Category Archives: Content Marketing

Strategic PR Can Lead to Strong SEO

SEO has finally matured. It is no longer about tricks, games and hats of black and white. SEO is now about broader business strategies that take careful planning and time to execute. It’s about your PR approach and your content marketing. It is about excellent user experience and creating content people will want to share.

Conference organizers and former presidents of DFWSEM: @dansturdivant @marksbarrera @seanthinks @tonynwright

Conference organizers and former presidents of DFWSEM: @dansturdivant @marksbarrera @seanthinks @tonynwright

I recently attended the DFWSEM State of Search conference in Dallas, and what stood out most clearly at the end of the day was that wise PR strategies can have excellent effect on a site’s SEO.

“Make friends with PR,” said speaker Wil Reynolds. “Follow PR’s influencers and map the keywords that are important to them.”

Brand recognition and a keen understanding of a brand’s influencers can be leveraged for search optimization efforts, and that’s an area of expertise for PR professionals.

There’s no SEO bag of tricks any longer. Major search engines like Google and Bing are not favoring content that is keyword stuffed or optimized with hidden text.

Strategic branding and influencer engagement will pay off in the long run with quality links and social sharing that send strong signals to the search engines.

Relevant and timely content such as social posts, blog posts, multimedia and well-crafted press releases can lure and engage your audience.

Done well, “content brings them in , educates them, then keeps them engaged even after conversion,” said speaker John Doherty.

Just remember to make it super easy for your audience to share your content. “Social signals are expert signals to search engines,” according to Bing’s Duane Forrester.

And let us not forget about media pickup which can result in powerful earned links and quality traffic back to your site or product page. Concentrate on getting more buzz and authority for your brand.

“PR is how content marketing works,” said Sean Jackson. “Get your name out there!”

To sum things up, here are some action items for improved SEO (note that the top three were Duane Forrester’s top three focus recommendations):

  • Quality content: Create well-crafted content to lure quality traffic and social shares.
  • User experience (UX): Provide your audience with excellent user experience. Not only is it good for your visitors but it’s a signal search engines are watching.
  • Social Media: Create useful and sharable content to inspire tweets and other social posts that send strong positive signals to search engines.
  • Branding: Build brand awareness and authority.
  • Discoverability: Write content that people can find. Use keywords appropriately and make sure you distribute content to places where people will be seeking it.
  • Sharing: Make the sharing of your content super easy. This affects both traffic and SEO.
  • Media pick-up: Earning media pick-up can translate into very valuable links and quality traffic.

All of the above can and should involve the expertise of your PR department. To be sure, SEO is now a long game that requires strategic planning. No quick tricks, but lots of devotion put into building your brand, finding your audience and offering useful content people will want to share.

Victoria HarresVictoria Harres is VP, Audience Development & Social Media at PR Newswire and the original voice behind @PRNewswire. She speaks and writes about social media, PR and marketing…and occasionally SEO.

Driving Discovery of Your Organization’s Story

Late last month, PR Newswire hosted a free webinar: Driving Discovery of Your Organization’s Story. The webinar was led by Sarah Skerik (@sarahskerik), vice president of content marketing at PR Newswire.

Skerik discussion centered around these four topics: 1) evolution of media; 2) subsequent changes in audience behavior; 3) conversational search and the social media connection; and 4) tactics for earning attention and media.

Evolution of Media

It is well known that traditional media channels have lost ground to digital properties. Brands and individuals are publishing more content than ever, and this is creating an issue, because when people go online to get information they are getting swamped. An IDG study shows that 82 percent of IT decision makers are challenged to find trusted content during the IT purchase process.

Subsequent Changes in Audience Behavior

People are looking for really granular information. Each day, 20 percent of Google searches are unique and have never been seen by Google. People are also more acceptant of branded content. Native advertising (aka sponsored content) is commanding more views than original editorial content. Also, readers spend around the same amount of time on native advertising and original editorial content.

Why is Content Discovery Important?

In addition to the above IDG statistic, another statistic released by Sirius Decisions 2012 shows that B2B customers contact a sales rep only after 70 percent of the purchase decision has been made. The takeaway for organizations is that if you don’t have published supporting content for whatever you’re promoting then you’re eliminated from a consumer’s consideration right out of the gates.

Content discovery is also important because influence isn’t linear, but it is a continuous loop. Five or 10 years ago marketers and PR people would shoot out a message to their audience and get results. However, what is happening now is your audience is able operate on their own time frame. They are researching and buying according to their own needs. The key for communicators is keep their content up there, visible and credible as your audience begins its research and search process. Yet, the communications reality is that their competing for finite audience attention against an infinite ocean of content.

