Tag Archives: SEO

The Long Click – An Important Measure for Communicators

long clickAn indicator of content quality, the “long click” reveals whether or not audiences are truly engaging with your content. lil tweet bird

Digital communications are incredibly measurable.  Marketers know which websites refer the highest quality traffic to their own sites, and they know which pages on their websites do better job of converting visitors into customers. Many details about the behavior of visitor behavior before, during and after a website visit can be captured.  But the marketing team isn’t the only group keeping an eye on how audiences interact with a website.  Search engine spiders are paying attention, too.

Keeping the measurability of digital content in mind, let’s think about the new PR reality – the public relations team as publisher and story crafters, not simply spin doctors called upon to manage crises or crank out releases.

Developing a stream of quality, useful content that your audience uses is one of the most effective ways to build search rank for a web site, improve audience engagement and fill the organization’s pipeline with prospects.

Within all of these considerations is a golden opportunity for PR to produce a measurable and meaningful business impact from the content the organization is already publishing.

The “long click” – a golden opportunity for PR
Generally speaking, two things happen when a person visits a webpage: they either take a quick look and then immediately leave, or they stay for a good long time consuming the content on the page and possibly even clicking on some of the links on the page and further interacting with the website.

In web parlance, the former is a bounce, and it’s bad.  What’s the use in attracting visitors to your content, only to have them immediately leave? In reality, this kind of traffic can be damaging to a website’s overall rankings, because search engines consider bounces as a strong indicator of the presence of poor quality content on the site.

The opposite scenario is called a “long click.” If the content you publish is attracting people to your website stay on the page and read the press releases and watch the videos and click on the links, that’s good for a variety of reasons.  First and foremost, people who are spending that much time on your website are obviously consuming your messaging.  They are more likely to actually turn into customers, and along the way, they may take additional steps such as bookmarking or sharing content on your website or interacting with the brand successful media presences, developing further traction.

All of these behaviors are also positive signals that search engines notice indicating that the website is serving up high quality content that site visitors value.

Outcomes PR can measure 

Web analytics programs such as Site Catalyst and Google Analytics measure the time visitors spend on a page.  Additionally, it’s entirely possible to measure the traffic coming for specific sources (such as press releases, your online media room, etc.) and make some assumptions about the quality of those visitors by looking at their time on page data.  If it’s going up, generally, that’s a pretty good sign.

Digital PR teams that are publishing distributed content can embed short URLs within press releases, blog posts, articles and other content to measure traffic back to the destination page on your company website, providing a good measure of the traffic referred directly from the PR message. However, you can take it a step further by then asking the web team to analyze the time on page data for visitors to that page. In some cases, your analytics team may be able to even isolate visitors driven to the page by specific pieces of your content, and compare the time the PR-referred visitors spend on the page, compared to that spent by visitors from other sources.

This enables the PR team to establish a benchmark that they can use to measure this success in future campaigns, and also for setting overall objectives for the department.  Moving the needle on long clicks is actually reasonable PR outcome but more organizations should be adopting and measure.

Want more ideas for new ways to measure the business impact of your public relations campaigns?   This on-demand webinar archive offers first-hand examples on connecting  (and measuring!) PR to business outcomes.  Here’s the link: http://prn.to/1o4qblS 

sarah avatarAuthor Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of strategic communications, and is the author of  the ebook Driving Content DiscoveryFollow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

The Effects of Hummingbird on Search and Social

We’ve had a few months to digest and absorb the changes Google wrought with the launch of the Hummingbird search algorithm, which significantly chanted how the search giant ranks content.  

So what effect has Hummingbird had on search and social?  Earlier this year, the Social Media Club NYC hosted an event that assessed the impact the new algorithm has had for internet users users and brands. The meeting was moderated by SMCNYC board memberDanielle Simon, and the three panelists included:

Landsman put together the following PowerPoint to introduce the topic of Hummingbird. You can download it here: db.tt/rFVSLL2W.

