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Lee Odden

Interview with Greg Jarboe of SEO-PR

By Lee Odden     Interviews, Online PR

The use of news search SEO and marketing has grown significantly in the past 2 years. Search engine optimization practitioners as well as public relations firms are realizing (albeit the latter slower than the former) the value of optimizing electronic documents such as press releases, articles, white papers, and the syndication of those files as news and blog search engines grow their audiences.

A pioneer in the field of using search engine optimization in combination with press releases is Greg Jarboe. Jarboe is a veteran search marketer and public relations professional. He frequently speaks at industry conferences including ad:tech, Search Engine Strategies and WebmasterWorld Pubcon on the topic of marketing through news search engines. He is also co-founder of SEO-PR.

Greg was kind enough take some time for a short interview on his backround and how he started using SEO and public relations as well as insight into the current state of news search SEO, misconceptions and where things are headed.

Thank you Greg, for doing this interview. I know you’re very busy, especially with another Search Engine Strategies conference coming up this week and Pubcon in Las Vegas just 2 weeks ago.

Lee:  Please share a little about your background

Greg:  I guess one would say I have a “checkered” background.  I got into high tech public relations in the 1980s (and was the Director of Corporate Communications at Lotus Development Corp., back when it was bigger than Microsoft).  I became the Director of Corporate Communications at Ziff-Davis in the 1990s (and helped launch Yahoo! Internet Life magazine as well as Yahoo! Europe, which was a joint venture between Yahoo! and Ziff-Davis).  And I made the transition into search engine optimization in the current decade (and co-founded SEO-PR in early 2003.)

Lee:  How did you first get involved with search/online marketing?

Greg:  In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Ziff-Davis made a lot of its content available on CompuServe.  Then, in January 1994, we launched Interchage — or own online service — which was sold later that year to AT&T.  In February 1994, PC Week, one of our titles, created a web site — and I remember the famous words when it was launched: “Well, it didn’t crash.”  In 1995, Ziff-Davis launched ZDNet, invested in Yahoo!, and launched Yahoo! Internet Life magazine.  I guess that’s when I first got involved with search/online marketing.  Although, back in those days, you needed to convince a human editor to include your site in the Yahoo! directory.  When I discovered that PC Magazine’s web site wasn’t in the Yahoo! directory, I bought pizza for the Yahoo! editors — who were mostly Stanford students — and we got included.  I like to joke that this was the first “paid inclusion” program.

Lee:  When and how did you first start to combine your experience with public relations and search marketing?

Greg:  While I was at Ziff-Davis, I started experimenting with ways to get press releases found online.  For example, if I included the stock ticker symbol in a press release, it would appear in Yahoo! Finance along with stories from mainstream media.  I became the Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer at Backbone Media in early 2002 — and we tried optimizing press releases for search engines, but could only get high rankings for very niche terms.  Then, in September of 2002, Google launched Google News — and while doing a few searches there I discovered that press releases were included in results along with the stories from 4,500 other “news sources.”  The rest is history.

Lee:  What do you think has been the biggest change this year affecting news search marketing?

Greg:  The biggest change is that it is going mainstream.  According to MarketingSherpa, optimizing press releases for news search engines is one of the top three trends to watch in 2006.  This raises the bar for everyone who offers press release optimization as a service.  You need to go beyond the basics of editing your copy for the news search engines and distributing your press release on one of the wire services that get crawled by Google News and Yahoo News.  That was sufficient a year ago, but it will be commonplace next year.

Lee:  What kinds of trends are you seeing or that stand out in news search engines as far as functionality for users?

Greg:  Yahoo! News and Google News are constantly tweaking their algorithms to ensure that they provide the most recent, relevant, and important results to their users.  This means that optimization techniques and tactics that worked last year may not continue to work next year.  In addition, the news search engines are constantly adding functionality.  For example, you can now find blog search results in the upper right corner of a Yahoo! News results page.  And you can often find news results at the top of a Google, Yahoo! Search, AOL Search, and Ask Jeeves results page.  (They are called Google OneBox Results, Yahoo! ShortCuts, AOL SnapShots, and Ask Jeeves Smart Search.)  These create new opportunities — if you are focused on this category.

Lee:  What are some common misconceptions about using news search engines as a direct marketing channel?

Greg:  There are two big misconceptions — and each one has a different group of believers.  First, far too many SEOs are creating press releases deliberately to trick the news search engine into offering inappropriate, redundant or poor-quality search results.  This is just a new form of search engine spam.  Getting a high ranking doesn’t do you any good if a user reads the press release and don’t find information that is valuable.  Second, for too many PR people are still shocked, shocked to find that they need to edit their headline or body copy in order to “optimize” a press release.  For example, I read a PR Tips newsletter recently that said, “Search engine optimization will ‘tag’ keywords within your news releases, making them more visible to search engine ‘spiders’ as they scan the Internet for content.”  Ummm.  That’s not how it works.

Lee:  What are some improvements you’d like to see in the major news search engines?

Greg:  I’d love to see Yahoo! News display relevant thumbnail images the way that Google News does.  And I’d love to see Google News display blog results the way that Yahoo! News does.  And I think they both should take a look at how AOL News breaks out top news headlines from top press releases.

Lee:  What are some of the resources you rely on for information on search marketing? Best practices, news, industry information, etc.

Greg:  I learn a lot from my colleagues and partners in the industry.  “Word of mouth” is still one of the best sources of information.  And I learn a lot from Search Engine Strategies conferences, WebmasterWorld PubCon events, and MarketingSherpa Lead Gen Summits.  I subscribe to SearchDay, I Want Media, and Larry Chase’s Web Digest for Marketers.  And I read the Search Engine Watch blog, Gary Stein’s Analyst weblog, and Steve Rubel’s Micro Persuasion blog.

Lee:  What’s your favorite search engine? Favorite news search engine?

Greg:  I have three children and I learned a long time ago that they are all my “favorites.”  So, my favorite search engines include Google, Yahoo Search, MSN Search, AOL Search, and Ask Jeeves — because they have the largest market share and can impact my clients the most.  And my favorite news search engines are Yahoo! News, AOL News, Google News, and Topix.net — for the same reasons.  When MSN Newsbot develops a following, I’m sure it will become one of my favorites, too.

Lee:  What’s the best thing about living in Acton?

Greg:  Acton is known for having one of the best public school systems in the state.  But, as a history major, I’d also like the fact that “the battle of Lexington was fought in Concord by the Acton Minutemen.”

==

Thanks Greg!

Greg is speaking on several panels at the Chicago Search Engine Strategies conference next week, Dec 5-8. I am fortunate in being able to sit in on one of those panels with Greg regarding News Search SEO on Dec 6.

Each Monday you can expect an interview posted to Online Marketing Blog with search marketing industry experts on topics ranging from organic SEO to analytics to paid search marketing.

Tags: Greg Jarboe, SEO, PR, SEO-PR, Interview


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