President and cofounder, SEO-PR
Social media practice lead, Text 100
EVP of digital strategy and operations, Weber Shandwick
SVP, digital strategies; executive director, K:drive, Kaplow
Founder and CEO, Oneupweb
Greg Jarboe, president and cofounder, SEO-PR
Google is the number-one search engine in the US, with 9.2 billion search queries in July 2009, according to comScore qSearch. Google conducts hypertext-matching analysis to determine which pages are relevant to a specific search being conducted.
As such, keyword research is one of the useful services that SEO experts can provide to Web site owners. To conduct keyword research, use Wordstream's free keyword tool, which is more comprehensive and accurate than the Google AdWords keyword tool.
Google also examines the entire link structure of the Web to determine which pages are most important. Link building is another useful service SEO experts can provide.
The best way to get other sites to create relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can quickly gain popularity in the Internet community. Having good content pays off: links are usually editorial votes given by choice and the buzzing blogger community can be an excellent place to generate interest.
Many SEO experts call good content "linkbait," and linkbait should be put on a "good hook." There are several good hooks, including news hooks, such as firsthand accounts of current events, as well as creative hooks, such as the quirky and unusual.
According to comScore qSearch, YouTube is the number-two property where search activity is observed, with 3.6 billion searches in July 2009. Optimizing video for YouTube is another creative way that companies can maximize their SEO efforts.
To optimize a video, start by conducting keyword research with the YouTube keyword suggestion tool. Then incorporate two to three relevant search terms in the title, description, and tags to help your video get discovered in YouTube search results and "related videos."
Joseph Kingsbury, social media practice lead, Text 100
SEO is still considered something of a dark art by many communications professionals. Get beyond the more obscure technical aspects, though, and most of what's left in SEO falls right into PR's wheelhouse: write to engage, speak the audience's language, and understand influence, to name a few.
People looking for silver bullets may find disappointment. PR pros would be best advised to master the basics. Effective SEO is the sum of executing several good techniques, many of which are tied to common sense, consistency, and a basic understanding of how search engines see content.
Speak your audience's language. If you sell Popsicles, don't call them "frozen handheld portable confections" across all your digital content. Understanding how people really use search is key. Putting yourself in the shoes of someone outside the organization helps inform that understanding.
Use the right keywords and phrases - a lot. Descriptive titles and keyword density within the text go a long way toward identifying your site as a relevant source of information. With titles especially - in blog posts, social media releases, browser windows, site URLs - remember that search engines don't recognize anything that shrouds literal meaning. Be creative, but never at the expense of being clear and descriptive.
Find authority and get it to link back to you. Search engines value inbound links to your site coming from other sites they deem relevant and authoritative. No shortcuts here. Get out and build relationships with people talking about relevant issues, share your links, and link back to them.
Say it again through multimedia. If you take the time to blog, consider shooting a brief video capturing the post's main idea. Ditto for images; create charts and graphs illustrating your point. Tag everything appropriately, post to content-sharing sites, and provide URLs to drive people back to relevant assets.
Chris Perry, EVP, digital strategy and operations, Weber Shandwick
Like everything these days, it's important to look at optimizing search from the perspective of where it's going, not where it has been. Try to look at SEO not simply as a means to drive site visits, but also as a way to maximize brand visibility through a widening range of searchable properties. Increasingly this means taking an SEO mindset to social media, where the key is content and interaction on third-party networks versus driving people to a single destination.
In producing video, audio, and text, content should be syndicated through social platforms, as well as uploaded and optimized on corporate-owned sites. To maximize reach, you must deeply grasp community interests and the platforms where they gather, and make content findable and accessible through proper tagging, uploading, and seeding. These fundamentals are vital and often underused.
Many companies have branded social network presences on popular sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, but fewer optimize the value of these properties through relevant content, perspective, and conversation. Furthermore, make sure your network does not comprise standalone destinations. Make it a priority to cross-pollinate content and links to enhance visibility and accessibility through search and build a cohesive presence.
If managed well, Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook can earn your brand a high page rank, locking down first-page search results for relevant queries. What's more, as search and social networking converge, more queries from inside these platforms will become another key avenue for finding information.
There is a lot of latent value in branded content and social networks. To realize SEO value requires proper planning, coordination, and management of a social system versus individual tactics to execute.
Stephanie Schwab, SVP, digital strategies and executive director of K:drive, Kaplow
Successful SEO is about leveraging all brand assets, on-site and off, to garner maximum visibility within search engines. Creating and enhancing social media platforms, both internal and external, can be a solid strategy for improved SEO. Fortunately, what consumers want from brands in social media is what search engines want - relevant, fresh content that's not "spammy" or intrusive.
SEO success in social media depends on knowing who you want to target, why you want to reach them, how you're going to continually engage with them, and how you're going to measure interaction. It's tempting to want to create brand presences in a variety of social venues - throwing it all up there to generate a broad search engine presence - but successful social media requires time and resources to build credible brand presences and true customer engagement.
Start with a narrow focus on one or two social venues and build from there as you learn what resonates with your community and where you're getting search rankings improvements. Many brands are already on sites like Twitter and YouTube. The trick is to make sure that all of the content on the Web has been checked to play well with SEO.
Internal platforms can include corporate or product blogs, podcasts, and company or brand forums and communities. One of the most successful means of brand engagement is through a company blog, and it's also a great way to gain an additional spot on the front page of search engines. Be sure, however, to use SEO-friendly blogging software and plug-ins, and optimize content as you go.
By creating a solid social media strategy and optimizing social media for SEO, you will reap the benefits of improved SEO and social media engagement by your target audience.
Lisa Wehr, founder and CEO, Oneupweb
Analytics are a major part of an SEO campaign that can often be overlooked. Do you consistently monitor your click-through rates and time spent on your Web site? The better your click-through rate and the more time spent on your site, the faster you'll reach that top spot for your keywords. Draw people in with clever title tags and meta descriptions. Then keep them on the site by creating content they want to read in a navigation that is friendly and sensible to the average user.
SEO is about more than just your Web site; it's about your entire digital presence. This includes social profiles, pictures, blogs, and videos. Having these crucial pieces and making sure they are optimized will not only draw more potential customers to your site, you'll have them in place for reputation management. For example, during Domino's Pizza's YouTube crisis involving two of its employees this past April, the video released by Domino's president Patrick Doyle addressing the situation appeared at the top of search engine results pages (higher than the damaging video), thanks to a good SEO strategy.
A more basic way to maximize your SEO efforts is to generate content that will fulfill user needs. Think about what information your user seeks and optimize your site with content around those ideas, as well as those vital keywords. This should include com- pany executives and your top ad campaigns.
Of course, any SEO campaign can be bolstered through the use of integration. A well-coordinated PR and paid search campaign can help ensure you are impacting the widest possible audience. And social media channels offer an invaluable chance to engage and grow your audience while also increasing your potential link opportunities.
Master the basics. The most important pieces of the SEO puzzle are simple strategies, such as selecting the right keywords and using them often
Create quality content that features plenty of links and is integrated with the SEO program across channels
Monitor your digital presence. Click-through rates and other metrics help determine what's drawing visitors and creating customer engagement