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Why PR Should Lead the Charge for Organic Search
By Steve Burkhart
GM of The Hoffman Agency, North America

SEO consultancies have propagated like a chemical experiment gone wrong. After all, Google now generates more than $10 billion per quarter in revenue from AdWords or pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, so you know SEO consultancies have been minting revenue for themselves too.

However, and this is a big however: PR’s digital opportunity will grow dramatically at the expense of SEO consultancies in the months ahead. PR now has a massive opportunity to play in the lead-gen sandbox dominated by our paid media brothers and sisters.

Here’s the core rationale —

As search engines increasingly favor quality of content — not technical acuity —PR sits in the perfect position to address this in delivering search results.

Both media coverage and the sharing of compelling content generate backlinks in a natural way — note the emphasis on “natural.”

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Many SEO consultancies have tried working on organic search to pick up incremental revenue. That’s because the Google search algorithm once favored the technical side over content, so they could help their clients get served up in organic search results when they didn’t necessarily have the best content or even relevant content.

Equally revealing, SEO consultancies bring little if any expertise to the table in the way of editorial content. That’s why the paid link-building biz exploded in value. For a price, the SEO consultancies again could trick the system, buying links out of Bangalore and Kiev as a shortcut to developing quality content that prompts actual people to link. That’s how a CRM software company ends up with backlinks from sites like www.frugalmoms.com.

But the jig is up or will be over time if Google has its way.

With the launch of its Hummingbird update last year, Google sent the strongest message yet that it intends to crack down on those conducting unsavory acts to game organic search.

That’s the single greatest digital opportunity for the PR industry.

With the organic search playing field increasingly tilting toward high-quality content – defining “high quality” as useful, educational, insightful or amusing – PR sits in the perfect position to capitalize.

But it’s not all about the content either. PR firms need to hire and train organic search experts, preferably with a PR background, who know how to deliver on the three core components listed below.

  1. Know How to Develop a Keyword Taxonomy
    Keyword taxonomy is one of the most important elements in any organic search campaign. A comprehensive keyword research identifies search terms relevant to potential buyers’ online search process and prioritizes these keywords for SEO. By developing a good understanding of how potential customers search for relevant categories and what keywords they use, you can tailor and optimize your client’s website for search engines so it’s easily searchable online for your target audience and ranking for the right search terms.
  2. Understand the Core Tenets of Keyword Implementation
    Now that you have the right keywords, you will want to use those keywords to showcase the company’s value proposition. So, the next step is to integrate these keywords into organic search properties throughout the entire website, including webpage URLs, the actual webpage content, as well as the behind-the-scene metadata tags (title tag, meta description tag, image ALT text, H level tags).Search engines, like Google, identify what a website is about and what kind of product and services it provides by reading through the keywords found in organic search properties, match with the keywords that users enter in search engines, and then show the website on SERP (search engine results page). Where a website will appear on SERP is based on the signals that search engines collect on this website (relevant keywords/content is one of the important signals), which help search engines to determine whether this online property is legit and creditable, and whether the content aligns with metadata tags and related user searches.
  3. Create Credible Measurement / Analytics
    Measurement is always a key component in every PR and marketing campaign, and an organic search program is no exception. There are two indicators for tracking progress in an organic search program. One indicator is the number of visitors coming directly to the website from Google. The other one is the organic search ranking of the page, which means where the page is showing up on Google for the target keywords. In addition, data/statistics on these two indicators need to be collected in the beginning of the campaign as a base benchmark, as well as after the technical implementation, to measure success.

To help get you started, there are multiple channels for your staff to learn more about organic search.

First, cover all the basics from a book/eBook. For example, The Beginners Guide to SEO by MOZ is a popular one-stop shop for those who have just started in this field, and it takes you through all the basic concepts as well as some advanced techniques down the road that you will need to know.

Second, get industry updates through media outlets/blogs. Just to name a couple — The MOZ blog and Search Engine Land’s SEO Channel. These SEO publications cover the latest organic search news as well as search engine updates. It’s extremely valuable to keep up with the organic search daily news, since this is a fast-growing field, and industry standard and search engine rules are constantly changing.

You can also learn more about how companies and PR firms can capitalize on organic search by reading The Hoffman Agency’s SlideShare deck called “The Blurring Line Between Digital Marketing and PR.” It lays out the dot-connecting logic for emphasizing organic search and why PR should lead the charge.