Do thoughts of how to use search engine optimization (SEO) make your head spin? It’s OK. And, guess what? You are probably in better shape than you realize because SEO has come a long way from its white vs. black hat, keyword-gaming origins. These days SEO is based on creating content that provides a good user experience, not for the explicit search result.
This was confirmed thanks to a recent seminar hosted by the Philadelphia Public Relations Society (PPRA). During “SEO: In the Know for 2019” representatives of Seer Interactive and SEOM Interactive presented the most current SEO best practices to the PR pros in attendance.
Feel free to fly by this section if you’re already well-versed in SEO. If not, here is a summary of SEO basics and terms.
SEO by definition is the ability to be found online, with the presenters sharing that “SEO is as much about people as it is the search engines themselves.”
Search Engine Results Page – the results provided by a search engine following a query
Metadata is comprised of the following elements, showing the impact quality content will have on yielding favorable search results:
The “HTML element that specifies the title of a web page. Title tags are displayed on SERPS as the clickable headline for a given result.”
“A snippet of up to about 170 characters that summarizes a page’s content. It is no longer a ranking factor for Google but is used to encourage users to click through to the page.”
“The header tag, or the <h1> tag in HTML, will usually be the title of the page.”
Monthly Search Volume – average number of users searching for a keyword within a month
What Is Google Looking For?
Google’s algorithm, which the SEO pros shared can change as many as 600 times a year, ranks websites based on three factors: relevance, quality, and authority:
Relevance: Is this what the user is searching for?
Quality: How good is the search result? Is the information the best, most helpful answer to the query?
Authority: Is the information current and accurate?
SEO’s four primary elements
These elements work together to determine a website’s search ranking:
Accessibility (Architecture) – This speaks to the website, its navigation, is it mobile friendly, etc.?
User Experience – Similarly, the flow of the website, how well it presents its relevant information
Authority (“Off-page”) – This is the quality of links gained from other sites. Google views a direct link “as a vote of confidence” for the site. Keeping in mind the quality of the site doing the linking comes into play.
Contextual Relevance (“Content”) – Here is where SEO dovetails most with PR. Contextual relevance speaks directly to content marketing. What kind of content are you creating for your clients? Do your clients see the value of content marketing? If not, they may change their mind when they realize creating relevant, shareable, helpful content will have a positive impact on their SEO ranking.
SEO Outreach & PR Pitching
Now that the current state of SEO values quality, relevant content created to help web searchers — whether that’s where to find the best deal on a new car, how to learn a new skill, find a doctor, etc. — our job is to discover what those pain points are for our clients’ audiences. What kinds of questions is the client’s audience searching for?
The panelists at this seminar suggested mining these three areas:
Create a survey to provide data that will give you information to use and direction for content development. Use the data to create assets like blog posts, infographics, charts – anything that’s both easily consumable, shareable, and informative to the client audience and journalists.
White papers, How-To’s, FAQs – create content that presents the most relevant information. Share as a free download or create visual assets to share elements of the items.
Start with current search results. What comes up when you search for a keyword or relevant phrase about a particular topic? Be sure to pay attention to the “People also asked…” results as well as the autocomplete results. The seminar presenters also recommend AnswerthePublic.com.
Keeping Up with SEO
Since Google’s algorithm may have changed once or twice since you began reading this blog post, know that keeping up with the latest in SEO is a task forever on your to-do list. To both help you get started and stay apprised of updates, the presenters provided this list of resources:
Ultimately, when we “write to deliver a good user experience, not for the search result,” we’re well on our way to providing our clients with a solid SEO foundation.
This post was written by Michelle Kane, Solo PR Pro Premium Member and Head Honcho of Voice Matters, LLC . Michelle has over 20 years' experience in communications management, writing, public relations, administration and broadcasting.