Key points Landsman made include:

  • Google Senior VP of Search Amit Singhal explained this new change by saying, “Hummingbird is focused more on ranking information based on a more intelligent understanding of search requests, unlike its predecessor, Caffeine, which was targeted at better indexing of websites.”
  • With this new change to Google Search, content is still the most important thing. You need to be able to share content with context.
  • The change brings to bear Semantic Web, as Google seeks to deliver the results of semantic search.
  • Google really wants to understand what your search query means.
  • Google keeps a database of all things that were searched and then they look at your personal search history when you sign into your Google account, as well as your context and the context of you and your content. They call this Personalized Search.
  • Human language is getting more play at Google, especially with Siri and Android hearing what you’re saying.
  • Hummingbird leverages Google’s vast Knowledge Graph, which contains information about 570 million concepts. It then uses this equation thought of by Landsman: Words + Context + Knowledge Graph = SERPS (aka “hits”)
  • Google tells you keywords are not provided unless you’re an advertiser. The explanation behind this is when SSL (Secure Sockets Layered) is employed, keywords are not provided.
  • Google moved to SSL for all Personalized Search. As a security measure, this would secure the user’s identity.
  • Here are some things you can do since Google is not telling you the keywords: start listening; look at your referrer logs; look at time spent per page; look at what else shows up in search; write great copy on all of your pages; and be sure to use all the meta data tools.
  • It is more important to drive traffic to your site that is interested in what you have to say versus getting tons of hits.

Here are some of the questions that were asked by Simon and attendees, and their responses:

As a searcher, what type of change would we have seen that reflects this algorithm change?

Batista: When searchers need to type to search for something, they don’t want to type a lot. However, when you need to speak to search, you will be more verbose. It is easier for us to speak than type. From Google’s perspective, they are looking at two perspectives. These are the challenges that Hummingbird is enabling Google to solve.

What are the practical things you can do as a business, and how can you serve your customers better by coming up in certain queries?

Batista: Google started an initiative in 2009 called rich snippets to encourage more webmasters to annotate their pages and identify whether the page is about a place, review, recipe, etc. In return, this helped Google enrich their knowledge graph, which makes your search more compelling. If I have client where we implement these rich snippets, they have at least a 30 percent increase in click-through rate.

Another free tool you can use is Webmaster Tools. It is an SEO tool that Google provides you, and you have full access to the phrases that people are searching. With the query data that is typed, you will not have conjunctions, but with spoken words you will have prepositions. This is how you will be able to filter the query list provided by Google. You can also filter by searching for the type of device that was used to search. Once you identify the type of search, you look to see whether your page is serving the need of the user, and users are looking for.

Are your search results different when you search on your phone versus on your desktop?

Landsman: The most likely difference will be geographic. When a search is mobile, they take into account location. For example, if you type in “Chinese restaurant” on your mobile phone versus your office desktop, it will tell you more about what’s nearby and it will come up a bit quicker.

How is social starting to influence search?

Bernard: If you’re a local business, you need to make sure your content is optimized for mobile. This can be social posts, tweets, thumbnail sizes on images, or your website. The second thing is Google+, which is connecting a lot of the pieces of the Web together, i.e., email addresses, authorship tags. From a social perspective, don’t forget about Google+, because somewhere down the line this may become even more important than people think. It isn’t just about the content being there, but it is also about the social signals from Google+. We have done certain experiments in AOL with social signals that are coming off of Google+ posts, and we have definitely seen these more with engaging posts.

How Can You Pull Images into Google Search?

Landsman: Google is fascinated by Pinterest. Pinterest is more important to Google than a lot of other stuff, such as Flickr. For one client, whenever they put a visual on their site I would pin it, and Google would then show it immediately. Pictures on Google+ aren’t as loved as on Pinterest, but it is still close.

What Are Something Things That Can Be Done to Help Search?