Conversational Search and the Social Media Connection

It is important to know that Google put in a whole new search algorithm called Hummingbird, and they are taking aim at all those new searches they get every day. Google is building more human behavior into their search algorithm by doing a conversational search. They are trying to build search results based on the true meaning of the phrase that a person enters. Seven of the top 10 Google search ranking factors are derived from social networks. Google is using social behavior as an indicator about what sort of content is relevant and important to the person searching. This is why when developing a marketing strategy or PR campaign, it is crucial that communicators drive relevant and committed social interaction with the content they distribute.

Media Outlets Are Retooling

New stories start out from a traditional outlet, such as a radio station, newspaper, magazine, etc., and are very often the catalyst for social conversations. Here are some examples of what media outlets are doing to drive social conversations.

1) Chicago Sun-Times eliminated their entire photography department and wanted to start sourcing photos from their reporters who were armed with iPhones. The reason for the change was because they need is lots of visual content and fast.

2) John Keefe, a radio guy at WNYC radio, has the title of senior editor of data news and journalism technology. He does not only present information but he also thinks about how to use information and how to make it interactive, writing apps and crunching data. This should make communicators think about whether the content they are pitching will resonate with him.

Tactics for Earning Attention and Media

Here are the tactics Skerik suggests:

1) Go look at the websites of news outlets that are important to your industry segment and then look at the stories that are most commented on, emailed and shared socially. It is important to not only look at the popular stories for the industry you are working on, but it is also important to see the ones which received the most comments. The most popular stories usually have a well-known brand name in the title, but when you look at the most commented stories they are usually ones that delve deeper into the industry. This will help you learn about what you audience is interested in and you can then fashion your brand’s content around those lines, as well as get some great story ideas.

2) Use the attention current events generate to grab some attention for your brand. FM Global, an insurance company, on the heels of a report issued by the government about Hurricane Sandy pulled together a press release with information they already had. This information wasn’t just for the general public but also for reporters and analysts covering this topic. And each link in the release was linked to a piece of content and was trackable.

3) Tie thought leadership to timely events. KCSA’s CEO published a new book and they also launched a new section on their blog called Diary of an IPO. To gain attention for the new section of the blog they wrote about the then impending Facebook IPO. They promoted the posts by sending them out as press releases. This resulted in significant increases in visitors, visits and views to their blog.

4) Use editorial calendars to guide your marketing team’s content calendar in terms of both topics and timing. You can do this by going to the websites that are important to your organization and looking for their media kit. In the media kit, you will find their editorial calendar which will show you the topics they will publish over the next year. You can then synch your content calendar with the topics that are being published in the industry.

5) There is a rise in the reporting of data, surveys and studies by news organizations. Media outlets are willing to use this type of information within their reporting. Even though organizations are aware of the importance of this information, there is still sometimes a lack of communication between PR and marketing after this material goes out. This is why it is essential for PR and marketing to align. Last year, Vibes did a study about mobile shopping behavior and issued an infographic, but then they did something different by pulling a news hook out of the study, hiring a PR company, and issuing a press release. They received a lot of media attention from the story and are still getting calls about it.

6) Market your marketing. You need to distribute the content that you publish. PR Newswire distributed a video they created explaining what MultiVu does, and prior to the content distribution they were six Facebook likes to the video. After distributing the video it received 196 Facebook likes the following day.

7) Remember to keep an eye on the results of your campaign well after it is over. If you do a good job of surfacing content in relevant ways, the tails will grow longer and longer.

Formatting Message Tips

1) Whether you’re sending out a press release, blog post, etc., keep your headline around the 100-character mark. This also works very well for tweets. Put all the important terminology within the first 65 characters. You can pick up more detail in the subhead.

2) Use some type of visual in your message. Instagram and Pinterest are leading visual-only networks, so if you don’t have a visual then you can’t play. Also, people are visual people who like looking at pictures.

3) Don’t lead with the boiler plate if you writing any type of written content or setting up a video. Save the “about company” information for the end of the document or video. Remember to build your reader’s interest with every element of the content you are producing.

4) Embed a call-to-action near the top of the page. When you are linking, think of it as a reader service and not just for SEO. You can link to profiles of key people quoted in the message.

Q&A

Q: How do links to existing content work regarding the new nofollow rule?

A: A few months ago Google said that certain types of content including press releases should have nofollow attributes in the link. Google wanted PR Newswire to change the link structure so content wouldn’t be counted toward search engine results. This meant you could no longer issue links in content you’re publishing online as a link building SEO tactic. However, this doesn’t have anything to do with the signals generated by social media. The takeaway is that if you’re publishing content that is valuable and people like and share it, then it will still be seen and will rank high in search engine.

