November 5, 2014
The heady world of digital communications is still a mystery to some – and even to those who have tried to keep up, the changes from the likes of Google, with its Panda, Penguin and Pigeon algorithm updates, are sometimes bewildering. How do you keep your brand near the top of natural search listings? What should you be doing on your website to make Google believe yours is the site to promote first? How do you generate the links that Google loves? And, of course, how can PR help?
Luckily, PR is an inherently SEO-friendly industry because these days, once again, content is king. Actually, let’s rephrase that: quality and relevant content is king. Links are certainly queen though, so let’s look at both.
Google bots – the tiny bits of code that race around the internet collecting information and taking it home to mama (and no, I don’t know how either) – love content. Not so long ago they loved keywords a lot – in fact they loved keywords so much that everyone thought that cramming as many keywords as possible into their copy was likely to push them up the rankings. And it did. For a short while. Then Google said…NO.
These days, keywords are still important, but only within context. That means copy has to be taken as a whole – keywords, key-phrases and other clues on (and behind) your page, simply act as pointers. Overdo it though and too many pointers will lead nowhere fast.
The best bit of advice I’ve seen recently on how to keep up with SEO developments came from a MOZ article. Essentially it said don’t worry. Google has always been working towards an end-goal of quickly delivering quality and relevant search results to the searcher – who is a human being. If you keep that in mind when creating content, you won’t go far wrong.
This is where the value of good PR comes in very handy. PR companies have always strived to place their clients in front of as big an audience as possible – national newspapers for the most part. Now, however, a big part of the equation is deciphering what value can be delivered from online coverage. Well, it depends.
In the past, we would consider how many visitors a particular media website attracted and then assume that a proportion of that audience would see our mention. Quite quickly we started to consider links…but only because it was a way to get traffic to our own website.
More recently, however, something called domain authority (DA) has come into play in a big way. DA is a way to assess the ‘power’ of a website – and in PR terms, how useful it is to link from. The DA is a score out of 100 and is based on a whole host of factors, but essentially on the age of your domain (how long it has been active), plus the popularity and size of your site. A DA of 40 or above is good, over 50 is strong, hit 60 and you’re in excellent territory, and above that you are simply marvellous. Only huge sites such as Wikipedia, Facebook, BBC and the like ever get higher than 90.
The benefit of DA to any website is that Google will rank high-scoring sites first in natural (free) search results. Further than that though, if you have a link (or better still a number of links) to your site, from a high DA site, Google will take that into consideration when ranking you – and so your own DA can rise.
There are complications of course. Some media sites have instigated a “no-follow” policy for outbound links. This means Google bots won’t consider those links when assessing DA for your own site – although people can still click through on them. Luckily, we know which media outlets do this and can take that into consideration when deciding where to place mentions.
The paradox here is that there are many, much smaller media outlets that have a high DA simply because they are highly focused and constantly create new and relevant content. Regional publications fall firmly into this camp. Where once these may not have been so attractive, due to modest readership, these days their high DA scores, driven by relevant, local content can reap you dividends in terms of SEO.
So, you might say that using DA is PR through the back door. Rather than just driving immediate interest in your brand from media coverage, a digitally-savvy PR agency can now help you improve your SEO and push you higher on search results pages.
As the ROI of print media becomes harder to measure (was it ever easy?), the world of online media, quality links and DA scores can help you define the overall return on your hard-earned cash.
By: Paul Bondsfield