By guest blogger Sally Falkow, Social Media Strategist
Content has always been a major part of PR, but now it’s become an integral part of all marketing. According to research from the Content Marketing Institute, 91 percent of B2B brands and 86 percent of B2C brands use it.
But it’s still an emerging tactic and far too many companies are “flying blind” – just pumping out content without any strategy. (Only 37 percent of B2B marketers and 38 percent of B2C marketers have a content marketing strategy.)
Your audience finds your content in many ways, but one of the main ones is through search. And since Google dominates the search market, it pays to develop content that meets Google’s quality guidelines and ranking rules.
When Larry Page and Sergey Brin started Google, their purpose was to organize the information on the web and make it possible for people using the web to find relevant content. As early as December 1998 “PC Magazine” reported that Google “has an uncanny knack for returning extremely relevant results.”
Every Google update to their algorithm, and all their rules about how to write content, have one aim in mind: to improve the results they give their users.
The Google Algorithm
“Algorithm is a technical term for what you can think of as a recipe that Google uses to sort through the billions of web pages and other information it has, in order to return what it believes are the best answers.” Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land founder, and editor.
There have been several major updates to the Google algorithm, but in fact, they make constant updates and tweaks every day. Luckily there are certain basic guidelines that always apply, and these are the rules you need to work with when creating content.
- Unique, original content. (The Panda update introduced ranking penalties for sites that use mass content producers and those that steal or duplicate content.)
- Trustworthy content from an authoritative source. Trust is often evaluated by the quality of the links pointing to your content.
The Google blog gave these questions as a guideline for creating trustworthy content:
- Would you trust the information presented in this article?
- Is this article written by an expert/enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it shallow in nature?
- Is the site a recognized authority on the topic?
- Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?
- Is this the sort of page you’d want to bookmark, share with a friend, or recommend?
These rules apply to all your content – web pages, newsroom, articles, press releases, and blogs.
The Penguin update focused on the difference between owned and earned links. That’s something PR practitioners should be able to grasp quite easily. It’s about the value of third-party endorsement and why editorial overage of your brand carries more weight than an ad.
When you produce and publish content about your company, you obviously present the brand in the best possible light. It’s called ‘owned media.’ It could be your website, your blog, articles you write or your social content, such as posts on your Facebook page. Even when that content is syndicated to other sites, or distributed on the wire and picked up by other sites, it is still owned media. You produced it.
When someone else with no vested interest publishes good things about a brand, it has much more credibility than what we say ourselves. That’s earned media. Media relations is all about earned media. We know how that works; it’s one of the core functions of PR.
Using that same logic, Google regards any link that you put into a piece of content about the brand (press release, article, blog post, infographic) as an owned link. You created the content and you placed that link there. No getting away from it – that is owned, not earned. Any link that you created is owned.
Google is all about earned links. Inbound links, those links from other sites pointing to your content, have always been a large part of Google’s ranking algorithm. Google looks for third-party endorsement. They check to see who links to your website, blog, Facebook page. A link is regarded as a vote of confidence in your content. It’s like getting the “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval”.
Google only counts what they call natural or editorial links – that’s earned links. In the very same way that you earn media coverage, you now have to earn links. Every time a reporter uses your press release content and includes a link to your site, that’s an earned link. Your media relations activity just expanded – it has to include getting those earned links.
Blogger Relations and Influencer Marketing are also good ways to earn these inbound links. Reach out to a list of bloggers or influencers in your field with an offer or a useful, interesting piece of content, and resulting mentions with a link are earned links.
The best way to earn links is to create outstanding content that people will want to mention, share, and link to. Google’s first rule for ranking content is high-quality, original content that has depth and substance.
News Content and Search
“In the U.S., roughly nine-in-ten adults (93%) get at least some news online (either via mobile or desktop), and the online space has become a host for the digital homes of both legacy news outlets and new, ‘born on the web’ news outlets.” Pew State of the Media 2018
Every business owner, marketing manager, and PR practitioner should know how to write and distribute news releases so they rank well in web search engines and news search engines.
There are some distinct advantages to having your news releases found via search engines:
- You know the people reading the release are interested in that subject because they asked for it by keyword.
- Online releases can be tracked – for the first time, you can get statistics of how many times your press release was viewed, read or downloaded. With Google Analytics you can see what visitors do once they get to your site and how long they stay.
Top 10 News Sites
You might be surprised to know that Yahoo! News tops the list for news. They’ve been number one for many years. Google News is nipping at their heels, but they have not managed to grab the top position. So your first goal should be Yahoo! News.
NEWS SITE MONTHLY VISITORS
- Yahoo! News 175,000,000
- Google News 150,000,000
- Huffington Post 110,000,000
- CNN 95,000,000
- New York Times 70,000,000
- Fox News 65,000,000
- NBC 63,000,000
- Mail Online 53,000,000
- Washington Post 47,000,000
- The Guardian 42,000,000
As you can see, some of the mainstream media websites are high on the list and you should be building relationships with journalists and bloggers from these publications.
Yahoo! News still has human editors and they pay attention to rising searches and trending topics. So be sure to include this as part of the research for your release.
Google News is growing their audience too. They’ve risen from number 10 to the second position in just a few years.
According to Google executives, Google News “algorithmically harvests” articles from more than 50,000 news sources across 72 editions and 30 languages. Their news content is seen by millions of people every week, providing hundreds of thousands of business opportunities every day.
Those opportunities are not only available to media publishers. Google News indexes press releases, so these opportunities are available to businesses and organizations too. Just make sure your releases comply with these Google News guidelines:
- Timely reporting on matters that are important or interesting to our audience. Google News generally doesn’t include how-to articles, advice columns, job postings, or strictly informational content such as weather forecasts and stock data. Google News is not a marketing service, so they won’t publish content promoting a product or organization.
- Unique articles: Original reporting and honest attribution are longstanding journalistic values.
- Authority: Write what you know. The best news exhibits clear authority and expertise.
- Accountability: Users tell us they value news with author biographies and clearly accessible contact information, such as physical and email addresses, and phone numbers.
- User-friendly: Clearly written articles with correct spelling and grammar also make for a much better user experience.
- Links: When our crawler scans your site, it looks for HTML links with anchor text that includes at least a few words.
Since almost every business in the U.S. is using content as part of their marketing strategy,you’re competing with a flood of content every day. Make sure that you start with an intelligent content strategy and that every item of content you produce is tied to a goal, has depth and substance, is original and interesting, and has eye-catching visuals with it.
Sally Falkow has been in public relations for more than 30 years and is accredited in PR (APR) by the Public Relations Society of America. Over the past 15 years, she has immersed herself in new technology and digital PR – most of her work today is as a social media strategist and trainer.