Bernard: Write better headlines. The impact of writing better headlines from a search and social perspective is enormous. You almost have to get into the minds of people searching for when you’re doing your headlines. Your headlines need to be more conversational.

Landsman: You need to use the language of the searcher and visitor. What are they interested in, and how are they going to react to you? You also need to understand user experience, and with search becoming more semantic, it is becoming arguably that much more important.

What is future of Hummingbird for users and marketers?

Batista: Google wants to build a computer where you can ask any type of question and it will be able to answer. Being able to give you whatever answer you can think of — that is where things are heading.

Landsman: And the real dream is that they want to be able to anticipate what you want.

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.

2 Ways PR & SEO Need to Collaborate to Drive Results

In the PR realm, “SEO” often refers to the goal of getting a press release seen in search results. However, in reality, search engine optimization is much larger in scope, referring to the art and science of getting your company content (the web site and other assets) to appear at the top of internet searchers’ results pages (the “SERP” or “search engine results pages,) for the words that relate strongly to the business and attract likely new prospects.

One of the most potent ways to get to the top of the SERP is via earned media, and as we know, that is the realm of public relations. That’s also why leading SEO site SearchEngineLand ran a post today titled: 5 Tips For Working With A PR Firm To Build Links.

SEO and PR need to be on the same page.  Literally.

Earned media – whether in the form of social proof or traditional pick up – are the most important search ranking factors today.

In my mind, the article misses an important angle, which is this: SEO pros should work with the PR team (in house or agency) to align and integrate their efforts around the pages to which links are desired. The PR teams should have a table of the key URLs for which the company is developing optimization strategies, and the corresponding topic areas and relevant keywords. The public relations staff can (and should) include those URLs when pitching, penning posts and writing press releases, which will result in the eventual reference to those links in journalists’’ online posts and social shares.

Illustrate the value of earned media.

But we’re not done there. The SEO agency or team should reward the PR team – who, let’s face it, are often struggling to express ROI – by giving them a report illustrating the value of the media they earned. The SEO guys are measurement wizards – they know how many people visited a particular web page, and where they came from, and in many cases, what they did subsequently. They tabulate conversions and track revenue, and they can tell the PR team what out comes the media earned generated.

One could even argue that search rank should be a defined PR outcome, and you know what?  I would agree.

The barrier is education, not territory. 

Learn more about getting the most out of your press releases in today’s digital media environment on this free webinar on Feb. 26.

The article intimates at – and gives an unfortunate example of – the issue of territory. Many of the PR pros I work with aren’t thinking in terms of SEO and earned media, which is a crying shame, given the importance of earned media and social proof in the search engines’ ranking algorithms.

It’s not a territory issue; it’s an education issue, and a huge opportunity for PR to generate immense and measurable value for the brands they represent.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of  the ebooks Driving Content Discovery and  New School Press Release Tactics.  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik.

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.

4 Keys to Creating Hummingbird-Friendly Content

Summary:  Google is emphasizing conversational search with its new Hummingbird search algorithm, placing a premium on relevant content in response to vast numbers of unique search queries, as well as the increasing shift to mobile search.  Here are four ways content creators and PR pros can build relevance into their content creation strategies. 

By now you’ve probably heard the news that Google quietly dropped a new algorithm into their search engine a couple months ago.  Christened “Hummingbird,” for its speed and precision, the new algorithm rolled out smoothly and didn’t create real waves in the search community, which is surprising given the scope of the change (which could be compared to putting a whole new engine into a car.) However, the fact that the change was a quiet one doesn’t mean that it didn’t bring significant new changes.

Google is focusing on what they call “conversational search,” and Hummingbird is delivering better answers for longer, more detailed queries.   Essentially, Google just raised the bar on relevance.lil tweet  As their search engine algorithms drill more deeply into the context of searches, less-relevant content drops out of search results.

