If you think search engine optimization isn’t for PR pros, think again.
Especially during COVID-19, SEO is increasing in importance, as organizations seek to reach their target consumers and stand out in a noisy and cluttered digital media landscape.
“SEO is extremely adaptable based on the situation, goal or need,” says Jason White, director of SEO for Texas-based digital marketing agency PMG. “Depending on the approach to generating press, SEO can help identify the opportunity, guide content development and be a catalyst for success for how a piece is optimized.”
Whether you’re looking to get the most out of your next press release or aiming to take advantage of growing digital trends, such as online shopping, consider these keys to success:
1. Collaborate to create strategies and best practices.
Just as you shouldn’t execute your efforts or campaigns without a plan, SEO initiatives require a thoughtful and strategic approach.
“Planning allows communicators to maximize the impact of every action through deep analysis of strategy and discovery of cross-channel opportunities,” White says. “Without it, brands would struggle with disparate messaging.”
Because SEO’s benefits can boost PR, as well as marketing and sales efforts, it’s important for communicators to work with colleagues across departments to create effective strategies that span the entire organization.
Looking for a place to start? Try schema markups—code placed on your website that tells search engines what your data means.
Here’s an example from IT pro Nat Miletic:
Do you know that you can boost your website SEO by using schema markup?
You have probably already encountered it (see image).
Put simply, schema markup helps search engines understand your content.
This is one of the latest trends in SEO that can help tremendously. pic.twitter.com/9AOi8xcWlG
— Nat Miletic (@natmiletic) November 16, 2020
Schema markups are one of the most impactful implementations PR practitioners can take to support social media, websites and email marketing. Schema gives bots more context, allows brands to ensure consistent messaging across channels and devices, and enables all the features available in modern search, social media and more.
Work with your colleagues to implement this strategy along with other SEO and analytics best practices that can extend the reach and performance of your content, media coverage, campaigns, tweets and more. Don’t put off a brainstorming session, either—the rapid changes both with consumer behavior and with search engine algorithms throughout COVID-19 offers opportunities that won’t be around forever.
“We’ve witnessed new keyword verticals created overnight,” White says. “This makes information sharing and keyword targeting even more impactful for PR functions.”
2. Don’t spend your time chasing algorithms.
White says focusing on an algorithm or what your competitors are doing are wastes of time—especially when your focus could be better spent with proactive strategies.
As Google’s algorithm continues to evolve, his advice is even more crucial. Though you don’t want to ignore Google as a traffic source, it shouldn’t be the only thing in your sights.
Our consumer insights team was asking which search engine sends the most traffic. Google obviously:
94.6% was the lowest
99.8 was the highest from our client set.
— Jason White (@Sonray) October 22, 2020
The reality is that Google is unlikely to share enough about their magic sauce, and even if you can glean some insights here and there, you’re ultimately working from a reactive position, which is never a good place to be.
Though you won’t uncover the secrets behind the algorithms of popular social media platforms and search engines, you can still overcome common roadblocks that keep you from ranking high and reaching your target audiences.
“The good news is that SEO is incredibly rational, and the issues you face are similar to those that your competitors deal with,” White says.
Act proactively by making website changes that can improve your standing over the competition—and monitor each change to see if there’s a measurable, positive impact to your website (and bottom line).
3. Tailor your analytics and evaluation processes to your business goals.
Brands have different goals, so there is no cookie-cutter approach to analytics that is applicable to everyone. You need to first decide what you want to track, why it’s important, and how it can be tracked and maintained.
Setting up your evaluation procedures should include frank discussions on what key performance indicators matter to your efforts. If your analytics can’t paint a picture of your audience’s behaviors or help connect your efforts to audience actions, go back to the drawing board to see whether your measurement setup should be adjusted, along with your campaign(s).
White also advises investing early into the time and resources necessary to create good analytics processes, including dynamic dashboards, automatic reports and reminders. If your measurement strategies are no longer a fit, make the business case to overhaul them.
If your analytics setup has become such a mess that you feel you cannot trust the numbers, then spend the time to fix it. It won’t be the flashiest project, but it will produce an outsized improvement in your marketing.
Whatever you do, don’t ignore the data. That includes measuring ineffectively just to report numbers, without connecting it to your campaign and business goals, or spinning the data into a narrative that fits your aims, instead of honestly looking at current actions and behaviors.
“The biggest mistakes I see marketers make include ignoring—or even worse, not believing in—analytics,” White says. Failing to engage with analytic data is a mistake you make at your own peril, he warns.
Learn more about optimizing your website, effectively using analytics and enhancing social media campaigns at Ragan’s Google & SEO for Communicators Bootcamp, Nov. 19. White will be joined by speakers from Condé Nast, Google Brazil, Lewis Global Communications, MIT’s Sloan School of Management and Klarna. Register here.