Q: Where is the best place to post press release visuals? Also are there any fears visuals in press releases will trigger email spam filters?

A: You can post images on any social network with a link to the related press release or message you want to promote. You should also post visuals in blog posts and/or in the press releases on your website. It is less about where to post images, but more about posting them. If you are sending content out via email then you should include links to visuals and not include the actual video file or photo, because that will definitely trigger spam filters. You can also send out the email in HTML.

Q: What is an effective use of video in press releases?

A: You can embed a video in a press release that will play when people are viewing it on a website. The video stops the reader from reading and will take them to another place where they engage more fully with the brand and message. In addition, it makes the message more memorable for the reader.

Q: Is it OK to include a short phrase in the lead paragraph of a press release?

A: You need to think of your press release as a news story, because in so many cases your press releases will be seen by members of your audience in addition to bloggers and members of the media. You should really save the boilerplate for the boilerplate and write a real news lede in the press release that tells readers why it is an important announcement.

Q: What kind of PR news should a nonprofit foundation present?

A: Any organization needs to speak to their audience. What’s important to your audience? What can your organization offer that will make their lives better or spark their interest? It should be less about the organization and what they want to convey and more about what the audience wants to hear.

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.

Interest vs Attention. Which is Your Goal?

int attnA conversation I had with a peer yesterday got me thinking about press release outcomes, specifically, generating interest versus generating attention.

My colleague, a senior VP at an integrated communications agency, was telling me about a news release his PR team wrote, promoting a presentation he was giving at an industry event.  Instead of leading with his name, or some discussion around the topic, the lead sentence they employed was a jargon-heavy corporate positioning statement.

He pushed back, asking why the release was emphasizing a specific keyword phrase, rather than the topic of the presentation, which was strongly related to the agency’s business.  The answer – they were trying to seed awareness of that particular keyword phrase, in conjunction with the brand.

Generating attention means nothing if audience doesn’t take a next step lil tweet

Again he pushed back, arguing variously that the phrase was an obscure one nobody used (and thus, not useful from an SEO standpoint), the lead paragraph was fantastically boring and no one would read enough of the release to get to the core message, that they were missing the opportunity to connect with the people who were interested in the the timely topic his presentation was addressing and finally, by not highlighting involvement with the conference, the message was failing to leverage the significant attention the event was generating.  He didn’t win, and the team lost the opportunity to position the brand as a thought leader around a key industry topic, and to garner additional credibility on the subject through their involvement at a big industry confab.

But that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Because the headline and lead paragraph didn’t reference the interesting topic, the content wasn’t indexed under that valuable key phrase in search engines. 

As a result the agency was absent from search results pertaining to that hot topic.

Which meant that people overlooking information on that topic didn’t consider that agency.

And that means they lost business.

Oh, and because the lead was boring, people wouldn’t continue to read past the first few words of the awful lead. 

Which means they wouldn’t share the content on social networks, thus hiding the message from view of all the people sharing content from the event.

Fewer people went to his session.  The agency saw its ROI diminish from its investment in the conference.

The focus of that press release should have been promoting the brand’s leadership on a key issue, using the presentation and the conference as the hook, not upon building association with an obscure term no one uses  for the brand name.

Words mean things, and nowhere is that more true than in the communications we craft for the brands and organizations we represent.   And more than meaning, words inform search engines and spark social conversation – the kind that can amplify messages and win new relevant and valuable attention for the company – the sort of attention that turns into active interest on the part of the audience.

Simply put, attention isn’t worth much if the audience isn’t inspired to take a next step.  “Seeding awareness” of a phrase in conjunction with a brand name is the kind of objective that is impossible to measure, and is frankly of dubious value.    As we craft press releases and other messages, we need to be deliberately building interest, and focusing on leveraging the attention we create into real benefit for our brands.

Turning attention into interest starts with driving the discovery of your brand’s content.  Join us Tuesday, November 19, for a webinar on the topic of content discovery.   You’ll learn how to craft messages that will resonate with new, relevant audiences and will generate better results for your campaigns.

Free webinar registration: Connecting Messages with Audiences: Tips & Tactics for Driving Content Discovery 

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the newly-published ebooks  New School PR Tactics  and Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

Q&A: How to Incorporate Tumblr Into Your Marketing Campaigns

Dear Q&A Team,

My manager has assigned me the job of looking into new social media platforms that we can add to our marketing campaigns. I have been trying to learn about Tumblr and its capabilities. What type of content should we post onto Tumblr? What are some examples of successful Tumblr accounts run by businesses? Are there any legal issues we should be aware of when using Tumblr?

