Is online press coverage the best form of SEO?


When analysing Google SERP results, you often find that the top ranked pages are press articles.  And press articles that have been published very recently.

Given all the recent kerfuffle about online press releases and the whole “no follow” links issue, it made me realise that perhaps PR and SEOs are barking up the wrong tree.

Isn’t online press coverage one of the most potent forms of SEO available?

Let’s take an example. If you search on Google for the phrase “social media analytics” (at least in the UK), then the page you are likely to find occupying the top slot (or in the top 3, because all results are personalised) is this one:

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/jun/10/effective-social-media-analytics

This is an article published on The Guardian site on June 10th of this year.

Why is this page ranking so highly  ?

MajesticSEO

One of they key factors is clearly domain authority.   According to MajesticSEO, The Guardian site has an overall Trust Flow score of 92 out 100. Given that domain authority is generally accepted as still playing a big role in SERP ranking, that would probably partly explain why this article is doing so well

Also, the content of the piece is clearly relevant to the search query.

But what is the PR (or media relations) value of this article?

I confess I have a vested interest in talking about it.

The piece refers to a number of people and organisations. I’m pleased to say that I was one of them.

In an ideal world, the article would have contained a link back to my website. I could have then used this to measure exactly how many people were motivated by the story to find out more about my consultancy and possibly gain me new business.

However, there is a way of indirectly measuring the impact of the article on brand awareness – brand search volume to my own site.

Looking at my Google Analytics reports, I could see that brand search volume on the terms   “escherman” and “Andrew Bruce Smith” rose 4 fold on June 10th and 11th compared to my average daily volumes for the previous 6 months (and certainly higher than compared to the same period last year).

Better still, using attribution analysis, I was able to deduce that a combination of a branded search on June 11th and a subsequent visit via my blog led to paying business via a website generated enquiry.

 What was the input cost for the online press coverage?

I could argue that the cost to me was the 20 mins I spent on the phone to journalist Danny Bradbury who was writing the piece. So what is 20 mins of my time worth?

Compared to the value of the work generated, I could argue that my ROI on that piece of press coverage is around 50:1.

Of course, there are a number of caveats here.

First, although I know that branded search increased in the time period, and I’m fairly certain I can attribute that to the press article, did everyone discover that article via search? Clearly the link was shared on social networks, so the content wasn’t necessarily discovered by search. But given the overall search volume on Google for the term social media analytics, I think can at least attribute a portion of that to search discovery.

Also, although I only spent 20 mins on the phone to Danny, I have also built a relationship with him over 20 years or so – if I was being purist, perhaps I should factor in the investment made in that in order to arrive at the I of my ROI equation.

But setting all of that aside, I do think the above example has some key points for PRs looking at the interplay of media relations and SEO.

What are the implications for PR?

One of the key things to take away from this is that although SEO typically focusses on techniques to get your own or your client’s content to rank highly, you shouldn’t discount the fact that relevant press coverage on high authority sites may well stand a far greater chance of ranking highly in SERPS. The investment in time, money and resource to get your client’s own content to rank highly on certain keyword terms may not be justified. However, getting your client written about and linked to on high trust, high authority media sites may well have a far greater chance of ranking well.

Not only that, if that press coverage does contain a link back to your own or your client’s site, you have an incontrovertible way of measuring the click throughs, as well as the behaviour of those visitors in relation to a defined goal with an economic value – either sales, leads, content consumption, etc.

Even if the coverage doesn’t contain a link, so long as the brand is mentioned, there may be a way to isolate the impact on branded search – and again, to see what contribution this has made to goals with values attached to them.

Things to consider when pitching a story to a journalist from an SEO perspective

The story you pitch clearly remains paramount. But think about the keyword phrases your client wants to rank well for. Are you building a credible story that will compel the journalist to use these phrases?

Also, always be thinking about how you can persuade a journalist to include a link to a relevant client page. Simply asking the journalist to link is probably not the answer (although some may argue that if you don’t ask you don’t get).

A better way is make the use of the link vital to the story.  The journalist will always be asking the question: “is this link going to provide additional value to my readers?”

Helping clients to understand the value of a great story pitch and helping to create the compelling supporting content on their own sites that will make journalists want to link to the client’s content should be a mindset more PRs should adopt.

In summary, online press coverage can be your most potent weapon in gaining great SEO results. Given Google’s stated desire to reward content that sits on high trust, high authority sites, getting online press coverage on well respected media sites should give you a triple win – trusted awareness, genuine traffic from real and relevant human beings (either directly or by branded search) – and a means of measuring real economic outcomes rather than the reaching for the easy crutch of OTS and impressions.

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Network topology in action with Traackr: CIPR Share This Too


As my fellow CIPR Social Media Panel member Rachel Miller has already ably blogged, Share This Too is due to be published by Wiley at the end of August. 

My contribution to this edition is a chapter on network topology – the study of the structure of networks. And in a very timely and helpful co-incidence, I’ve just recently gained access to a practical example of network toplogy in action with direct relevance to the world of social media and PR.

Many of you will already be familiar with Traackr. For those who aren’t, it is probably best described as an influencer identification tool. It allows you to easily build lists of key influencers relative to a specific topic or issue by looking at the reach, resonance and relevancy of individuals across all the major social platforms, as well as blogs and media outlets.

In the last week, Traackr has announced the availability of a new network analysis function. In simple terms, it now allows you to actually visualise the structure of relationships within your list of influencers.

It also allows you to see people who aren’t already part of your influence list – and yet should be – based upon their relationships with people who you are already targetting.

To provide an example, I’ve created a project in Traackr based around the topic of social media analytics. In order to help Traackr determine who the most relevant influencers might be for your chosen topic, you have to provide a list of keywords that would best match the content and interests of the people you are seeking. The more relevant the keywords you provide, the more accurate the list that Traackr creates.

In the case of social media analytics, I’ve used Google’s Keyword Planner tool to generate an initial seed list which I then plug into Traackr.

Here’s a screen shot of my initial list as ranked by Traackr (go here for more info as to how Traackr decides who to pick).

Traackr

So now I have my list. By clicking on the network tab, I now generate a visual map of the connections within my Influencer A List – it also shows me which people engage with each other in a meaningful way. Here’s a screen shot:

Traackr

The larger the circle, the more engaged that person is with others in the list.  You can see who influences who (in the sense of which person gets more resonance and engagement from others – and vice versa).

Here’s an example based on Euler Partner’s Phil Sheldrake. You can get insight into the structure and influence patterns of any individual on the list.

Traackr

It doesn’t take much to understand how this can have very practical use in PR and social media. By identifying where people sit in the network, you can use this topological information to plan who you should target and how you should target them. Sometimes it might mean going for the people who are most central to the network. Or you might identify people who are important bridges between two sub-groups of influencers.

I’m still exploring the possibilities of the tool. However, it is a great example of how network topology has practical uses in the world of social media and PR. Read more about it when Share This Too is published 😉

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