Our last Social Media Breakfast featured Dan Nolan, the SEO manager at Vail Resorts. Dan and I have been colleagues for a while, and I really enjoy his perspective on building SEO as an integrated business practice instead of as an add-on service.
Before he took the floor to talk about how site architecture impacts SEO, I had the opportunity to talk about how we at Metzger are beginning to change the way people think about public relations and the web. Digital marketing and public relations are headed toward a singularity of business process, and embracing that can be great for startups, small businesses and big corporations alike. Here is a recap of my presentation:
What is SEO?
SEO stands for search engine optimization. In a tiny nutshell, there are generally two kinds of SEO– on-page (using keywords on your site in the right places, designing for user experience, etc.) and off-page (getting other sites to link back to yours).
SEO has historically been all about the keywords. Pick the right keywords and cram a bunch of them on your website and watch the money roll in, right? The good news is that SEO has evolved since then. Keywords still matter, but search engines have slowly been crafting their algorithms to reward sites that focus on valuable content and positive user experience.
So, why do we marketers, business owners, and community members care about search engine algorithms? Dr. Peter J. Meyers, a brilliant SEO professional out of Chicago answered this eloquently when he said, “The search engines are our portals to all human knowledge.”
Search engines crawl all the content humans put on the Internet and categorize it so they can recall it and serve it to people searching for it. By following best practices, we can ensure our content is crawled efficiently and categorized properly so that it’s served to more people with relevant interests to what we offer. This creates an opportunity for your company to perform better against the competition. It’s a way to provide existing customers because it’s a way you can provide them with more value and convenience, and to make your content findable by those who may become new customers, striking up new conversations and new cultures where you may not have existed before.
To this day, most companies have kept PR and SEO in separate departments, totally separate boxes. That goes for PR agencies, SEO firms, and companies like Vail Resorts who have both in-house. We at Metzger Associates are turning the page on this siloed organization.
PR isn’t just short for public relations anymore. I know we’re in Boulder and this sounds really crunchy, but our goal as a firm is to help you build Positive Relationships: relationships with your publics– media, consumers, employees, communities and competitors. There are so many more and better ways to do this today than by issuing a press release every month.
PR and SEO don’t reach their full potential for your business without each other. And more than that, what our school of thought is at Metzger, and what Dan is introducing at Vail Resorts is that PR and SEO aren’t separate. They are essentially the same thing and should operate as such. Because the name of the game is Positive Relationships and the object of the game is to serve value to every audience, across every channel. SEO is basically building search engine relationships. It’s good for the robots crawling your content, and it’s good for the people looking for what you have to offer.
We want to talk to your audience via channels that are convenient and useful to them, and using language that makes sense to them. Which brings us back to keywords.
You may say, “I know what my keywords are.” But have you done any research into how other people talk about what you do? Not everyone knows what “dihydrogen monoxide” is, but if you call it water, suddenly you have billions of interested people. With a little research and some smart analysis, we can help you pin down the words that explain what you do in a way that your customers will understand.
Owning the Conversation
Now that we know what to say, let’s engage the audience in a way that’s valuable to both parties. Here’s a tip for finding where the conversations are happening: go to google.com, type the beginning of a search phrase in the search bar (your company name, your competitor’s name, a keyword, etc.), then, “vs.” Then, DON’T hit enter.
See all the suggested results shown there? These are things your customers, potential customers, maybe even your competitors’ customers are talking about. Create content around these topics that provide value to the reader.
Relationships Take Work
The most important thing to understand about this process is that it takes work to build and maintain any relationship, including PR and SEO. Put in the time and effort to build Positive Relationships through quality content and keep at it. Commitment, reliability and really caring about those relationships is what yields success. There is no magic bullet. Beware of anyone who tells you otherwise.