“Rather than just examining each individual word in a search, Google is now examining the searcher’s query as a whole and processing the meaning behind it,” writes Jeremy Hall in a post on Wired titled Google Hummingbird: Where No Search has Gone Before. “Previously, Google (and most other search engines) used more of a “brute force” approach of looking at the individual words in a search and returning results that matched those words individually and as a whole. Now Google is focusing on context and trying to understand user’s intent in order to deliver more relevant results and better answers.”

There are a few reasons why Google is paying attention to longer, conversational search queries.  Every day, about 15% of the searches (that’s about 500 million) people plug into Google’s engine are new, representing combinations of words never before seen by Google.    Hummingbird takes aim at improving search results by answering the questions behind the queries, rather than simply returning lists of potentially relevant results.   And as people increasingly move toward using mobiles and tablets to do searches, the nature of searches are changing.  People are dictating search queries, creating a whole new dynamic.  And mobile searches continue to increase, as people increasingly look for information that will help them out moment to moment.

Herein is the opportunity for content creators.  Recalibrating content, and employing a laser-focus on publishing information that is useful to audiences is crucial to successful content and public relations campaigns and capture valuable long-tail and in-the-moment opportunities.

There’s more to developing relevant messaging than sprinkling keywords throughout the copy, however.   Search engines are good at understanding context, and also place value on the relative popularity of digital information.

Here are four keys to creating content nectar for Google’s new Hummingbird:

  • Highlight the questions a new product answers in a press release.  Turn your headline into a value statement that answers the question, “What is the most important thing this product/event/announcement does for my audience?”
  • Mine your organization’s web analytics to identify content gaps and opportunities.  What keywords are people using to get to your web site?   What content is most popular?   Are there any obvious
  • Questions are queries.  Talk to your front-line teams, and find out what questions customers are asking.  Use those questions to frame content, and imbue materials like press releases with relatable and relevant information.
  • One product may have different value propositions that appeal to different audiences.  Surface different messages by tweeting the specifics, highlighting them in an infographic and calling them out in a bulleted list in text copy.

Building audience interest and a customer focus into every message – especially owned media like press releases – will help generate visibility for the content over time, as people hunt for specific information online.  Organizations that learn to do this well will fare well in the Hummingbird’s realm.  On the flip side, content that doesn’t attract visitors, inspire social sharing, answer questions or serve audience needs will drop from view.  In fact, metrics relating to online reads, social shares and ongoing popularity are among the KPIs content and PR programs should use to measure results, and keep content programs on track.

For some additional ideas on developing relevant public relations and marketing content for your organization, download our free ebook, “Driving Content Discovery.” In it you’ll find tips, examples and ideas for improving the discoverability of your content by making it more timely and relevant to your audiences.

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

The Future of Content in Search & on the Social Web

Content is more than information – it’s storytelling that provides meaningful experiences and inspires action.  Lee Odden (@leeodden) of TopRank Online Marketing drove home the importance of emotion as he delved into the “Future of Content on Search and Social Web” at Content Marketing World (#CMWorld) earlier today.

The future of content is visual, real-time, mobile, human and cross-platform, he says. Simply put, it’s about creating things that make us go “mmmmm” — the art of inspiring feeling.  Find that “moment in the experience” that contributes to a moment of inquiry becoming a lead, he says.

One important piece of research is to find out which channels your customers respond to best and then work to create content that causes reaction. “Communities and customers are dynamic and insatiable – we have to feed them.”

Statistics reveal that viewers are 85% more likely to purchase a product after watching a product video.  Odden says the cycle is to attract, engage, convert and to continue the flow.

And there’s no question — today’s marketing teams have their work cut out for them when assigning functions. Marketing is a bigger job today than it has ever been. Strategy, creation, production, search, social and analytics are all critical roles today, and all overlap in content.

Vlogger Diane Harrigan (@dianeharrigan) authors the Postcards from SF blog, and is also an account manager with PR Newswire.

