How Does PR Affect SEO?

The year was 2006. Pluto was still a planet, you didn’t own an iPhone, you were more likely to log on to MySpace than Facebook, and search engine optimization (SEO) meant squeezing as many keywords as possible into your content and getting backlinks by any means necessary. Scary, right?

Today, thinking that keyword density and lots of low-quality backlinks will get your site to appear at the top of Google’s search results is as reasonable as staying indoors for fear of contracting the Bird Flu (the “it” disease of 2006).

The rules of SEO have changed—especially over the past two years. Updates to search engine ranking algorithms like Google’s “Panda” and “Penguin” mean you can no longer think in terms of keywords and inbound links alone. What matters now is quality, relevance and audience engagement.

Or, as Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts explained:

“We are trying to level the playing field a bit. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO—versus those making great content and great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, whether they throw too many keywords on a page, or whether they exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect in a particular area. It is an active area where we have several engineers on my team working on this right now.”

google-panda-penguin-updatesFor many SEO firms, these algorithm shifts have delivered a crushing blow. For Dittoe PR, it’s cause for celebration.

For years we had to sit back and watch as SEO firms gamed Google with blackhat link building schemes predicated on paid backlinks and blog networks that allowed them to distribute keyword stuffed “articles” to hundreds of sites to quickly generate hundreds of backlinks.

Even PR agencies got in on the Google-gaming action. They used wire services to distribute horribly written, albeit keyword dense, press releases knowing full well that human eyes would never read them—they just wanted the backlinks. Sadly, many PR agencies still charge clients hundreds of dollars per release to provide this “service,” even though those press release backlinks barely nudge the SEO needle.

While SEO is still very much a technical discipline—especially when it comes to on-site optimization—the bottom line is that content that is published but not read by living, breathing human beings, not just GoogleBots, achieves nothing—both in terms of human impressions and search engine traction.

When our clients are featured on ESPN or Mashable, they’re not only benefiting from extremely valuable backlinks; there’s also no risk that an algorithm update from Google is going to render those backlinks worthless. It’s a simple matter of quality vs. quantity that makes the difference between page No.1 of Google’s search results, and being buried in the double digits.

Search engine optimization in no longer a “website promotion strategy.” It’s a content strategy; one that’s based on producing compelling, targeted content for humans—not search engines—and promoting that content across national and local media outlets, trade publications, blogs and social media channels.

If you’d like to learn more about our firm and services, please feel free to contact us for a consultation.

Google Panda: Bad News for SEO Cheaters. Great News for PR Pros.

Unless you’re a search marketing expert, you probably don’t pay too much attention to any of the new algorithms released by Google. But if you’re working with an SEO firm or are heavily invested in any kind of search marketing, you should know a little bit about Google Panda—the company’s latest algorithm released specifically to target sites that are gaming the system through unnatural and artificial link building tactics.

During a panel at SXSW in early March, Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts, did more than hint at the intention of Google’s Panda rollout:

“We are trying to level the playing field a bit. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO—versus those making great content and great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, whether they throw too many keywords on a page, or whether they exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect in a particular area. It is an active area where we have several engineers on my team working on this right now.”

On March 23, Google released Panda 3.4., announcing the update via Twitter:
So what’s the big deal? Well, if you’re not an SEO cheater, Panda 3.4 won’t do you any harm—it may even improve your rank since overly optimized sites will be taking a hit. But there are plenty of cheaters in the search marketing world who employ blackhat link building schemes such as creating paid backlinks from blogs without genuine content. In fact, there are entire blog networks that allow users to distribute their keyword stuffed “articles” to hundreds of different blogs to quickly (and unethically) generate hundreds of backlinks. If you need some help determining the legitimacy of your SEO efforts, Douglas Karr, CEO of DK New Media offers some great tips on how to discover an SEO cheater in your midst.

Essentially, GoogleBots used to scan website content to determine its relevance. So if you had a website about underwater basket weaving, Google would be looking for repeated use of the phrase “underwater basket weaving.” Sites with the most relevant keywords would then get ranked highly. But there wasn’t much Google could do to determine the quality of the content aside from counting the number of backlinks to those sites. As a result, link building schemes became all the rage.

