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.
The power of a logo is fascinating. Children as young as three can begin to recognize that a logo stands for a product or service, and by the time they’re seven, they can recall what product or service a particular logo represents. According to a Logos Now study on logo treatments and brand perception, the top 10 companies with the most widely recognized logos in the US and UK are Nike, followed by Apple, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Google, Microsoft, Pepsi, Amazon, Target, and Adidas.
No graphics are needed here; most consumers can see clearly in their mind’s eye what each of the above logos looks like…the swoosh, the dot, the arches…they’re all familiar icons on our cultural landscape.
As a brand’s single most identifying factor, the logo is almighty, in both a commercial and psychological sense. “If, in the business of communications, ‘image is king,’ the essence of this image, the logo, is the jewel in its crown,” said acclaimed graphic designer Paul Rand, who has developed logos for IBM, Westinghouse, UPS and ABC, among others.
The anatomy of logo creation is equally compelling. Good logo design and development is about so much more than getting the graphic elements right; it’s about knowing who your company or organization is…not so much what you do, but who you are. It’s also about who your customers and prospects are and what they want from you.
Long before hiring a designer, companies that want to be widely recognized and associated with a logo (who doesn’t?) can avoid multiple or misguided design options and extra costs by asking themselves some key questions first:
What do we stand for?
Again, your logo should say who you are and not what you do. If, for example, you’re a business that repurposes old computer parts to build new machines, you might prefer a logo that suggests your environmental consciousness and resourcefulness, as opposed to one that shows a dismantled and rebuilt computer (which would be an awfully cluttered logo to boot, no pun intended).
Multiple sources concur that the number one rule in logo design is simplicity. But a logo cannot possibly convey everything there is to know about a brand, so distinguishing your principal values and aspirations is essential. Think of it as an “elevator speech” in a single image. Do you esteem speed, innovation, conservation, reliability, exploration, durability? Knowing who you are and what you champion will guide everything else in the creation of your logo.
Who are our customers (or who do we want them to be)?
Who is your target audience and what do they value most? You may be proud of your 75 years in business, but that is probably not what’s most important to consumers. They care that you can offer them a solution and that you value the things they value.
Consider Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts. Both companies offer the same basic products, but from very different atmospheric and cultural standpoints. Starbucks embodies upscale, West Coast sophistication, while Dunkin’ Donuts plays to a more down-to-earth, unfussy vibe. Customers side fiercely with one or the other, for reasons far beyond coffee grounds. The two powerhouse logos convey those differences, too.
What do we have to offer that our competitors don’t?
Knowing what makes you unique and outstanding in your space is crucial to logo development. Start by nit-picking your competition; what do you do better than they? What do you do less effectively? Where and when are their spikes and dips in sales? How are they marketing themselves? What are people saying about them on social media?
Ask your current customers what they like most about doing business with you. Maintain online conversations to get even more insight. Though it may hurt, you may find things you could improve upon, which is every bit as valuable as knowing what you’re doing right.
What is our personality?
Is your brand bold, whimsical, conservative, adventurous, flirty, swanky, inventive, serious, stable, tough? Decide what attitude you want to project and capture it in your logo so that it’s evident from a single glance. All the various graphic elements of a logo (colors, lines, font, weight, positive and negative space, proportion, balance, scalability) must synergize to tell the world who you are in a moment.
How do we stay modern, but also timeless?
“Familiarity does not breed contempt” where logos are concerned, according to a study by Logos Now. In fact, revealed the study, respondents assign positive attributes to brands they are familiar with and negative attributes to brands they are not. While it’s not uncommon for companies to adapt their logos to reflect a new direction or more contemporary times (Pepsi has had 11 logos in 120 years), frequent re-designs can signal an identity crisis and even threaten your customers’ confidence in – and loyalty to – you.
Keep in mind, too, that what’s here today is often gone tomorrow, especially in our world of viral phases and crazes. But you can still be relevant (and cost-effective!) in your logo design by keeping it minimal in detail and rooted in characteristics that, while perhaps restrained, will always be valued.
Versatility and adaptability, however, are musts for logo design. From pens to billboards, your logo has to look clear, clean and uncomplicated on all forms of media, clothing and products. Your graphic designer can help you navigate those waters before you proceed with the first stroke of art.
Our team of experts can help you create a logo that not only says who you are, but also shows customers and prospects how you can add value to their lives.
