Tag Archives: SEO

4 Reasons Why Content is Key

3-Key-Takeaways-from-Social-Media-Marketing-WorldProducing great content is what draws people into your business and allows your audience to discover what you can offer them.

According to the Content Marketing Institute, content marketing is “the strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action”.

Content marketing includes a broad range of tools for you to attract your audience. It can be anything from blogs and images, to webinars and social media posts. Your content should be something that both educates your audience and encourages them to take an action.

Now, why exactly is creating the right content for the right audience so important?

First impressions

It’s human nature to make initial judgments on new things. When you meet someone new, you probably form an opinion about them before you’ve even had a conversation with them. People will do the same thing with your content, which is why it’s so important to make a good first impression. Part of making a good first impression is understanding your audience. Make sure that you research your target audience to understand what they are looking for. If you research your audience enough beforehand you will waste less time on creating content that may not apply to them.

When sending out email newsletters, for example, catchy subject lines will persuade your audience to open the email rather than ignore or delete it. If you’re creating graphics, make sure they are attractive and easy to read. Creating a distracting image can often be a turnoff for people or cause them to misinterpret your message. Lastly, when deciding on a title for your blog be direct and informative so that your audience can easily understand what you are going to tell them.

Helps with SEO

Content marketing is key to driving organic traffic to your website. Producing useful content opens up many opportunities for your business and will lead more people to visit your site who will actually find value in it. Including your site’s keywords every chance you get, like when writing informative blog posts, will increase your rank in Google search and provide many SEO benefits.

Shows your creative side

Creating valuable content is an opportunity to show off the personality of your business, so don’t be afraid to have fun with it! The content you create will be associated with your brand, so use your content to create a voice for the company that people can easily associate with your brand. Don’t hesitate to get creative and catch the eye of your audience in an entertaining and engaging way. Being creative provides more value to your audience because they’re more likely to pay attention to something that stands out yet is still personable.

Connects with your audience

Your content is a great avenue for connecting with your audience on a more personal level. This is your platform to directly speak and interact with your customers. Social media channels give you the chance to receive feedback and learn more about what they’re looking for. Research and understand their needs so that you can produce content that is right for them.

About Lauren Usrey: Lauren is a student at the University of Texas at Austin and a marketing communications intern at Manzer Communications. She supports clients with social media, blogging and tech PR activities. Manzer Communications has offices in Austin, Denver and Houston and provides digital marketing and PR services for tech companies seeking rapid, sustained growth. Some of the services provided include content marketing, social media strategy and ad buys, email marketing, and media relations.

 

SEO: Tips on how to improve your search engine rankings

Search button on virtual screen pressed with fingerSo you’ve recently started your business and have been working hard to promote it. You’ve created a website because it is 2017 and without one your company wouldn’t survive for long in today’s social-mobile world.

But perhaps your website isn’t doing as well as you expected according to what you are seeing on the analytics tool you installed on your site. Traffic is flat, perhaps nearly non-existent. Why aren’t more people visiting your site? You have a great offering, and you’ve put a lot of good content on the website to get people interested in what you do.

The problem is that if people cannot FIND your site then how are they going to learn about your product or service and convert into prospects that you can close over time?

So then the real question becomes how do you improve your search ranking so people can find your site?

Focus on keywords

Keywords are one of the most important parts of a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. You have to choose the right keywords that are most relevant for your business and then you have to rank high enough for them to be found by people searching for your particular offerings. For instance, if you offer fish sitting services in Topeka, Kansas, then you may want to focus your attention on “Topeka fish sitting,” “Fish sitting in Topeka,” and “Topeka fish experts” to be found by anybody looking for a fish expert who can watch over the fish while the owner’s away on vacation.

You can also use Google Keyword Planner to help figure out which keywords are the best for your site. This free tool will show you the popularity of certain keywords so that you can choose the best ones for your website.

If you are using WordPress to manage your website there is an SEO plugin that you can use to manage your SEO efforts and assign keywords to each page. The correct placement and frequency of keywords is vital to your website’s ranking. For instance, it is important for your keyword to be in your page title. This is one of the first things people (and search engine algorithms) see when looking through search engine results. You should also include the keyword in the URL of a given web page. It is much more efficient to have a specific URL rather than a random one assigned by WordPress.

