Historically, it has been a common view that Public Relations and Search Engine Optimization strategies were strikingly different; PR was the yin, and SEO was the yang that came together independently to achieve harmony in your digital presence.
Both ultimately shared similar goals, but leveraged very different methods of approaching their earned leads.
Then Google implemented the Hummingbird update and the internet was forever changed.
Released in 2013, Hummingbird adapted the algorithm to begin to better understand the intent of search queries instead of just the rigid details. The update has had a positive impact on consumer experience, as it seeks to understand the query’s semantics versus just counting keywords. It also means SEO writers must appeal to Google and people.
In Google’s dawn of maturity, prioritizing relevant, newsworthy content is essential. And, maintaining a strong digital campaign with traditional SEO metrics remains valuable.
Below we explore three publicity tips to keep in mind when developing the SEO strategy for your small business—it’s time for your business to fly with Hummingbird.
1. Prove You Have a Heartbeat
No matter how much the power of technology expands, human connectivity will forever hold great value. Bots may optimize ads to fit a target demographic, but these algorithms are still unable to connect to the human experience… at least for now. People connect with people, and there is a natural charisma that often comes with a hardworking personality that can cause businesses to thrive.
Therefore, it is important to relay your personality and tell your story on your site amongst all of the digital products, FAQs, and troubleshooting. One way to portray yourself as personable is to prioritize your “About Us” page.
Imagine you are scrolling through a well-designed web page with an abundance of helpful articles. You decide it’s time to see who is behind all of this inspiring content; however, when you head over to the “About Us” section, it’s defunct, hasn’t been updated in years and/or the contact information is clearly out of date making it impossible to connect with the site’s owner or author. Many websites lose their credibility by making this mistake, immediately diverting readers from their site.
To avoid this:
- Have a clear mission and message that is the unifying factor throughout each of your pages and all of your content.
- Use storytelling techniques to lure in your reader. Instead of merely stating when your business was created, explain how your passion led you to today.
- Include fun facts! The type of fun fact will depend on the tone of both your site and your field; however, adding a personal tidbit makes your site feel more approachable, which is particularly important if you are an expert in your field, which can be intimidating.
- Continuously update your page with new accomplishments or statistics, exciting stories, employee profiles, etc.
Another way to appear accessible online is to interact personally. If you solely post intriguing articles once a week without any further activity, you may come off as robotic.
To combat this:
- Have someone be engaged with your viewers by responding to comments and questions; it doesn’t have to be you, but we’re seeing social profiles become as much a customer service and reputation management platform as it is for marketing
- Put an appropriate amount of effort into your social media profiles. Although it’s easy to spend far too much time scrolling, make sure you update your content. If your last post is an outdated graphic from three years prior, anyone who searches and discovers you through social media may assume you went out of business.
- Engage in discussions by commenting on other blogs. Demonstrate to your followers that you value symbiotic relationships versus just expecting them to worship your site simply because it exists.
2. Communicate Trustworthiness in Web Design
No matter how authoritative your content may be, viewers always see first and read second. Unsophisticated web design can immediately drive viewers off of your page, decreasing page time and increasing bounce rate, both negative signals to Google’s ranking algorithms. Slow load time, lack of theme, and 10 different font uses all scream a lack of professionalism. If you don’t have the time or budget for an on-staff web developer, consider taking advantage of modern site building tools.
In today’s competitive online market, implementing impactful design is crucial when establishing trust.
According to the research conducted by the Nielsen Norman Group, there are four factors of credibility communicate trustworthiness:
- Design Quality: The site should be easy to navigate, equipped with clear labels that predict the user’s needs.
- Upfront Disclosure: To appear transparent, you will want to prove you have nothing to hide. Make sure all costs are clearly displayed and that no hidden fees are involved in purchasing your product. Lump potential concerns together in an easily accessible FAQ page.
- Comprehensive, Correct and Current: Cover content on all relevant topics to your business. For example, if your site’s primary purpose is to sell various kitchen gadgets, it is wise to include a blog section with content that uses these products. You may include a how-to tutorial or a recipe that implements the product. This provides helpful information for the consumer and provides you with another opportunity to play with SEO. The more content you produce, the more keywords you can effortlessly implement, and the more backlinks you can include.
- Connected to the Rest of the Web: This deals with having internal and external links. More on that below.
The internet is a massive matrix of interconnected websites, all attempting to increase traffic by ranking higher. One of the fundamental ways to achieve this is to follow the Golden Rule: treat others the way you’d like to be treated.
You’re probably asking yourself “how in the world does the kindness principal my third-grade teacher always harped on apply to my SEO strategy”?
The answer is backlinks.
Backlinks are the digital word-of-mouth (WOM) and they are how Google discovers your site. Traditional WOM is a keystone piece of PR strategy and will always hold immense value; however, the application of these traditional methods to digital mediums is how content becomes “viral”. You can increase your reach by making small considerations that have big, long-term payoff.
Google doesn’t know that your website exists just because you made it. To oversimplify the process, the algorithm follows paths, clicking on links to see where they go, and indexing all of the content on a page. Unless someone has linked to your site, it may never be indexed. The more links that point to your site, the more frequently it gets crawled, the more quickly that Google recognizes your updates.
Backlinks are inbound links to your website, hyperlinked from other websites. They are imperative to SEO. The number of backlinks your site obtains—as well as authority of the websites where they originate from—significantly contribute to your site’s rankings. As such, earning a link from a local newspaper through a little publicity will have a more significant impact on your ranking than your friend’s blog.
ProTip: If you or your business has been mentioned in the news and they didn’t link to your page, perhaps because it before you set up your website, reach out to the outlet to see if they will update the article with a link to your site.
To get started, you may not have any news mentions. You may not even have much content to link to yet. However, you can potentially earn links to your site by linking to others. If a page with parallel services notices a new trickle of traffic to their site and the analytics show that it is coming from you, they may look at what you have to offer to see what the connection is.
Developing these digital relationships can be where public relations comes in. Whether you are linking contextually to other local businesses or even your business district, a rising tide can raise all ships.
ProTip: Although you can find some rankings growth from sites linking to one another, you want to be mindful that not ALL of your links come from sites that you also link to. If so, Google might see these links as manipulated or traded, and may devalue them.
To earn one-way links to your site, you might also consider doing some research on pages that can complement your own and reach out. Maybe you want to offer to guest blog for them or invite them to blog on your site. Perhaps you have some killer content or an infographic that might help simply explain a complex concept for them.
If you reach out to a site with a personalized email that demonstrates that you’re actually familiar with their company and audience, they are more likely to respond and, ultimately, link back to your site in return.
To Recap: Grey is Good
Traditional SEO efforts will forever remain critical when developing an online marketing campaign; however, if your website is optimized more for robots than human beings, your personified competitors are sure to snatch up your readers. Implementing these tactics will not only impress your audience from a PR standpoint but will also help you appeal to Google’s Hummingbird update.
And that is why the PR yin and the SEO yang are merging into a unified grey.
About the Author
Caroline Hughes is an honors student at Texas Christian University obtaining a Strategic Communication degree with a minor in Business. Caroline is currently interning for Magnus Opus. When she is not focusing on her studies, she is writing for her personal lifestyle blog.