Stumbled Upon Tumblr

_____________________

Dear Stumbled Upon Tumblr,

It’s great that you are exploring other social media platforms. Here are three ProfNet experts who provide their expertise about Tumblr:

Reasons to Use Tumblr

Web marketing expert Lorrie Thomas Ross explains, “If an organization is looking to maximize awareness, information distribution, connections and service to support sales, then social media marketing needs to be part of the marketing mix. Tumblr is a blog platform that can help organizations harness the power of social media marketing.”

Christopher Penn, vice president of marketing technology for Shift Communications, agrees: “Tumbler is a rich content outpost, another blogging service that offers you an additional place to put content on the Web. Tumblr’s strength is its tremendous and active community that often re-blogs items that are worthy of attention and interest.”

Penn adds, “Tumblr’s secondary strength, especially for technologically less ambitious PR practitioners, is that it’s incredibly easy to use and quick to set up. You can begin on Tumblr in a matter of minutes, and its mobile apps make content creation simple and friendly.”

In addition, “platforms like Tumblr can be a great way to boost SEO,” says Ross. “Tumblr was architected to be search-friendly and help search visibility, so, if used effectively, it can help with a business’ SEO.”

However, you may want to disqualify Tumblr as a marketing medium if your company’s tolerance for risk is exceptionally low. It has an active adult content community, and many of its members enjoy blogging and re-blogging content they find, explains Penn. “For most brands, it shouldn’t be a significant problem — obscurity is a far greater risk than being discovered and re-blogged by someone whose content you might not agree with.”

Content to Include in Your Account

“People flock to Tumblr to be entertained and inspired, not to be pitched to,” says Francis Skipper, executive vice president of 451 Marketing. “Therefore, it is key to be very visual and to use humor on Tumblr. Pieces should be easy for your audience to digest and promote sharing. And try to provide evergreen content that will have a longer shelf life, so your content can be shared often.”

“Tumblr is also a great way to create a very human side of a brand by giving insights into the people and ideas behind your company,“ he adds.

Even though content needs to be engaging, it is important to remember that every organization has a different target audience. This is why it all starts with strategy – strategy first and execution second.

Ross suggests that marketing managers think about the content they have, their target audience, and what their target audience needs. Then they can decide what to post on Tumblr.

Once marketing managers are ready for the execution stage, it is important to know that the best content on Tumblr is graphical content — static images, graphics, animations, and video, says Penn.

Successful Examples

  • Comedy Central: This page is authentic, integrated and engaging. It supports the overall brand’s purpose. The purpose is very clear — to create viral clips, awareness and an audience.  –Ross
  • Capital One’s Bucket List and Art Institute of Technology:  Tumblr is a highly visual medium, and both these blogs maximize their use of imagery to make them eye-catching and appealing. –Penn
  • CNET:  They have been really smart about Tumblr posts, releasing “cliff notes” or abbreviated versions of their articles. They create a visual, multimedia headline that prompts the reader to click through to the full content on their site. -Skipper
  • General Mills: Their Tumblr focuses on whimsical content that taps into people’s inner child and even showcases some amazing DIY arts and crafts projects that were created from cereal boxes with tutorials. They create a fun lifestyle around their brands using Tumblr. –Skipper

Legal Issues & Tips

“As with any form of online content production, you will be held liable for intellectual property (IP) rights. Re-blogging something that falls afoul of IP rights can land you in serious, very hot water,” warns Penn. “For example, re-using an image from a licensed imaging service like Getty Images can cost you up to $60,000 per violation, even if the original content is not yours. By re-blogging it, you open yourself to the same liability as the creator.”

Also, remember to respect the FTC guidelines, says Ross. You can read more about them here: tinyurl.com/nxvvszl

Another thing to keep in mind is that companies need to commit to using Tumblr.

“Tools like Tumblr don’t make marketing magic,” cautions Ross. “It is how and why these tools are used that make marketing magic.”

Skipper reiterates Ross’ last statement: “First, have specific goals in mind before you start. Don’t just join Tumblr because ‘everyone else’ is doing it.” Some of these goals include: building brand awareness and identity, educating customers, and creating a brand persona.”

Last but not least, Penn cautions that “‘build it and they will come’ doesn’t work any better on Tumblr than it does on the Web. You still have to invest resources in outreach, awareness, advertising, and support of your initiatives there in order to make it successful.”

After deciding your Tumblr strategy with your company, I hope you have fun posting to this social media platform! Enjoy!

-The Q&A Team

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources. To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.