Generate Awareness, Not Links, With Press Releases

awareness quote“Let’s be very clear.  Press releases have always been about generating awareness.”  (Tweet it) 

That sterling point was made by a panelist on a recent webinar, and he was bang on the money. Because before you get the audience to act, you have to first garner their attention.

Attention is best gained authentically, and brands derive more value when they earn their audiences’ attention by providing quality information.   Utility will trump a gimmick every time.

This brings us to an important change Google rolled out in the form of an update to their webmaster guidelines about a week ago, in which they explicitly advise against embedding optimized anchor text in press releases or articles that are distributed on other sites.

This was not a surprise, as Google has been increasingly valuing earned media and social signals, as signaled in their Panda and Penguin updates.   PR Newswire will soon be changing the structure of the links in the content we syndicate to comply with Google’s new guidelines, implementing nofollow links in our press release feed.

So why press releases?

Search engines need to deliver to their users accurate and useful search results, and they are continually updating and refining how they evaluate and rank content.  With their new guidelines, Google is discouraging the use of press releases for link-building. 

There is an important distinction here. Press releases are more than simple SEO tools. Press releases reach journalists, influencers and consumers.    The AP, Dow Jones, Reuters and Bloomberg, along with thousands of other major newsrooms worldwide, have feeds of press releases piped directly into their editorial systems. And almost eight thousand web sites, including some of the world’s largest news sites, publish PR Newswire stories.  Press releases drive social interaction.  They meet financial disclosure.   In short, they drive broad discovery of your message.  None of this has anything to do with linkbuilding and SEO.  This is all about building awareness.

Google is taking aim at a tiny slice of press release distributors with its new guidelines.

While most of the companies using PR Newswire (and our competitors) are doing so to build awareness of their messages, garner media pick up and to deliver their messaging straight to their target audiences, there is a contingent that are issuing press releases for the sole purpose of generating inbound links, and this is the practice Google is discouraging.

The sophistication of search engine algorithms today is breathtaking. They evaluate myriad variables like social signals and user behavior, and they can read natural language and ascertain context. It’s pretty amazing, and it’s no wonder that they now ignore factors that used to be central to how a piece of content was ranked and were once considered SEO best practices.  As a result, old school SEO tactics — such as repeating the same keyword over and over in a piece of content or stuffing page HTML with keywords — have fallen out of favor.    With this most recent change, Google has signaled that the distribution of optimized anchor text links has also fallen by the wayside.

No-follow links

Adding no-follow code to the links in press releases will not impact their discoverability — press releases will still be indexed by search engines and the links within them will still be usable to readers.  This does not mean that your press releases won’t show up in online searches anymore. The nofollow code simply communicates to search engines that the links ‘within’ the press release shouldn’t be read by search engine spiders and count toward the search rank of the page they’re linked to. (If it sounds like this is an SEO technicality, that’s because it is.)

This change will be inconvenient for organizations that were relying on paid links.  However, fewer and fewer organizations are doing so, as this tactic has already lost considerable value.

discovery value

The real value of press releases

Our advice to clients on the subject of press releases and SEO has been clear and remains unchanged in the wake of Google’s update to their webmaster guidelines.  Using press releases solely as a means to generate inbound links from third party sites to the press release issuer’s web site hasn’t been sound practice for years.

We believe the value press release distribution provides is in discovery, not links.  Driving messages deep into audiences and generating authentic reads, clicks and visibility among relevant audiences and social shares — that’s where press releases add value.

When it comes to building online visibility for your brand, think of press releases not as sources of inbound links but instead as means to drive discovery of key messages by relevant audiences who will provide the sort of organic, authentic interactions that generate qualified traffic.   Publish new and interesting content, use a variety of distribution channels to seed discovery, and employ press releases to build the awareness and attention that inspire the action that creates a loop of content > interest > social interaction > search power for your brand.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of the e-book “Unlocking Social Media for PR.”  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik