.  We did it consistently and generally adhered to basic on-page SEO best practices.  PR, media relations and marketing communications – and the backlinks those functions earned – were an incredibly important part of an integrated program.

It’s hard to rank competitively in search without backlinks — and SEO-savvy PR earns high-quality backlinks.

SEO-savvy-PR-backlinks

But isn’t SEO Dead?

There’s a lot of noise in the marketing community that says SEO is dead.  It’s just that: noise.  Most websites still get the majority of traffic from search.

As it is with PR, or content marketing, or social media, or any other function of marketing, SEO is an investment that grows like compounding interest over time.  You can’t just turn it off and on for a fiscal quarter at a time and expect results.  More importantly, these investments work better, when they work together — and PR certainly has a big role in SEO.

While communications professionals do not need to be technical SEO experts, they do need to keep abreast of trends. And so search – and how PR can help put the search back in SEO – is the theme for this week’s Unscripted Marketing links (UML).  Below you will find three excellent pieces that I’ve reviewed and believe merit a close read.

Below you will find three excellent pieces that I’ve reviewed and believe merit a close read.

1) Keywords Aren’t Dead

Updates to Google and its system for ranking websites has had the SEO community in a seemingly constant state of turmoil over the last few years.  For all the penguins and pandas and hummingbirds, one thing seems clear: both fundamental and technical SEO techniques remain important.

This includes keywords.  In fact, “keywords influence leads and sales,” according to Mike Murray in a piece for the Content Marketing Institute titled 7 Reasons Why Keyword Phrases Aren’t Dead for SEO and Content Marketing.

He writes:

“Every website has a different capacity to rank for relevant keyword phrases. Your website age, domain name, number of pages, content, internal links, inbound links, design, programming, and more will determine how well you’ll succeed.”

And later adds:

“Your strategy will have some unexpected rewards. When you use each keyword phrase, it will resonate with all of the other words on the page. You’ll rank for any number of permutations. It’s always been that way with the internet.”

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2) Keywords in Titles Make a Difference

Keywords in Titles Make a DifferenceI had three takeaways from a study of 34,000 keywords by cognativeSEO:  1) keywords in URLs can matter; 2) keywords in titles matter; and, 3) keywords in domain names really matter.

The report titled, The Title and URL Influence on Rankings is an impressive piece of work and neatly packaged online.  According to the study’s author, Cornelia Cozmiuc, “Keyword presence in titles makes a clear difference between ranking 1st or 2nd.”

The study does come with caveats:

“Intuitively, the advantages of having an exact match domain (EMD) in terms of ranking should be self-evident. If it really does make a difference (even a tiny one) to have a keyword in the domain, or title, or URL, compared to having it just in the content, then having an EMD should mean striking gold. But because of that, it also stands to reason that more people would try to abuse that, so it’s also more likely that an EMD is a potential flag for spam. As long as the content on such a site is clean and qualitative, however, it’s definitely worth going for an exact match.”

To that end, it’s important to note studies like this are probably not definitive. The web is dynamic, search algorithms are updated periodically and SEO best practices fluctuate as a result.  Indeed, search experts, often armed with impressive data, debate topics like this one at great length.

3) Impact of Site Speed on Search

What is the impact of site speed on search results?  It does seem to matter, according to a summary of studies (Searchmetrics and Moz) in a piece by Barry Feldman for MarketingProfs titled, “Does Your Page Load Time Affect Search Results?

The data he covers is nuanced – first-byte time – but he makes an important point about the user experience and the impact on search:

“Let’s put search aside for just a second. When your site’s a slug, visitors say vámonos. Fewer visitors, fewer leads. Fewer leads, fewer sales. And though I’m trying to focus on the user experience at the moment, another SEO-ism comes to mind… Losing website traffic is indeed detrimental to your rankings.”

His piece also provides seven tips for improving page load speed which is worth reviewing.  These include re-sizing images, which I’ve found to be instrumental (see 3 free photo hacks for PR pros).

Need help bringing the pieces of PR, SEO and content together?  Contact us today to discuss PR and content marketing services that deliver results.

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Photo credit: Flickr, Santiago Medem, Twyfelfontein Binoculars (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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