Backlinks are golden

Links are an absolutely critical component to an SEO strategy? Why? Having a large number of links pointing to your website from other websites related to your primary offering makes you look more relevant and important to Google on that topic. Think about our fish sitting example. If Fish Friends, a popular blog on all things related to fish ownership, has written a blog post about your business in Topeka that includes a link to your website, then the search engines will interpret that to mean you are a valued resource to the topic of fish ownership and fish collectors.

To get other sites to link to you, you may try submit your blogs as guest posts or contact websites directly asking if they are interested in sharing your links (also known as link building). The more of these backlinks you can get, the better your chances are of rising in the organic search engine rankings.

[Note, however, that it is important that the links are from a credible source because Google will disregard any links coming from non-related sites, such as link farms or other sketchy sites.]

Don’t ignore internal links

Internal links are also important because it allows you to easily use your own site to your advantage. You can add links to previous content you have written that is relevant to what you are writing about now. You can also redirect them to your homepage or your other important pages (e.g., ones that you are trying to rank higher on).

Create good content

In the SEO world, content means written text. When writing blogs, you should create smart, sharable content that also includes your necessary keywords with no more than around a 2% keyword density (i.e., 2% of all words in a blog post can be the keywords which you are optimizing). If you’re not sure about the density, just read the whole text on the webpage and if it seems like there’s a lot of keywords, there’s a good chance the search engines will think so too. Fortunately, many WordPress SEO plug-ins (Yoast comes to mind) will let you know when your page is well optimized. Whatever you do, avoid ‘keyword stuffing’ your webpage as most search engines will flag you for it, which will in turn suppress your organic search rankings.

Keep your site current

This may seem like a no brainer, but make sure your website is current, full of fairly fresh content. If your website has been sitting without any significant updates then the search engines will assume you’re site is DOA. Instead, make sure to keep your site updated and full of relevant information to your products/services. You can do this by blogging weekly and putting deep links to other webpages on your website.

Index your site

Lastly, make sure your site has been indexed! Most of the time your site will be indexed by search engines automatically, however sometimes this may not be the case. Indexing is when search engines keep record of your site. There are many different ways to index your site. For help on the many ways to do so, check out this article.

Improving your search ranking is vital to growing your business. Follow these tips to help optimize your search rank, so that you are able to hold up to your competitors.

About Lauren Usrey: Lauren is a student at the University of Texas at Austin and a marketing communications intern at Manzer Communications. She supports clients with social media, blogging and tech PR activities. Manzer Communications has offices in Austin, Denver and Houston and provides digital marketing and PR services for tech companies seeking rapid, sustained growth. Some of the services provided include content marketing, social media strategy and ad buys, email marketing, and media relations.

 

Six Goals of PR

WSJ_CoffeeThe goals of PR are many but all come back to a desire to grow the business. For many small businesses and startups, PR is seen as a luxury, an activity better pursed by larger, well-funded companies, which is unfortunate. Why exactly? Some of the best stories in the news concern startups and small businesses. Indeed, the benefits of a well-timed story can move the needle for a smaller business in a much more dramatic way then it can for larger ones.

So what exactly are the goals of PR? Here are six good reasons why you may want to talk to a PR agency sooner than later:

Awareness: your brand should take a quantum leap forward in awareness. A good PR campaign can help you get placed in local or national media outlets, depending upon the marketing goals of your business. Sure, an ice cream shop may want to get into the local TV news in hopes of driving new business but what if you swing for the fences and get into a Food Network show? Imagine the attention you’ll receive after that! People will travel long distances just to try something they saw on Food Network. It’s called food tourism. A tech startup focused on cybersecurity, on the other hand, may not care a whit if a local paper writes about it but what if that leads to an investor discovering the startup and leading a 7-figure seed round? Awareness comes in many shapes and sizes and good media coverage can help in both the short and mid-term.

