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Lee Odden

7 Answers to News SEO Questions You Should Know

By Lee Odden     Online Marketing, Online PR, Other Events, Press Release Optimization, SEO, SEO Tips

Recently I was invited to give a basics webinar on optimizing news content  for search.  The intersection of search and PR/communications are obviously something quite familiar.

The outcome exceeded all expectations thanks to the excellent promotions by PRWeb and SEW plus Mike Grehan’s smooth handling of moderator duties amidst technical difficulties. Over 7,000 people registered, there were over 400 questions and 650 Tweets using the #prweb hash tag during the webinar.

The way it goes with many webinars when you’re invited by an organization to participate, is that the topic and title/description are determined beforehand. The speaker adapts themselves to that.  This presentation content focused on optimizing writing for the web with a particular emphasis on optimizing content common to public relations.

As promised, I’ve sorted the bulk of the questions out and will present several here along with my responses. I hope they are useful.

If I’m not currently optimizing my site and I have a limited budget, where do I start?

The first thing any marketing activity needs to start with include setting goals, understanding your audience and the market. The lowest cost method of outsourcing that kind of activity where search engine optimization is concerned, would be to hire a consultant or agency to do an audit.

An SEO audit represents the initial evaluation and research along with recommendations to be implemented by the client. Typically this involves: competitive research, keyword research, web site code/template evaluation, content optimization recommendations, link building research and recommendations, tips on content creation/promotion/repurposing and to varying degrees, social media recommendations. Web analytics, monitoring and ranking tools are also often recommended.

An audit does not take the place of consulting since it’s an evaluation and recommendation, not implementation and guidance on an ongoing basis. It is however, a cost effective start. Here are a few resources:

Should your newsroom blog be placed under the site’s domain, or maintained separately under the blog software’s domain to allow for incoming links to your main site that are coming from a different site?

There are two parts to the answer for this question. First, the reference to “blog software’s domain” sounds as though the blog is hosted with a third party service such as blogger.com or typepad.com. Example:  yourblog.blogspot.com or yourblog.typepad.com

My advice is to avoid using third party hosting services for your blog. If you’re too invested in such a service or have other reasons for using them and cannot use something like WordPress installed on the server where your web site is hosted, then use domain aliasing options so that your blog URL is part of your company domain name or a domain name that you own. Example:  yourblog.com or yourblog.companydomainname.com. This puts you in a position of more control since the blog content lives under a domain name you own vs a domain like blogspot.com, which is owned by Google.

While links from your blog/newsroom hosted on a blogspot.com to your company web site do count as inbound links, there’s not as much value from many links to your site from one other site vs many links to your site from many other relevant web sites.

Which leads us to the second part answer to where the newsroom should be hosted. My preference is to host the newsroom either as a sub-domain or a sub-directory of the main company web address. Example:  newsroom.redcross.org or in the case of TopRank, it’s toprankmarketing.com/newsroom/

The links that you attract from other relevant web sites to your newsroom pages will build PageRank back to the rest of your web site. This is more true with the subdirectory than the subdomain. Also, keeping your newsroom address as part of your company web site address is useful for branding and user experience.

Some advice on subdomains and subdirectories from Matt Cutts of Google and here’s a good post discussing the SEO pros/cons.

Should you post press releases on your own website (before distribution)? How do search engines deal with the duplicate content issue in this case?

If you’re a publicly traded company, publishing financial announcements need to happen on the wires first, or at least at the same time as publishing the press release on your own web site.  For other companies not constrained by such requirements, posting a release to your own site first is fine.

As for dealing with duplicate content when your press release is published on your own site as well as on the wire service, it’s a pretty common situation. In fact, it’s often a goal for companies that distribute their releases through a newswire service to get as many other sites to copy and republish the release as possible. If the release is properly optimized, each time another web site with a unique domain name publishes a copy, it creates a link back to whatever web page on your corporate site you’re trying to draw attention to.  This sends more traffic and can affect the search ranking of the destination page.

A long standing problem with situations where the same content is hosted on different domain names has been debated and worried about by many, many webmasters. Search engines like Google don’t like to show multiple copies of the same content in the same search results. It’s not a good user experience. Therefore, when duplicate copies of the same content are detected, Google likes to pick a canonical version and only show that one.

