Pulse of the Profession

Friday Five: Getting the most out of SEO – Introducing Hummingbird and Exploring what it means for PR

With the launch of its new Hummingbird search algorithm, Google is continuing its quest to deliver the most relevant and useful search results to its users. Some public relations professionals, however, have begun to question how the changes to SEO will impact the traffic to their content and alter its ranking in search. Fear not – the PageRank algorithm is still in place and has been combined with variety of other components that will improve searching. Content that is, and has been, relevant will still rank well, while spam-like information will no longer prevail. With the new algorithm, SEO is still a vital tool in the vast toolbox of public relations practitioners.

In this week’s PRSA “Friday Five” post – an analysis of the week’s biggest public relations and business news and commentary – we look at a breakdown of the new Hummingbird system and its capabilities, “PR-friendly” aspects of the new algorithm, helpful “basics” every PR pro should know about SEO and how to indentify keywords driving traffic to your site. We also look at how Hummingbird has affected the way we use social media.

FAQ: All About The New Google “Hummingbird” Algorithm (Search Engine Land)

Google recently rolled out Hummingbird, its new search algorithm that encompasses old components (including the ever important PageRank algorithm) and new components that aim to remove clutter during searching. The article gives a breakdown of areas that Google is trying to improve with Hummingbird, including “conversational search” that better understands the phrasing of words and generates search results for entire queries, versus “pages matching just a few words.” For example Hummingbird “might understand that ‘place’ means you want a brick-and-mortar store.”

While it’s too soon to provide “before-and-after” insights, it seems that Hummingbird is accomplishing more good than bad. Regarding the worries of public relations professionals, the new algorithm went live about a month ago, so if traffic to your content hasn’t changed, “you came through Hummingbird unscathed.”

PR: The new SEO? (PR Week)

This article offers consolation to those who may have panicked during the initial introduction of Hummingbird, and proposes valuable insight about the potential positive effects it will have on the public relations industry. PR Week contributor Martin Jones explains: “Google’s new approach is putting more weight on meaningful stories when deciding where different links appear in search results – and that’s a windfall for PR agencies.”
The article highlights three “PR-friendly” assets of Hummingbird, including:

  • Backlinks from third-parties linking back to company sites
  • Content that is easily searchable through “search-optimized blog posts and knowledgeable contributed articles”
  • Weighted “social shares” on social media

SEO Basics Every PR Pro Should Know (Digital Relevance Blog)

Public relations professionals must adapt to new SEO rules that have sprung up with the improvements made to Google search. Communicators should be excited, in fact, because results are more content-based, providing an opportunity for well crafted, thought-out public material to be found more easily. “As Google improved its algorithms to identify both useful content and “spammy” links, SEO shifted to content marketing, earned media, and online brand awareness.”

One SEO tool public relations pros should utilize is natural linking, or “online outreach and promotion of truly useful content leads to natural linking.” Natural linking means that key, relevant messages can be searched more easily and outweigh linked, “spammy” results. Another area that is increasingly important to search engine optimization is maintaining an organized website so “Googlebots” can find and redistribute the material with ease. With an increase in the amount of Internet and search engine users, the article also recommends making a continued effort to create brand presence through useful sites, social media and promotions geared towards a targeted market.

3 Easy Ways to Determine Your Website’s Keywords, Post-Google Encryption (March Communications)

Now that search is becoming more content-driven, it is important to determine what keywords are relevant to you and your clients to ensure that these words and phrases are be included in public relations, marketing and web content. Google, however, has encrypted keywords, making it difficult to track what exactly drives visitors to sites. “The vanishing act of keyword data will force businesses to create more dynamic content and, maybe, really start paying attention to how that content is shared, consumed and promoted.”

In order to identify your company’s keywords to create the appropriate SEO strategy, you can still use the keywords used in Bing and Yahoo searches as a general keyword sample. You can also determine how traffic is driven by assessing popular, old posts and its referrer traffic. Another strategy is to search old, popular posts and view how they rank in the search to get insight into solid keywords related to your site and its posts.

10 Ways Google’s Hummingbird Will Shape Future SEO and Content Marketing (Social Media Today)

Social media has become a critical part of most public relations plans. Social Media Today outlines various ways that Hummingbird has changed the search scene, including its impact on social media. “Recommendations by users, the sharing of content and the credibility of writers” all may affect what is considered relevant, and should be taken into consideration when determining social media optimization. If your social media presence has authority and reputation, its searchability should not be negatively affected.

The article also highlights an area that is pertinent to public relations material – links. Social media, press releases and promotional web content often contain links, which can actually have negative effects on the worthiness of those posts in search rank. “If you post a link and lots of people interact with it and share it then we can assume that this will have a positive impact.” Yet the author warns, “If you post a lot of links on Google Plus or other forums and people do not interact with these posts you may create a negative impact.”

Faith Goumas is the public relations associate at the Public Relations Society of America.

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