While SEO should be a critical part of every PR specialist’s communication and marketing strategy, it’s often treated as an afterthought or seen as something too complicated to understand. But it’s important for PR teams to make SEO a priority. We have some tips to help you see the light, so other people can start finding your communications content.
It’s about much more than keywords
When search engines were in their infancy, their focus was strictly on keywords; crawlers were much less complex not only in what they indexed but also how, and keywords were the be-all and end-all of getting your pages to appear in search results. While keywords are still important today, they’re less important compared to things like backlinks and traffic. Those who place too much emphasis on keywords can actually suffer being penalized by Google. They’ve even got a name for it: keyword stuffing.
The following are just as important, if not more so, than the almighty keyword:
Traffic – How much traffic your site gets has the most impact in your search rankings. Google sees web pages that have high traffic volumes as having high authority, which is increased even further if traffic comes from other high-authority sites.
Consistently fresh content – News sites like CBC, CNN, and The Guardian are crawled and indexed almost constantly due to the continuous posting of new, high-traffic content.
Effective use of keywords and content formatting – There are rules to using keywords. Google’s algorithm is very good at identifying keyword stuffing: perpetrators can even get blacklisted from Google results altogether. Keyword use should be organic, and tools like YOAST are very handy to help keep you on the right track when composing content.
Internal and external linking – Search engine crawlers love links, and the more you can add the better. Linking to other content on your site builds relevance across pages, and external links – particularly from sites that are deemed by Google to be high ranking and with a high authority – will give you a boost as well.
A website that’s responsive – A website that’s responsive – It matters that your site provides a positive user experience across all devices, even to Google. Responsive web design means your site uses one site to serve a different presentation based on the user’s screen size. While you won’t necessarily get a much greater ranking by having a responsive site, it will help a little. What a responsive site will do for your SEO is provide an optimized user experience, making content easy to read, calls to action identifiable, and navigation seamless – when applied through use of proper design techniques, of course.
SEO and social media
The debate continues to rage over whether or not social signals can boost SEO rankings, but the leading consensus is that they don’t. No amount of tweeting or Facebook posting will improve your SEO – at least, not directly. There are things you can do, however, that can help with your ranking.
Grow your number of followers. While the number of followers you have has no impact on your ranking, increasing your followers organically can improve your authority. Focus on continually posting content and engage your followers in comments and shares to encourage likewise from them. Responding in a timely manner to inquiries and concerns also helps build trust and retains your audience.
Focus on external links to your posts. By encouraging shares, retweets, and the like from your followers (and subsequently their followers), especially if there’s diversity in who is sharing your content, you could see an increase in your Google authority. The quality of your content matters here, too.
Keep your profiles up to date. Make sure all of the information in your profile is correct, including any outbound links.
Social media sites are also search engines. “Google” and “search” may be synonymous, but it’s important to remember that social media networks also have their own search functionality, and they do get used. Consider that many users will turn to Facebook or Twitter searches first when it comes to finding people, brands, or content.
Use rich media. If meme pictures and Ice Bucket Challenge videos have taught us anything, it’s that people love to share pictures and video on social media. Take advantage of this by creating and posting your own media and encourage your followers to share them. A video we posted to accompany a recent analysis report was tailor-made for this purpose.
Your SEO to-do list
While not an exhaustive list, these are some key steps to get you started on your road to SEO wellness:
- Install Google Analytics on your site
- Maintain a website/blog that uses semantic, validated HTML and adapts to screen sizes from desktop to smartphone.
- Test your site for WCAG 2.0 AA compatibility.
- Use proper, cascading headers in your page copy.
- If you’re on WordPress, installing YOAST is an absolute must.
- Make site performance a priority by optimizing images, removing unnecessary plugins, combine script files and use a CDN to reduce server requests.
- Use a caching plugin to increase page load times.
- Engage with your visitors and encourage sharing on your site and on social media.
- Re-post old articles of value to your audience.
- Bring guest writers on board.
- Link to internal and external pages in your articles.
- Include keywords, links, and media in your social media posts.
- Use hashtags in your social media posts where applicable.
Stay the course!
The suggestions and direction offered in this article don’t cover every aspect of SEO and solve every problem with regards to search rankings and brand authority, but they will put you on the path to improvement. Getting it right is a continuous process with no real end, but if you follow the basics and have some patience, you will see results.