Duplication with press releases is quite common because of distribution on wire services and to influence search engines to rank a certain version of your press release, there are a few steps you can take. One piece of advice many webmasters try to follow is to publish the release on your own site so Google crawls it there first.  However, if there are more links to another version of the same release hosted elsewhere, the other copy might be perceived as deserving to rank in search results instead.

For more tips on how to deal with duplicate content in a press release situation, watch this video interview with Adam Lasnik of Google that I took at SES London. Adam offers advice on making sure copies of your content attribute the source and all link back to the original to provide Google information about what version is canonical.

Is it useful to submit Press Releases to Social Media sites in addition to submitting to PRWeb.com?

Deciding what to share on social media sites should take into account what types of content members of the social community are best responding to.  Press Releases are often formal marketing communications, not exactly conversational. As you understand the community you’re trying to reach with the press release, you should know whether it’s appropriate to share a press release with them in a social media setting.

The big mistake many marketers and PR professionals make is to register with a variety of social network, news and bookmarking sites and then self submit, vote and rate their own press releases without having ever participated in the community.  With no network paying attention to what you’re sharing, few will ever notice the press release. If you do have a network on social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, Digg and others, then you will know first hand whether it would be acceptable to the community to share content in a press release format.

Outside of social media news release, your best bet to take advantage of social media distribution of a press release would be to make it easy for the press release to be saved, shared and submitted by interested readers. You can do this with widgets or plugins offered by ShareThis and similar services. Many wire services already support those features as well.   Additionally, you should monitor pickups of the release on the social web.

If you see someone submit or share a release you’ve sent out on a social media site, reach out and thank them, answer any questions and show interest. That can generate interest from others in the community.  One tip I recommend is to write a blog post version of the press release and share that content with social media communities. Then include a link to the full press release within the blog post for people that want more information.

What you should not do is treat social media sites as a place to dump press release content thinking it will get a lot of exposure because there are many members of the community.  Here are some additional newsroom SEO tactics.

What is a good Social Media approach for a company which generates little in the way of genuinely newsworthy material?

Companies that say they have nothing “newsworthy” to publish are more common than you might think. There may be deeper issues to deal with than a social media strategy if there’s nothing new, innovative or unique to talk about.  A good social media marketing program cannot fix a broken business.

A business exists to make money fulfilling unmet customer needs. A perspective to consider would be to take the focus off the company and put it on the customer. Use social web participation as a way to better listen with and connect with customers to find opportunities to serve them better. Develop relationships with influentials and encourage feedback. Innovation can certainly come from a customer base as can the spread of a great idea. Focus on connecting with customers and helping customers connect with each other in a social context and there may be more newsworthy material than you ever expected.

Here are a few useful resources on Social Media and PR:

There are so many shady SEO people and firms – how do you pick a good one?

There are no more “shady” SEO people than there are “shady” clients. Professionals that provide effective SEO consulting are reputable, experienced and in my experience, probably more talented than most traditional marketers you’ve ever worked with.  People doing shady things in the name of SEO are NOT professionals and the absence of that word, professionals, in the question is the problem.

Picking a good consultant or agency means doing homework. Know your market, set goals, understand your competition in search and start asking for referrals from others who have hired SEO companies. Word of mouth is powerful both for companies that need to hire good SEOs and for good SEOs to attract business. Our agency, TopRankMarketing.com for example, has relied mostly on word of mouth to attract new business since 2001. We also get a lot of new business from search itself (practice what you preach) and from networking on and offline.

Here are a few resources on hiring a SEO and one on “shady” SEO:

Part of the issue is demand.  Take the next question for example:

“Can you use article spinning software to publish Press Releases? Or is there an Press Release spinning software to create many press releases based on one press release? Other words, is there a difference between article marketing and press releases?”

Article spinning software for press releases? Demand for shortcuts, silver bullets and “we want everything now” helps create the shady side of SEO as opportunists take advantage.  Automatically generating garbage pages in press release format will help NO ONE.

That’s it for this round of questions. I’ll post another round next week. Thank you to PRWeb and Search Engine Watch for having me participate on the webinar. What are your questions about optimizing news content?

If you’d like even more in-depth information about SEO and Public Relations, AND you happen to live in the Louisville, Kentucky area, be sure to check out the event Social Media Club Louisville is having next Tuesday night, Feb 16th.


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