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SEO has been known to cause a fair amount of FOMO (fear of missing out) among marketers and content creators. That’s because there is constantly something new on the SEO horizon, and it can feel almost impossible to keep up. Ceralytics chief strategist Brandon Andersen calls SEO “an ever-changing monster that is both exciting and terrifying.”
Still…that’s no reason not to try to tame the SEO beast and share some of its latest (at least as of this writing) developments. So, here goes, from the basics on up. If you already know the basics, feel free to wait for Part II next week, when we will discuss what’s changing in SEO.
What is SEO?
Search engine optimization is the process by which content creators attempt to increase the organic, or unpaid, visibility of their websites so that search engines will rank them higher on the SERPs (search engine results pages) that appear when users enter their search words. How able a website is to provide relevant answers or information affects where on the SERPs it will land. And because 92% of searchers click on sites with a page one position, landing there is paramount to SEO.
What is a search engine?
A search engine is essentially a software system that searches the Internet for information. When someone says, “Let’s Google it,” they’re referring to the search engine (Google, in this case, which is now as much a verb as a noun) that’s going to give them what they’re looking for. Google, YouTube (which merged with Google), Bing and Yahoo are well-known search engines, but there are several more out there crawling for information.
What is crawling?
While it’s all very technical, a search engine crawler (also called a spider or indexer) is a program or automated script (a list of commands that can be executed without user interaction) that methodically scours all the web pages on all the websites across the Internet to bring updated data to the various search engines. Search engines compete with one another to be the best provider of online information, which is why they’re so darn picky about their rankings.
How do search engines rank websites?
It’s a secret. Really. Search engines rank sites with algorithms that involve hundreds of different signals, but the developers behind those algorithms don’t want to – or have to – disclose their practices. This is primarily to prevent SEO manipulation, the deceitful and unethical practice of attempting to rank higher among search engines by stuffing content with superfluous keywords, backlinks, adjusting HTML attributes, or other measures that ultimately mislead consumers to sites that don’t really offer what they’re looking for.
Read Part II of our blog next week, when we’ll discuss what’s coming to SEO (or already here), what’s waning, and what will always be relevant.
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Anyone who attends IVY’s presentations knows that we like to give you a heads up about what to watch in social media. Hot new products aren’t always worth your time to explore them but when a giant like Google attracts 25 million people to their new social media platform in just a few weeks — we think that’s worth a glance or two.
Google+, also known as Google Plus, is taking a swipe at Facebook, Twitter and FourSquare with their new social media platform. It’s got some pretty amazing features…
“Circles” allows users to choose the circles of people you want to communicate with in different ways. For example, you might chose to have one circle for your family, one for your friends, another for classmates, colleagues and an entirely separate one for your work supervisors. This handy little feature means your mom or your boss can’t stalk you as easily as before. You are able to share the different sides of yourself with the appropriate group of people.
Challenging FourSquare is “Hangouts.” This feature lets you alert chosen people where you are located in real time. If they don’t come to see you personally, conference your text messages with the Google+ feature, “Huddle.” Automatic photo uploads from your phone are much easier with “Instant Upload” and you selectively decide which of your circles should be able to view your photos. This is a nice privacy feature Facebook does not offer. Even better, Google+ will allow you to permanently delete the photos and other content you post.
Finally, the engineering wizardry of Google’s search algorithms comes alive with “Sparks” where content that interests you is sent as soon as it is available; so when you are ready, it’s there for your consumption.
According to a published report in PRWeb Magazine, nearly 2/3 of over 2,000 web developers surveyed by Appcelerator/IDC, believe Google can catch up with Facebook in the social networking scene with Google+. When asked why, 68 percent of developers say that leveraging Google’s assets (eg: Search, YouTube, Maps, etc) trumps Facebook’s social graph lead.
Information about business applications for Google+ has not been released yet and may still be in the research and development stages. Developers are spending their time working hard to respond to the few early adopters who were asked to test out the platform. Google+ appears to really be listening to suggestions.
Clearly the battle of the Internet superpowers is gearing up. Facebook is attempting to develop search engine capabilities and “Facebook Mail” while Google enters the social media fray for a second time (Google Buzz died amidst a flurry of unresolved privacy issues). We doubt you’ll want to be on the sidelines for long with this great new technology ready to be tackled.