Every PR pro has heard the news: The future of public relations is all about “brand journalism“, which is all about content, content, content. Of course, the quality of said content is paramount, because if readers don’t get your company/client’s message then the words themselves won’t be worth much in the end.
But search engine optimization also plays a big role in the art of content creation. If pages don’t show up near the top of relevant Google searches, then their value will be limited.
Now for a tiny bit of shameless self promotion: As Mediabistro employees, we recently had the opportunity to take one of our company’s courses on SEO best practices. We thought we were fairly familiar with SEO, but we learned a few techniques that go beyond the usual “include key words and phrases”, and we thought we’d share six tips that we would have missed otherwise.
- Relational Linking: We used to feel like the big brands and names mentioned in our stories didn’t need any more hyperlinks or publicity, but links to extremely popular sites also help boost your own material’s SEO rankings. In short: If your story mentions Nike, Martha Stewart Living or McDonald’s, you might as well hyperlink to those companies’ pages or social media profiles. At the same time, this practice is only appropriate in context–Google’s algorithms are designed to punish pages stuffed with big-name hyperlinks and keywords that have no relevance to the content in question.
- Alt tags: In order to make absolutely sure that search engines know what your content is all about, every image on your pages should have both a title and an alt tag. The title should provide basic information about the image while the alt tag elaborates on the purpose of the pic or links it more directly to the story in question. If you’re using a content management system like WordPress, you should have the option to add both to every image.
- Header tags: IT teams with better tech knowledge than us usually handle HTML tagging concerns, but the H1-H6 tags are important because they distinguish certain copy lines as headers–lending them more weight when it comes to determining search engine results.
- Bold text: In the same way, the bolding of key terms and phrases makes them more searchable, because search engine algorithms use the HTML coding to set these bolded words apart as more important.
- Full names: If you’re referencing celebrities or personalities that will be familiar to your readers, you should make sure to use full names. This isn’t just to avoid confusion about which Kardashian you’re referencing–the more complete your information is, the more helpful it will be to search engines. Even your grandma knows who you mean when you type “Kanye”–but it’s better to add his last name while you’re at it.
- Google AdWords and Analytics keyword tools: These two free tools are popular with the online content creation community, but they’re also complicated, and they can take a while to learn. Here are a couple of quick tips: If you’re trying to maximize the effectiveness of your language, you can use this AdWords keyword finder tool to determine which searches will most likely bring web surfers to your page and refine your content accordingly. Then you can use the Analytics feature “organic search traffic” to figure out which searches have actually led people to your pages.
Also: If you’re not sure how strong your pages are from an SEO perspective, the free online analysis tools at SeoSiteCheckup can be very helpful. They can give you some ideas about what you need to change to make sure your content doesn’t get lost in the crowd.
Any other SEO suggestions?