Higher search engine rankings: nothing provides a better boost to your search engine rankings than articles in popular online media outlets with backlinks (URLs pointing back to your website) to your website. Search engines like Google value backlinks from popular, well-trafficked media outlets way more than less credible blogs used by SEO practitioners to get easy, low-cost posts. It’s common knowledge that higher search engine rankings also lead to more website traffic, sales leads and new business.

Leadership: PR can help establish a brand’s leadership status in an industry or geographic market. In marketing it’s called top-of-mind and it leads to more word-of-mouth referrals and fans.

Expert quotes: if you develop a reputation as an expert in your field, you are more likely to receive calls from reporters to comment on trends and breaking news impacting your industry. That reinforces your image as an industry leader and makes you more desirable in the eyes of customers and media alike.

Social sharing: while not a goal of PR per se, a byproduct of a strong PR campaign is buzz in social media. News outlets help feed social media’s voracious appetite for fresh content. Your write-up in local and national news could lead to mentions on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other platforms.

Revenue growth: many businesses see increases in qualified sales leads and new revenue as a result of PR campaigns. Unlike sales campaigns, which have a short-term goal of generating leads based on a purchased list of raw leads, PR campaigns have a long-tail effect. For example, prospective customers doing research may find an article about a company several months after it’s published. That is exactly what happened to MicroAssist, a custom mobile app development company I worked with in July of 2014. I helped MicroAssist announce an app it had developed for the Texas Department of Public Safety that tracks Texas’ most-wanted fugitives, among other things. Eight months later MicroAssist received inquiry from another state in the southwest that wanted to create a similar app for its citizens. With a price tag in the 6-figures per project, getting a new client as a result of a PR campaign is a massive win, not to mention an astronomical ROI.

To sum up, PR is as much about the long-tail, generating awareness and high-quality leads over a longer period of time, as it is about a short-term bump to gain awareness about a new product launch or a new restaurant in town. The ROI is there, it’s just not easy to quantify.

There are a lot of goals for PR to be sure. But at the end of the day it’s about the survival and long-term financial health of your business. Companies that consistently invest in PR over time stand a better chance of attaining market leadership than ones that ignore the inherent value of media coverage.

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded Manzer Communications, an Austin tech PR agency specializing in communications & strategic inbound marketing for startups and fast-growth businesses in 2009. If you have any PR or content marketing questions about your business, feel free to tweet him at @davemanzer or email him at dave(at)manzercommunications(dot)com.

PR, how do I measure thee?

Lately brands have been paying a lot of attention to the measurability of marketing. The goal is simple: find metrics that give an accurate reading on how effective different initiatives are at driving brand awareness and, ultimately, revenue growth.

We can thank, at least in part, Google AdWords and other pay-per-click advertising platforms for the focus on precision digital tracking. Those marketing tools, which exist 100% online, are designed to be measured in the most empirical terms possible: clicks, conversions, cost. In fact, you can measure digital ad campaigns down to which key terms and visual images are most effective at driving customer interest and sales.

Many PR activities, however, have long defied measurability, at least from a digital perspective. But, as more and more editorial content moves online, many companies expect to see a similar accountability from their PR investments. Fortunately, most PR agencies and in-house professionals now have a lot more resources to help them track PR’s impact on a brand.

Yet before we rush to embrace measurability whole hog as a way to justify PR investments, let’s not forget that there are still intangibles to PR that will always defy measurement. Until we get brain chips implanted in all of us, our private thoughts and emotions will remain nigh on impossible to accurately record as we go about consuming information online, in print, on TV and over the airwaves.

Still, PR can (and should) do everything possible to measure its effectiveness at helping a brand gain influence and new customers. To that end, here are some old and new ways you can measure the effectiveness of your PR initiatives:

Media mentions: keep your eyes peeled for any mention of your brand (whole or partial name mentions) in traditional media. You can use a news clipping service but generally those are appropriate only if you have a national or international business with plenty of coverage in the media: think IBM, Coca-Cola or Microsoft. If you are a startup or emerging growth company, then chances are your media coverage is a by-product of your own proactive PR and you can easily track media pick-ups by doing weekly Internet searches, clipping your articles out of magazines or linking to TV interviews posted online.

