SEO: The Basics

SEO. Search Engine Optimization. A mouthful shortened down to an ambiguous acronym. The question remains, what is search engine optimization? If you’re interested in the communications field, most likely you already know. If not — or if it’s just still a vague, theoretical concept to you — search engine optimization is essentially an organic (i.e. free or very inexpensive, based on how you go about it) marketing strategy that focuses on boosting traffic to you or your client’s website, social media and other pages.

Search engines power the internet. Think about it. Most people don’t type a full URL in anymore. Instead, with one or two keywords in the URL box or in their homepage search engine box,  it’s more important than ever to make sure those keywords are bringing your intended audience to your ideas and campaigns with links that are going to be the prioritized on the first page of the search results when they type that keyword in and hit enter.
SEO is a vastly complex concept, so today we’ll just start with breaking it down with some simple terms and basics, and continue to build on it later.

Starting At The Search

To implement SEO to boost your visibility and traffic, it’s first essential to understand search engines: how they work, what they do, and how they affect you.

Crawling

Search engines use what are called crawlers to determine content,

importance, subject, titles, images, links in order to categorize and identify content that may be relevant to their search results. They’re also kind of like that Instagram model curator, they don’t like cluttered content or an unorganized aesthetic when they bounce through a site.

They collect links from any given page, turning them into the next page of links to scan and organize. This is why it’s important to maintain control over what you’re linking and how you’re linking on your pages, whether it’s redirecting back to your own content, or other relevant content that fits in well with the schema of your site. Make Use Of created a fun exercise to create your own crawler and get the feel of how it actually works. This stuff is complicated if you’re not tech-savvy, so if you’re a hands-on learner, give it a try.

Ranking

Once these crawlers have taken a good gander at your site and indexed the contents, it’s going to spit the results back to the search engine. At this point, the search engine is going to prioritize pages based on relevance and popularity. This is the stage that is the easiest to address when utilizing SEO in your own practice. Search engines have very specific and lengthy guidelines to determine these elements. By knowing, understanding, and utilizing those guidelines, your chances of being a top result are exponentially better.

Boosting Your Ranking

Of course, that was an incredibly reduced minimal view of how search engines collect information and work. They’re infinitely more complicated than that, but for now, those are the two concepts to keep in mind in order to begin to implement more SEO friendly practices. So how do search engines decide what is relevant and what is popular?

Here are some things to consider when posting, creating and updating to effectively get the most traffic for your effort

  1. Content. It doesn’t matter how pretty your fonts are, how well placed your images appear, or how well you utilize links if your page doesn’t have a clear offering. Nothing is ever more important than having substantive content. People want sites that are cohesive and that offer interesting perspectives, and new and exciting content that’s believable and worth following. It doesn’t matter if Tim Cook himself designed your website’s interface, you still have to have something worth clicking on and reading through. Keep your sites cohesive by using categories, only publishing stories and content that is relevant to your site, and that remains timely and interesting to your target audience.
  2. Backlinks. Essentially backlinks are your best friend. If another website links to your site, you know you’re doing something right, and so does Google. These are equivalent to likes on a post — the more you get, the more popular your content is. If you’re just starting out, considering creating backlinks for other pages on your posts. Everyone knows if you like someone else’s post, they’re more likely to give you the same consideration. Unless it’s like, a supermodel. They probably won’t care. But normal folks? They will. It’s also a good idea to make your pages social media friendly. Include links to share and like right on your page.
  3. Layout. Keep the pages on your sites uniform across the board with the best possible layout in order to boost popularity. Titles, headers, URLs, and image tags are all incredibly important when it comes to keeping your page organized and running smoothly.
  4. Mobile friendly. This one can be a bit hard to achieve at first if you’re just starting out, but keep it on the back burner while you’re developing, learning, and growing. With more and more people ditching their laptops for their smartphones, websites that offer easy navigation on that tiny screen are going to do much better.

 

More Resources

If you’re just itching to go with some more SEO information and best practices, here are some great resources to flex your brain muscles and dive right in.

  • Moz’s Beginner’s Guide To SEO for some great infographics and even better information on the technological side of it, and step by step ways of how to boost your ranking and visibility.
  • Google’s 200 Ranking Factors for an extensive list of what you can do to tweak your website in ways that Google appreciates
  • Reading List for a great list of books to dive into and emerge from a search engine expert
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Press Release Toolkit

Press releases are one of the most basic and essential tools that a public relation professional uses to increase awareness of organizations, people, events, and ideas. Press releases are what PR practitioners primarily use in order to connect with the…you guessed it…press. They’re a way to spread information and facts to news and media outlets capable of reaching the audiences organizations are eager to connect with.

Tool #1: Your Mailing List

One of the first determinations you need to make when it comes to press releases: who needs this information and who would be interested in spreading this information? For example, if you’re promoting a book signing event for a cookbook author, perhaps the best audience is not the gaming community. Certainly there would be gamers who might be interested, but the most important audience to reach would be those who already enjoy cooking and those who are interested in becoming more accomplished chefs. It’s important to be discriminating with your mailing list. Ed Zitron’s prank shows why you should be careful in your selection of journalists and media outlets. Using a generated CES list of contacts is sloppy, lazy, and overall, inefficient. Instead, focus on forming a few great connections with your local media and journalists. These are the people who will be able to give you constructive criticism about your ideas, who know how to spread your message, and who have the most insight about the audiences you’re trying to reach through them. Be polite, be considerate, and most of all, don’t push your press releases. Keep them informative, honest, and essential. Choose the outlets you send them to carefully, and be respectful of your colleagues in the media, never forget to say your please’s and your thank-you’s.

