The practice of search engine optimization has changed dramatically over the last couple years, and now offers PR pros and other communicators some real lessons in achieving relevance to audiences. A look at current SEO trends offers some great ideas for anyone charged with creating content or doing outreach for a brand. Here are some common themes I’ve been seeing on leading SEO sites and blogs this winter.
A mix of quality content:
You can’t read an SEO or marketing blog today without bumping into the phrase “quality content,” and there’s a good reason for that. As brand publishing becomes more entrenched, the content we publish is at the very heart of our communications. It’s the hub on our web site, it’s the landing page where we convert leads, it’s the fuel for social conversation, it’s the next step in the buying process. So, content is crucial. We get that. But what does “quality” really mean?
In reality, and in this context, “quality” means a mix of content. You need some attention-garnering, awareness-building, “upper funnel” stuff. Many infographics, pithy blog posts about 6 ways to do something better and clever videos fall into this category.
However, this is the content equivalent of convenience food. It’s bite-size and portable, but it’s not a feast.
“Clients are shifting not only to higher-end writers, but to subject matter experts,” noted Christina Zila in a recent Search Engine Watch post titled 5 Trends Shaping SEO & Content Marketing in 2013. “In 2013, demand will increase not just for good writers, but for good writers who know their stuff.”
More substantial, meatier content that’s designed to inform and educate your audience – and move them deeper into the buying process – is crucial as well. This content is tougher to produce, but is high-value, more likely to generate links and readership, and is great fodder for derived content.
Integration of user experience and planned outcomes
Brian Loebig said it well on the InkBlog: “There will be a tighter integration of websites, social media, press releases, SEO and mobile applications. In fact, I think the idea of optimizing for search engines will become congruent with optimizing for actual humans. If the content you are creating and distributing is highly useful and relevant for humans it will likely be favored by the search engines.”
This is an important point to remember, because while our audiences access content via all manner of devices (computers, smartphones, tablets) and platforms (web, mobile, apps, social) they expect a coherent brand experience. This requires integration and coordination between departments, and also underscores the fact that we’re not optimizing discrete pieces of content or web pages anymore – we’re optimizing experiences.
It’s also worth noting that time-on-page and bounce rates are factors search engines notice. Developing content and experiences that not just capture but keep attention is an important factor in both achieving successful outcomes and great online visibility.
Derived content – diverse and fresh
Content marketers have long advocated the derivation of many pieces of content from one. A white paper, for example, can provide fodder for multiple blog posts, a deck for SlideShare, a webinar and be the basis for a variety of images. Done well, this derived content can spark social sharing, and deliver readers back to the original work, which is often one of the meatier, more substantial pieces of content your organization has published (see above.)
Depending upon where the derived content is hosted, there can be some value in the links going back to the original work itself, especially if those links are coming from a relevant and respected industry blog or web site. However, the fact that the work is being read and shared creates signals that engines notice. Additionally, current content is still important, and derived works are a good way to fuel your brand’s content creation engine. Just be sure that the derived works are themselves useful and substantial.
At this point, some readers may be thinking “This doesn’t sound like SEO to me,” and if your definition of SEO is limited to keyword density and link-building, then yes, you’re right. This is new ground. The lesson here for all communicators that we can learn from search optimization gurus can be summarized pretty simply: Search engines are smarter than ever and they pay attention to signals generated by real, live humans. To generate visibility in search engines, you have to start with compelling content, use multiple channels and formats to deliver the messages, and make serving your audience well the priority.
Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media.
See more blog posts on the topic of search engine visibility and content optimization: http://blog.prnewswire.com/tag/seo/