Web analytics: if you haven’t setup Google Analytics or a similar service on your website then do so immediately. This allows you to measure daily website traffic and which PR initiatives are driving the most traffic. You can even tell where the traffic comes from to help you better target media with the greatest online reach – assuming that’s your goal.

Landing page: this is an extension of web analytics, but it rates a separate mention. If you plan to announce a new product at SXSW or CES, then consider creating a separate web landing page to which you can drive traffic and measure a campaign’s effectiveness. If you search the Internet for “landing page” or “landing page service,” then you will see several options allowing you to create unique landing pages for individual campaigns. You can also use a marketing automation tool like HubSpot to create unique, customizable landing pages that not only measure clicks but also drive desired results: whitepaper downloads, newsletter subscriptions or even customer sales.

Social media mentions: a new way to track the effectiveness of a PR campaign is through social media, which has become a major validator of brand influence. If your brand mentions spike after a Wall Street Journal article about your company then you can safely assume the positive delta in mentions (and website traffic) is attributable to PR. A side-bar on this is how much your brand gets discussed after a post in TechCrunch, Mashable or Huffington Post, where many influencers hang-out and add value to an article’s content.

Social audience growth: another way social media is a perfect barometer of PR’s value is in the growth of your social audience. For many companies the social media platforms that matter most are Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook; for consumer-facing brands, Pinterest has become a heavy hitter, and keep your eyes on SnapChat as it is currently figuring out how it will allow brands to engage its rapidly growing user base. Most growth in social audiences will come from organic activities pursued by your social media community manager, but if you notice a jump in follows and likes after a PR campaign then you can assign a portion of that growth to PR.

Sales increases: you can measure the impact of PR in terms of leads generated and new sales but it’s a tough nut to crack. For startups with almost no marketing budget and no field sales staff, PR can be an immediate net add to leads and revenue growth. But for more mature businesses with a solid marketing program and robust sales funnel, identifying PR’s influence on sales is no easy task. All the more reason to set up separate landing pages to try your best to track a PR call-to-action; still, many customers can’t recall the exact reason for their decision to purchase your widget or service simply because it may be a result of multi-touch marketing and PR campaigns.

Search engine rankings: since search engines are the de facto tool for finding and researching brands before buying decisions are made, it stands to reason that PR’s influence on SEO strategy should be measured – to the extent possible given the murky inner-workings of search engine algorithms. One thing we do know, however, is that Google values backlinks from highly relevant, well-trafficked websites and tends to weigh them greatly in its search algorithm. Media placements in respected, high traffic websites like Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post and TechCrunch can do more to increase a brand’s search engine ranking than a host of bogus directories and garbage content blogs.

Polls and customer interviews: while this is never an easy prospect, and can be time-consuming and costly if not carefully done, taking the pulse of new customer sentiment with an interview or a poll is a worthwhile option. Not every business wants to spend time and money trying to mine that level of customer motivation, but it can and should be done from time to time in order to validate the effectiveness of both marketing and PR. Qualitative feedback is the one sure way a PR firm can definitely point to a group of new customers and unequivocally state that Shark Tank or Mashable prompted the purchase.

That’s all I can come up with at the moment. I’m sure as I write this that there are several startups coming up with new ways to track the value of PR to a brand (in fact, we plan to review one called TrendKite on the PR over Coffee blog in the next month or two).

Nevertheless, the examples above are a great starting point. If you have any PR measuring sticks you would like to contribute to the conversation, then please feel free to comment below. We love feedback!

About Dave Manzer: Dave Manzer founded an Austin PR agency for startups and emerging-growth businesses in 2009. Dave Manzer specializes in highly integrated PR & marketing strategies that help companies in technology, healthcare and professional services reach their goals in brand awareness and revenue growth. To contact Dave directly about the PR over Coffee blog, please email him at dave(@)davemanzer.com.

How to (safely) use SEO in press releases

new-google-search-home-page6Let’s talk about the mystery machine taking over the way the world does business (heck the way the world does life.) Raise your hand if you immediately knew I was referring to Google!

