SEO Is More Than Just Keywords

Cuppa SEO owner Joey Donovan Guido shares his SEO expertise with local PRSA members on Jan. 15. (Photo credit: Jeff Rumage)

Cuppa SEO owner Joey Donovan Guido shares his SEO expertise with local PRSA members on Jan. 15. (Photo credit: Jeff Rumage)

By Jeff Rumage

The importance of web visibility in our digital world cannot be overstated. So it’s no surprise that search engine optimization has become one of the most sought-after marketing skills – but it’s also one of the most misunderstood.

I personally have used SEO to a high degree in my last job as an online news editor.  Coming from the newspaper world, it was a bit of a shock the first time I saw a short article about a peanut butter recall climb to the top of Google News. Because the article was filled with keywords about a nationally trending topic, that short article attracted 10 times the web traffic of a hard-hitting police article that required much more journalistic elbow grease.

So, how can we ensure our topics get as close as possible to the top of Google’s page ranking system? Luckily, Joey Donovan Guido, the founder of Cuppa SEO in Madison, was able to shed some light on SEO best practices during our PRSA chapter’s January luncheon.

I was already aware that Google places greater SEO value on things like headlines over body text, but Guido shared some interesting tips to give those title tags gain more SEO value, like using rich keywords (maximum 70 characters) and separating them with sticks (press “shift” and “\”).

I also was unaware that people who “stuff” title tags – a.k.a. the “black hat marketers” among us – are caught and punished by Google. That’s certainly an incentive to make sure your keywords are representative of the content you are providing.

Video: SEO Expert Shares Tips for Digital Success

As far as the body text, I already knew that linking to other reputable websites is important, but I did not know the location of the keywords mattered. Guido told us that you should ideally aim to have keywords in the first sentence, middle paragraph and in the last sentence.

The thing I think I enjoyed most about Guido’s presentation had nothing to do with keywords or tagging. It was a broader point about the importance of good, quality content. Believe it or not, good SEO is ultimately an exercise in knowing your audience and developing relationships.

You’ve already done most of the heavy lifting if you know your product and the market’s “pain points.” Talk with company officials and their customers about what information is most sought-after, and then capture those subjects in a relevant, informational and truthful way.

Search engines can’t entirely predict what information will be relevant to each user – not yet anyways. But the ability to provide information that is useful to another human being is going to continue to be an important skill – even if that conversation is happening through the screen of an iPhone.

SEO and PR Working Together

Bill Finn of Finn Digital

At the last PRSA luncheon we had the great opportunity to hear from Bill Finn, founder and president of Finn Digital, LLC. He was incredibly engaging in explaining how SEO and PR are supposed to be the best of friends. Below is a Q&A with Bill about what PR professionals can do to enhance their SEO efforts.

Interview by Lynda Nicely.

PRSA: If organizations are starting from scratch on their SEO and PR efforts, what do you suggest be the first step for them take?

Bill Finn (BF): Understand your audience – it starts and ends there. Know what they’re searching on to find you. Then, align your keywords with your content, and determine what constitutes PR communication.

PRSA: How do you identify what keywords to use?

BF: Begin with the obvious: vertical market descriptors, product names, brand names. Then, use Google keyword tools to see how those fit into the larger landscape of what Google users are actually searching on. ‘Neighboring’ terms can provide ah-hah moments into more frequently searched keywords or relative keyword value.

PRSA: What are some of the tools in a PR pro’s arsenal that they may not be aware are there?

BF: At Finn Digital, we advocate the principle of “content-forward”. It advances the notion that the stories and value a PR pro needs to promote to the public already exist within the company entity. Real-life networking and investigative reporting within the corporation often yields surprisingly dynamic core messages and valuable stories.

PRSA: Clients and organizational management want measureable results. How would you suggest to measure ROI with SEO and PR initiatives?

BF: The greatest return is that PR impact can be measured at all, as easily as it is!

First, determine what online indicators represent value within the organization. If the indicators are user-action-driven, correlation with value return is more evident. If the goal is to drive awareness, for example, one measurable action might be viewing a video, subscribing to an RSS feed, clicking a ‘Learn More’ button, or sharing a particular article. SEO gets people to a website or online area. User experience design structures a given visit to a website, hopefully triggering action.

Both are indicators that can be benchmarked and continually monitored and adjusted to A/B test what factors influence your audience. Once an influencing factor is identified, that’s valuable in delivering more personal connections to your visitors and customers.

PRSA: People talk a lot about YouTube and videos going viral, how would you suggest using SEO for online video?

BF: Video produces dramatic results when it ‘goes viral’. However, ‘going viral’ means that the general internet public finds it appealing in some way (and sometimes, unintended ways).

Video can be tagged with keywords and linked back to your company or client website. Additionally, YouTube videos can contain link pop-ups at specific areas of content within a video.

One best practice is to embed your YouTube video directly in your website. The algorithms seem to treat this more valuably than if there’s simply a text link out to a YouTube video. All these links are ‘the juice’, that contributes to stronger search results for targeted keywords.

PRSA: Top 3 tips for pros to get the PR and SEO going hand in hand?

BF: Our top three items are 1) get a flip cam, interview thought leaders in your area of interest, and post to YouTube with relevant tags. 2) continually give away great (searched for) content on your blogs, podcasts and video.  3) Create a Facebook fan page and update with high interactivity items such as polls. Repurpose that content for your blog! Content and connectivity go hand-in-hand!

Be sure to check out Bill’s blog too. Lots of great information including video interviews of his chat with two Milwaukee journalists who are on the leading edge of social media. Alysha Schertz of the BizTimes of Milwaukee and Stan Miller of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel explain how they use social media in their reporting as well as what press releases stand out.