Tool #2: The Format

So you’ve decided where you need to send your press release and you’ve got your forward list already to go. Now it’s time to actually craft the thing. The biggest piece of advice? Keep it simple. There’s no need for your gorgeous but complicated photoshop template in this realm. Whatever it is you’re trying to raise awareness about should be able to stand on its own and do the work for you. If your organization, event, etc., has been well thought-out and your campaign is thoroughly researched and prepared, your concept should speak for itself. Let the press release stand as a quick summary of your great idea. Keep the adjectives in the thesaurus, and be honest. Your press release should be simple, easy to follow, and contain only the most important and essential need-to-know facts. No fancy fonts and always re-read your draft and edit for any typos or grammatical errors before pressing send. If your press release includes images (which can, in some cases, be a great idea), be sure that the image is of high quality and professional grade. Dan Hennes, photography director at PR Newswire, shares his tips with Entrepreneur for how to include images with press releases.

Tool #3: What to Include

To summarize thus far: press releases must be simple and targeted thoughtfully. So what should be included in a press release?

  1. A Unique Headline: Always have a headline for your press release. It’s important to make sure the headline is relevant, but also get creative. This will be the first thing a journalist sees while sorting through a pile of press releases, so you want it to be clear, but also interesting. It’s best to keep the headline short, and some search engine research will be the best way to make sure that you’re optimizing every possible outlet with your phrasing and word choice.
  2. The Basics: You’ll want to include if this is for immediate or embargoed (delayed) release, as well as the location (country, state, city, or town, depending on who your audience is), the month, the day and the year.
  3. Paragraph One and Done: If you’ve ever taken a media or journalism class, you should be familiar with the inverted pyramid theory: the most news-worthy information should be first, followed by important details, and finally background and general information. This applies to press releases as well. Your first paragraph should give a journalist the most essential information of who, what, where, why, and how. The why and how should be kept just as basic and concise as the other three.
  4. Details and Quotes: Include one or two relevant and interesting quotes from consumers, experts, or employees. This will give a journalist more to work with, in terms of selecting a pitch that’s newsworthy and colorful. Also include any statistics, research, or interesting facts that make your announcement unique. Once again, don’t get too caught up in getting every tidbit out there. Pick the most important and most interesting highlights to include.
  5. To Cap It All Off: Most press releases include a quick “about” blurb. This is typically a sentence or two long expressing the reasons, goals, or values of the organization. It might include a slogan, or even a website where an interested party could easily find more information.
  6. Last But Not Least: Include your contact information of name, title, email, and phone number. Press releases typically conclude with three pound signs (###) at the very end of the page.

Tool #4: When to Create a Press Release

As with any form of coverage or media, it’s important not to overuse a tool or else it gets worn out and isn’t as effective. Make sure you’re considerate when sending a press release. A minor update or change isn’t going to be newsworthy, and you’ll annoy outlets by inundating them with pitches every time something minor happens with your organization.

Instead, use press releases to your advantage by using them to announce the most exciting and relevant news to your publics. Some of these times include event announcements, product launches, big organizational changes, new opportunities, or innovative work. This way, media outlets will trust that when you send a release, it’s worth considering and your publics won’t get sick of you.

Tool #5: Keeping Track

You may think you’re done once you’ve sent the releases, your news has been published, and you’re on to the next thing. This isn’t true. Instead, carefully monitor the progress of your press release. Always bee sure to say thank you to those who covered your announcement. Keep track of what works and what doesn’t. You can also create a second wave of interest by creating new content and linking it back to your release. The publication of a press release is only the beginning. From there, you can make the biggest impact by thanking your audience, creating social media buzz, and always learning from reactions to your latest release to make your next one even better.

Public Relations: The 5 W’s

What Is Public Relations?

There’s many definitions for public relations. Google says it’s “the professional maintenance of a favorable public image by a company or other organization or a famous person.” The PRSA, or Public Relations Society of America, says “Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

So what do these definitions mean? In essence, public relations isn’t just the spewing of an organization’s ideas or persuasive tactics. Instead, public relations is the two way road that listens to the public, relays back to the organization, helps align the organization’s goals and values with the public, and then creates a conversation and relationship between the organization and their publics.

Who Does Public Relations Impact?

Short answer? Almost everyone. Public relations, when done right, is an effort that accomplishes the primary goal of retaining, growing, and maintaining a group of supporters, consumers, and interested parties. Public relations is a way of making connections with people who might not typically engage with an organization, as well as making sure that the relationships with their current base are always being more deeply cultivated.

Often people think of public relations as simply event planning or social media management, but in truth PR is an effort to recognize where and how an organization is positioned and how that compares to where and how an organization should be positioned in the future. Positioning embodies everything from how an organization is portrayed to external publics, and how it is regarded by internal publics, to how an organization relates to the people it currently affects, and how it could relate to the people it could one day affect.

When Is Public Relations Used? 

Public relation efforts can be implemented in order to promote a new product, rebrand an old company, reinvigorate outdated events, bring in new business, and countless other situations. Even if a small organization doesn’t have  a public relations team or plan, being cognizant of the principles and benefits of public relations is important and can really help create important contacts within a public.

Why PR?

Simply put, PR is a great way to generate business, conversations, or new interest without spending a whole lot of money. Public relation professionals are capable of doing intensive research and using it to create the most effective and targeted strategies, techniques, and tactics. PR is a way for organizations to learn more about the people that support them and create trust and a pathway for two way communication among these people.

Where does PR start?

Public relations starts with you. Every organization you support, every organization you’re unaware of, every organization you hate…their priority in order to survive must be you. This is how public relations is effective. It’s constantly aware that the continued success of an organization depends on how their publics feel about it. Which means, the most important person in the public relations sphere, is always going to be you.