Google recently changed their link schemes document, aka the way their search algorithm ranks content online. This means they have gotten smarter (yes, it’s possible) about the content they are displaying, and the newest update on their policy points specifically to press releases.

Here’s the bad news: Google can now tell when your press release is stuffed with key words or hyperlinks to increase your search results; therefore they will penalize your release by placing it lower in the search results. Not to worry! The key to circumventing this issue is, in its simplest form, creating quality content in your press release that highlights your service or product in the natural way you would write. See, that was simple!

A key you must know about Google’s new policy is that they will penalize people who excessively use anchor text to link to content through press releases, especially those distributed on wire services like Business Wire or News Wire, as well as online press release distribution websites like PRWeb.com.

“Creating links for the sole purpose of SEO on a press release is unnatural. Links should be placed on a press release to enhance the user experience, add information and be relevant to the content,” claims Google. Using anchor text to hyperlink to your website is not out of the question but you now need to limit links to ones that truly serve the nature of the content that you are writing about.

Please, don’t hear this as a reason to get scared about writing press releases. As PR professionals, this actually provides us more freedom to do what we are meant to do – tell relevant stories about clients that are educational and engaging – without  without having to worry about robot algorithms and getting the keyword recipe right. Follow these simple guidelines to make sure that your press release (aka your relevant, juicy, quality information) gets in the right hands through the Google search engine.

  • Press Release SEO Tip 1: Google and readers are looking for quality information so keep your content lean, get to the facts and don’t stuff it with unnatural words or writing for the sake of “searchability.” This information will likely be shared more and the more often your content (and links) are shared, the more value Google will give to your links and website.
  • Press Release SEO Tip 2: Add a ‘nofollow’ tag to anchor text link, so that Google will not give any SEO value to that particular link. The link will still be a functioning link to your content, but this is a way to avoid the negative fallback of including anchor text. A wire service like Business Wire will automatically do this for you, so you don’t have to learn anything about HTML coding.
  • Press Release SEO Tip 3: Limit the links you use to ones that truly add and serve your content: a good rule to follow is 3-5 links per release, or about one link for every 100 words.
  • Press Release SEO Tip 4: Anchor text is not completely out of the question! Some suggested anchor texts that are safe to use are: company/client name, social media handles, or event names.
  • Press Release SEO Tip 5: One time is enough: don’t worry about linking to the same site multiple times in your release.
  • Press Release SEO Tip 6: Consider adding multimedia such as video and pictures to your press release to dramatically increase the likelihood of it getting looked at and readers staying engaged with what you are talking about.

Don’t let this information scare you into thinking you have to revolutionize the way you write press releases. Focus on quality, honest content that isn’t chock full of anchor text and hyperlinks and your release will be well accepted by readers, reputable reporters AND Google.  The pressure is off to impress the machine and the pressure is on to impress readers through your valuable messaging.

Happy writing, PR pros!

This blog post was inspired by a previous guest blog post by Erika Shuckie of BusinessWire regarding the same topic that can be viewed here.

About Theresa Grillo: Theresa Grillo is a PR associate with Dave Manzer PR and Marketing, which was founded as a tech PR firm in Austin for tech startups in 2009. Theresa specializes in helping startups and emerging growth technology and consumer companies with their communication and media outreach needs. For more information about Theresa or PR over Coffee, email us at info(@)PRoverCoffee.com or tweet to @PROverCoffee.

How Google’s Latest Search Algorithm Update Impacts Press Release Distribution

It’s happened yet again, and it will continue to happen. Google has updated their link schemes document. So at this point you’re probably wondering: “what does that have to do with my business?” In the simplest of terms, every so often, Google makes changes to its search algorithm and the way it ranks content online. If you want your content (and, more importantly, your website!) to be found on Google, continue reading to find out why you should care.

When the latest Google update happened, the people in our industry had a momentary freak-out, as it seemed to doom press releases for providing SEO (search engine optimization) value using the wire – as opposed to online distribution websites which have become a popular SEO strategy in recent years.  As more details emerged, we realized that the update wasn’t a death sentence.