With Panda, GoogleBots don’t just “scan” website content, they can practically read content. It’s no longer useful to have hundreds of backlinks from overly optimized sites; Google’s looking for the best—and only the best—to put on page one. Simply put, if your website isn’t up to that standard, it’s going to get removed.

This is really bad news for SEO cheaters and great news for PR pros. Focusing solely on the benefits of PR as they relate to SEO, the purpose of PR is to facilitate link building by creating genuine backlinks from sites that create high-quality content—national and local media outlets, trade publications, and blogs and other news outlets of considerable repute. When our clients are featured on CNN or Mashable, there’s no risk that an algorithm update from Google is going to render those backlinks worthless. It’s a simple matter of quality vs. quantity that will make the difference between page No.1 of Google’s search results, and being buried in the double digits.

6 Tips for Tweeting About your Company or Client

Communication is a key component in every moment of a PR pro’s day. That means knowing not only a multitude of words, but also the right way to use them to make our press releases, pitches and social media outreach concise and effective. Delivering your client’s message in as few words as possible in a news release is a struggle that every public relations pro faces regularly. However, an even larger challenge is limiting our communication not just by word count, but by character count.

Twitter is a great platform used by individuals and businesses alike, but it can be challenging to come up with a way to create tweets that are relevant, interesting and carry substance. Working at one of Indianapolis’ top PR agencies, I’m often tasked with running social media campaigns for various clients. All too often, we come across Twitter accounts that are lacking or being used inefficiently.  With social media being a key ingredient in the majority of successful communication strategies, it’s our job to make sure our clients’ accounts don’t fail.

When using Twitter for your business, here are six great tips to keep in mind.

  1. Define your purpose and goals. Twitter isn’t just a way to drive people to your website; it’s about the creation of interactions between people and organizations. Before creating your client’s account, discuss how Twitter will be used to achieve those goals.
  2. Create links to your website or blog. It is okay to let people know where to find out more information about your client or to share links showcasing a recent award or media coverage, just be sure to go easy on tooting your own horn. Again, Twitter isn’t about me, me, me (at least not for companies which want effectively engage with their followers!); it’s about using social media to interact with others and form beneficial relationships.
  3. Keep up with the buzz in your industry. Don’t just post about what your company is doing, ask questions and interact with others within the industry. Twitter is great for getting opinions about new technology, products and ideas, remembering too, that it’s an open market.
  4. Network with like-minded people. By following people with similar thoughts and passions, there’s a good chance you’ll find a way to create even more connections with those who follow that person. Make sure to engage your followers and those you follow by commenting on their tweets or retweeting what others have posted. Get other tweeps to notice you. If you build contacts, you potentially have the opportunity to build revenue for your company as well.
  5. Show some personality! This is the perfect opportunity to cultivate your client’s voice. Yes you are limited to 140 characters, but that doesn’t mean that all tweets have to be matter-of-fact statements. Speak freely and let humor come through from time to time; followers and those who aren’t following yet will notice and appreciate it. If your tweets are too boring or include too much jargon or promotional-speak, you will get unfollowed by many.
  6. Use #hashtags correctly. For those who don’t know Twitter speak, the # symbol is a hashtag, and is used to mark keywords or topics in a tweet. You can do searches for different topics, for example a simple search for #winning will yield you hundreds of tweets and very few will be from Charlie Sheen. Not every tweet needs to have hashtags, so remember to use them only on tweets relevant to the topic. Also, don’t use hashtags that are too generic or hashtags that can be related to something completely different than your client.

For example, MapMyFITNESS, an app that allows users to live healthy and active lifestyles by tracking their fitness, could use haghtags like #fitness or #mobileapp. The hashtag #map would be too broad.

To date, Twitter has more than 200 million users and is a valid and valuable platform to engage and interact with others. With the potential to reach anyone in the world with only 140 characters, it’s important to make sure the message you’re sending to followers is clear cut and easy to understand. Most importantly, make sure each tweet is representative of your brand and your company; handling a company account is not the time to discuss your personal life or what you had for breakfast.

When used correctly Twitter can build brand awareness, increase networks and boost revenue; it’s quite the powerful little bird.

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