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How Not to Fail at SEO and Social Media Optimization

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As PR pros ramp up their SEO and Social Media Optimization efforts, here are seven things to avoid: Shiny Object Keywords, Set It & Forget It SEO, Missing Out Links in Placements, Falling Short on Measurement, Waning on Training, Frugal SEO Tooling and To Be Optimized, You Must Socialize.

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Join Lee Odden for his workshop, Advance Your SEO Skills with Social Media Optimization, on Monday, October 17 from 11:30 a.m. – 12:45 p.m. at the PRSA 2011 International Conference, Oct. 15–18 in Orlando, Fla.!

Lee OddenThe demand for smart Social Media and SEO information from Public Relations departments and agencies has increased significantly this year.  Many PR groups are investing significantly in SEO and Social Media strategy, road mapping and training for their teams. In our work as a resource for these organizations, one of the most useful insights we provide is guidance on what to avoid when it comes to incorporating SEO and SMO (social media optimization) into PR content strategies.

No one likes to #fail, so as PR pros ramp up their SEO and Social Media Optimization efforts, here are seven things to avoid:

1. Shiny Object Keywords
SEO advice is easy to find online including suggestions of doing keyword research using free tools like Google’s AdWords Keyword Tool.  There’s a temptation to focus on the most popular phrases even if they aren’t 100% on target. What’s even more concerning is an attempt to optimize a webpage for an extremely competitive topic that would require an entire SEO campaign to achieve, not just one page.

High popularity count keyword phrases are like shiny objects that can distract from the topics that really matter to target audiences. It’s fine to have competitive and relevant keyword phrases as targets, as long as there’s a commitment to creating the content and attracting the links necessary.

The most important thing to start with is a SEO and keyword audit to determine what topics your target audience cares about and what degree of difficulty exists in order to achieve top visibility.

In the meantime, go after phrases that reflect the intersection of the topic your promoting and the most relevant queries being made. In fact, extend that search keyword research to social topics for more long tail concepts to optimize.

Many journalist inquiries are pretty niche. They’re often looking for something very specific, and if you’re chasing generic keywords that will take a year to achieve top visibility on, you may be missing out on a lot of relevant search traffic that could inspire media coverage.

2. Set It & Forget It SEO
Another temptation is to approach SEO for PR content very tactically. An example would be to limit all SEO efforts to experimenting on a single web page or press release. There’s nothing wrong with experimentation, but optimizing a single or a handful of documents isn’t what drives significant search traffic.

An extension of that would be to optimize a newsroom or website without planning to revisit keyword lists and whether on-page content optimization refinement is necessary.  I’ve heard comments like this many times, “Oh, we optimized our newsroom already. In 2008”. SEO, like Social Media and Content is a journey – not a destination.

3. Missing Out Links in Placements
Google PageRank introduced the online marketing world to the importance of links beyond those that simply drive direct traffic. Today, PageRank isn’t as much of a focus, but links are still very important. Especially links from social networks and media sharing sites.  Many PR professionals consider the keyword optimization of web pages, press releases and digital assets all that is necessary – discounting the need to attract links.

Links are like electricity and help power-up search engines’ effforts to discover new content. Links also serve as a signal for use in assigning importance for ranking. PR professionals are in a unique position to attract some of the most valuable links possible – from online media websites. Asking journalists to link back to a website takes little effort and might result in a highly valued link that can send the most significant kind of signal or link juice to pages that have been optimized.

Additionally, sending out optimized press releases that include links through a news release distribution service like our client PRWeb, can result in numerous types of links. In some cases it can be as few as 5 or 10 links and in other situations it might be 100′s of them.  The topic, media  and writing are big influences on how sharable and linkable  a press release will be.  Optimization of news releases with keywords is just the start. Link building and social promotion are essential for creating awareness to journalists and bloggers directly as well as through improved search visibility.

4. Falling Short on Measurement
Improved search visibility is often measured with a ranking report.  With personalization, those reports are not as useful as they once were. Web analytics tracks visitors to a website and where they came from, like from a search engine.  When optimizing social media content measurement of ranking on sites like Twitter search or Google blog search are so time sensitive they can be hard to capture.

That’s about as far as most PR and Corporate Communications pros will go when it comes to measuring the impact of their Social SEO efforts.

However, there’s a lot more. Especially since increased, relevant traffic to the corporate website, social media, blog or news content can not only reach the media but end consumers looking to buy. If the content can warrant a link to a “buy page” where a conversion or inquiry can occur, PR practitioners would do well to make sure web analytics tracking is setup so that new business inquiries can be attributed to optimized PR content when appropriate.

How powerful would it be to show not only media coverage, but improved web traffic and new business inquiries as a direct result of PR’s SEO efforts?

5. Waning on Training
You don’t just flip a switch and become SEO savvy, I’m sorry to say. Achieving SEO competence takes training, practice and persistence. At TopRank Marketing, we have a consulting service but we’re in the business of helping PR firms and corporate public relations staff get up to speed with SEO and Social Media SEO skills. But there are many other places to get useful knowledge ranging from the upcoming SES conference in San Francisco to the online training provided by Market Motive you see in the right side bar of this blog.

The key thing is to understand that to gain momentum, providing SEO skills training to those in your organization in a position to create content online will be especially helpful. Going it alone as the sole SEO savvy person in a  large agency is tough to scale. However you get that training is up to you, just be sure to get it for yourself and for your team.

6. Frugal SEO Tooling
I’ve noticed there’s a tendency with many PR agencies and departments to be a bit conservative on paying for tools. It’s true that there are many free tools out there, but over time and without a business model to fund them, they get neglected and can become irrelevant or go away altogether. Then you’re up a creek without a paddle, scrambling for some other free tool, not knowing what really works and what doesn’t.

That’s why I like to pay for tools. I know they’ll be around and will have an obligation to provide some kind of service level and support. Whether its paying for WordStream for keyword research or SEOMoz Pro or Raven Tools for a host of SEO functionality and campaign management, don’t skimp on the tools. The impact of great SEO, especially SEO and Social Media Optimization, can have a tremendous impact and maybe even a multiplier to online media relations efforts. Tools will help you do quality work and more importantly, scale!

7. To Be Optimized, You Must Socialize
A big part of today’s optimization for better search performance means active social media content creation, curation and engagement. Building social networks that you can share links with is essential for the social link and content signals being increasingly considered by Google and Bing. Optimizing social media content improves the search visibility of brand content on the social web and can include everything from blogs to video to Tweets.

Brand social network participation on sites like Facebook, Twitter, Quora and Google+ can provide Google with signals that can be used for ranking content on social search destinations as well as

There are many more ways than these seven to fail at SEO and SMO for Public Relations, but as a foundation, these tips can serve to help PR Agencies and Corporate Communications avoid some of the pitfalls and become more productive, more quickly with their SEO efforts.

This post originally appeared on the Online Marketing Blog.

Lee Odden, is the CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, editor of the award winning Online Marketing Blog and author of “Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing” (Wiley 2012).

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Lee Odden

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