When PR creates content, it is built-in our job description to broadcast it. That's why understanding how semantic SEO can affect organic traffic and increase your content's reach is essential to a modern PR comms and brand marketing strategy.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is evolving. Google is consistently changing their algorithm, affecting how SEO should be implemented.
To cover the changes, we had SEO guru Andy Crestodina discuss in a Meltwater webinar what semantic SEO is and why we need a content link strategy in our current competitive business landscape. In addition, we gathered insights from Amit Singal, Google’s former Head of Search, on best practices for maximizing a semantic SEO strategy.
Historically, SEO professionals would start a campaign by researching a list of keywords to rank for. Depending on the traffic levels and competitiveness of each keyword, they’d choose a different set of keywords for which to optimize their pages. They’d add the keyword — and variations of it — in the URL, in the title tag, across the page, and more.
In the past few years, however, Google has been making changes in its algorithm, which has shifted the focus from specific keywords to topics. While this new semantic focus doesn’t change the way you optimize your pages — you still need to add your main keyword and its variations across the page — it does change the way you pick your key phrases.
According to Amit Singhal, Google’s former Head of Search, the shift has gone from focusing on strings (i.e., keywords) to topics:
Instead of using traditional keyword research tools that give you traffic estimates for specific keywords, follow Crestodina’s advice and use Google Suggest to find the key phrases for which to optimize your pages.
You should still think in the traffic volume your desired key phrases get; what you need to change is the way you find them.
Since finding key phrases with Google Suggest can take a long time, Crestodina recommends using a free tool like KeywordTool.io, which provides the whole list of suggestions from Google’s search bar.
An aspect of Google’s ranking algorithm that hasn’t changed is link building. To increase your site’s authority, you still need to get links from external sites, particularly from sites with high authority. The more links you get, the higher the authority of your site, and the better position your pages will get for the targeted key phrases.
However, attracting links from authoritative sites has gotten harder than ever. There’s increased competition in quality content, making it harder than ever to earn the attention of influencers and other managers of high-authority sites.
In a survey of over 700 marketers two attributes attract eyeballs and high-quality links to sites:
While achieving the former is harder and would take an article (or webinar) on its own, developing original research is what can help you attract the links your company needs.
According to research, surveys are the most common (and effective) type of research, with 58% of marketers using them. What’s even better is that 46% of marketers found original research to meet most (if not all) of their expectations.
While carrying out a survey can be a costly tactic to use, the links you can attract can help you increase the authority of your site, which will make it easier for search engines to rank your site.
In the most basic terms, Google ranks a website based on its authority. The way Google considers the authority of your website is by analyzing the number of links it gets, especially from sites with high authority.
If you’re able to get more of these high-authority links, your site will rank higher for your associated search terms, and thus, the more organic traffic (versus paid, ad traffic) you will attract.
Besides getting links from authoritative sites, you’ll need to optimize your site for different keywords by optimizing the HTML title tags, URLs, and images, among other elements.
Don’t forget to also optimize your site’s pages for the keywords or keyword terms, for which you can realistically rank. By using tools like Google Keyword Planner or Moz, you can check on the demand for a keyword and compare your site’s authority to the average authority of the websites that rank for that keyword.
If you find a keyword you’d like to compete for, check that the sites who are currently in the space don’t have a higher domain authority than yours. Then, when you pull out all the SEO bells and whistles, you’ll be able to rank for that keyword and attract more traffic.
According to Worldometer, there are over 3 million blog posts published every day. To make sure your articles get eyeballs they need to have a headline that’s both optimized for search engines and the users.
There are a lot of theories and ideas behind how to structure headlines, both to improve a post’s rank and make people want to click on them.
Crestodina recommends using the following structure:
This structure applies mostly to articles, but it can be used in a PR pitches as well.
According to shocking research, most articles get no links or shares.
If you’re looking for the right data to compile, consider the missing statistic in your industry. Focus on a topic everyone talks about, but no one has any data to back up.
Besides using well-researched content, Crestodina recommends covering topics with a strong opinion. If you answer a question no one dares to answer (but many wonder about) you will call attention, acquire links, and foster more social shares.
Most press releases aren’t UI-friendly and nor add to authority since they tend to be company-focused, link to irrelevant websites, and feature long, incomprehensible paragraphs.
Consider asking yourself “What’s in it for the reader?” At the end of the day, Google wants to give users the best content possible, so instead of using the traditional press releases online, adapt them to the web.
Start by highlighting the main benefit in the headline. This will catch the reader’s attention and make them want to read more.
Also, be smart about formatting. That includes using white space (the space between different elements in a web page), bolding and italics, and short paragraphs.
Finally, align content and PR pitches with the reader’s interests and needs. Focus on what they get from your content, and build from there.
You don’t have to be technical and a search engine specialist to understand SEO’s impact on your PR campaign. With the help of semantic SEO and research-driven link building, you will be able to increase your brand’s reach, drive more organic traffic, and increase your site’s (and brand’s) authority.