After 10 plus years in the SEM business, it’s a bit of an understatement to say that the nature of SEO is constantly changing. Those changes involve both the search engines refining the way they sort and display search results as well as consumer search behaviors. A simple example would be a year ago, searching Google would return mostly web pages in the search results. That same search today might include videos, news items, images or blog posts – now commonly known as Universal search.
In addition to web pages, each of these types of information comes from a different database. This presents opportunities for companies to gain search visibility not only with high ranking web pages, but with other digital media as well. Changes with search and ranking criteria are constantly being fine tuned and improved by the search engines.
Because SEO is a constantly changing industry, moreso than PR or direct marketing, and because it’s so easy to publish content online, there can be issues with SEO misinformation. For example, a person reading an article six months ago about a public relations topic can be pretty confident that topic is still relevant and accurate today. In another situation, a person reading an article about search engine optimization from six months ago might have a great degree of uncertainty as to whether that information is still current and accurate.
As a result, companies that are not dedicated in their purpose to SEO can become outdated in their information. People that work for PR firms, ad agencies or interactive shops that are tasked with performing SEO as an additional task to their responsibilities, don’t typically have time to develop and test. Staying on top of what’s new and current is very difficult as they’re tasked with other responsibilities such as writing code, designing graphics or writing press releases, in addition to search engine optimization.
As a result, misinformation of agency account teams and clients can occur. For example, I was recently on a teleseminar with a VP from a company in the PR industry who was adamant that keyword meta tags were instrumental for SEO. It has been arguable for several years whether keyword tags are used at all and search engines like Google have indicated as much. They’re certainly not as important as the vast majority (if any) of other signals used to sort web pages in the search results.
Even companies that have dedicated in-house SEO staff are unlikely to have internal budgets to perform robust experimentation to stay on top and ahead of what’s new. Certainly, they will be in a better position than a company without dedicated search marketing stuff, but not in the same spot as an agency solving SEO problems for a variety of situations, companies, CMS platforms and industries on a daily basis.
As a result, it can happen that internal or external clients are given advice that used to be true, but simply isn’t true now. Implementing bad advice can produce unintended results or simply, no results at all. This does not bode well towards the expertise and credibility of SEO as a whole.
However, there are SEO agencies that dedicate a substantial amount of time to what’s current in the industry, search engine functionality and how consumers search for information whether it be universal, personalized, social or standard search, mobile, video, images, etc. If digital content can be searched on, it can be optimized. TopRank strives to be one of those agencies.
Many companies, especially those that invest heavily in their brands, perceive ranking highly in Google for their company names and brand names with as much credibility as having visibility in mainstream media. There are millions of people searching Google everyday, which can exceed audiences on traditional media like TV ads that cost substantially more.
Being persistently visible when people search for a company’s brand names or keyword phrases important to their brand and messaging is very important as a Public Relations outcome. For example, companies that are savvy about SEO and PR, might not only pitch stories to mainstream media and relevant publications for coverage, but also optimize the corporate web site, press releases, blog and other digital communications for keyword phrases relevant to the article that was written about them.
People often read articles and either search for brands and company names on Google to find out more, or they’ll search on the overall topic of the article. Companies that have properly integrated their SEO and media relations efforts will already rank well for those phrases. Consumers that read the article, search Google for more information and see the same company, get a very strong signal about the credibility of that company and it’s brand.
A search marketing consulting company that understands how SEO can be used as a public relations tool will be able to work with PR, marketing and content optimization efforts in order to achieve the ranking improvements that drive both stand alone traffic as well as traffic influenced by advertising or media coverage.