Back in the 90s when the Internet and search engines entered the mainstream, it did not take long for developers to figure out how to manipulate search results. They did everything from keyword stuffing to creating link farms, to tactics even more nefarious. Over the years, as Google became the undisputed king of search, it continued to refine its algorithms to prevent people from gaming the system. Along the way there were several bloodbaths in the form of the infamous Penguin and Panda. These updates were successful at tanking the results of many companies using black hat SEO tactics, but also managed to hurt seemingly innocent businesses as well.
Today, the search climate has shifted towards an approach that rewards authenticity, good content, and common sense. The once niche practice of SEO is now a widely accepted component of the marketing mix and has created its own industry of firms and professionals dedicated to getting your website optimized. And while there are still many specific and technical best practices that make up good SEO, many in the industry are boiling the essence down to good story telling. Below are three ways in which SEO is starting to look like PR.
- Quality content – It’s no surprise that good PR professionals are also good writers. The ability to clearly communicate a specific message to a specific audience cannot be over-emphasized. From press releases to bylines to speaking points to whitepapers, effective writing is what gets picked up and distributed. In the tech PR world, it is especially crucial to keep things simple by avoiding the overuse of jargon and focus instead on commonly understood terms to explain complex ideas and concepts. In the world of SEO, content is king. Not only must your content get indexed and ranked by Google, but once visitors have clicked to your site are they finding what they want and demonstrating a degree of engagement? Are visitors staying on your site for several minutes as opposed to leaving after a few seconds? Are they clicking through to other pages? Are they returning back to your site and spending more time on new pages? A visitor’s behavior is how Google determines the value of the content.
- Validation – When pitching to a reporter, if we have quotes from customers or other third parties that can provide an additional vote of confidence for our clients’ products and services, then our story is much more compelling. Similarly in search, if other prominent sites choose to link to you, then they are basically vouching for you and your content. Search engines take notice of this and factor into how your site will rank.
- Organization – Organizing the components of a story helps to convey the full meaning and keep the reader engaged. Are you burying the lead, or does your headline set the hook for what you’re going to tell? Are you explaining the main idea(s) on the front end, and then going into more detail throughout the body, with a conclusion at the end? Search engines understand this logic, from a single page and overall website perspective. Do your title and description tags accurately describe what your site is all about? Is your information organized in a logical manner through the navigation? Is there a site map? All of these components are SEO best practices that help improve the visitor’s experience.
The ability to find the information you need via search is a fundamental aspect of today and tomorrow’s economy. Add in the complexity and volume of social media content, and that’s a lot of noise getting in the way of your message and your audience. Best practices will surely evolve over time, but sticking to well-crafted storytelling is a good bet for being found.