Now, I am BY NO MEANS an SEO expert. I do, however, often talk to and read things written by people who do know their way around the SEO world, including Business Wire’s own SEO experts and web developers. Here are the things I’ve learned during my quest for knowledge about Google’s recent changes.

The latest update included language that specifically points to press releases, among other things. This time, the language PR people should specifically be interested in is as follows:

“Creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of our guidelines, including…links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites.” “Creating Links for the sole purpose of SEO on a press release is unnatural. Links should be placed on a press release to enhance the user experience, add information, and be relevant to the content.”

An example of keyword stuffing that they provide is:

“There are many wedding rings on the market. If you want to have a wedding, you will have to pick the best ring. You will also need to buy flowers and a wedding dress.”

What that means is that Google will penalize people who use anchor text to link to content through press releases, especially those distributed on outside websites (such as wire services, like Business Wire). You can see why we were worried.

Before you sprint away from wire distribution services, as I said before, this is not an entirely bad thing. The core purpose for press releases (and wire services) is to provide relevant content to those who are looking for it. For example, let’s say you send a press release to a journalist at the Austin American-Statesman, and he writes a story using content within your release. In the text of the release, you included anchor text linking back to your website or blog, which the journalist visited to get even more information to use in his story. His article was an online piece, so he also linked back to your website because he found the information there helpful. Because his link was an outside referral to relevant content, Google sees it as valuable, and therefore, will make it available for search. This external link can also add SEO value and can aid in the ranking of your website. That, my friends, is an example of a legitimate way to build links that point to your website. The goal of earned media should always be the ultimate goal of PR people – to influence others to talk about you and share your message across their networks.

So, what can you do to ensure that your press release is not going to hurt you in the long run?

  • Always provide content that is good quality, relevant and useful to audiences who are going to benefit from it. The more relevant your content, the better chance for it to be shared. The more often your content (and links) are shared, the more value Google will give to your links and website(s).
  • Add a ‘nofollow’ tag to anchor text link, so that Google will not give any SEO value to that particular link. The link will still be a functioning link to your content, but this is a way to avoid the negative fallback of including anchor text. When you use Business Wire, we will automatically do this for you, so you don’t have to learn anything about HTML coding.
  • Do not stuff your press release text with links – a good rule of thumb is 3-5 links per release, or about one link for every 100 words.
  • Lean towards writing the text of your press release for people, instead of writing for the search engine robots. It is widely being communicated that Google now prefers natural language text over copy that is clearly written for the ‘bots.
  • While you should be aware of the risk, do not be overly afraid to include anchor text within your release, as long as it is relevant and maintains the flow of the release. Suggested anchor text can be your company/client name, social media handles, or event names. And once is enough! Do not link to the same thing multiple times.
  • If you are distributing the release outside your owned online properties, make sure to do so with a legitimate and reputable service. There are many distribution options out there, and not all of them will benefit you.
  • From a friend who does SEO at Cabela’s: Use http://www.removeem.com/ratios.php to discover and remove potentially penalizing links that point to your site. Simply type in the URL of your company or client to find out if there are ‘over-optimized links’ that could cause Google to penalize you.
  • Consider adding multimedia to your press release. This will dramatically increase the chances of your release getting looked at, thus starting the natural content discovery process.

This doesn’t change much in the overall scheme of things. PR people need to continue to do their job, which is communicating relevant messages to their key audiences.

In closing, I’ll point back to Matt Cutts, head of the Webspam team at Google, who said in a recent Q&A on nofollow links, “Don’t forget about users other than search engines.” Reaching those “other users” are your most important goal!

To read more from Business Wire on the subject, check out this blog post written by our SEO specialist, John Leung, and Marketing Specialist, Fred Godlash.

About Our Guest Blogger:
Erica Schuckies is an account executive for Business Wire, located in their Austin office. She works with both private and public companies, as well as Public Relations and Investor Relations firms, to distribute their messages to key stakeholders across the globe. She has a background in Public Relations and Marketing Communications, as well as experience in the non-profit and sports/events sectors. Erica is a board member for the Public Relations Society of America Austin Chapter, as well as a regular attendee of PR Over Coffee.

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