Public relations professionals can play a big role in driving and amplifying their clients’ digital marketing efforts. One area of opportunity is search engine optimization (SEO).

We all know that customers use search at the beginning of the information gathering and purchasing cycle, so it’s imperative for all brands and businesses to be found in natural (organic) and paid search. Since paid search can be costly for broad, general terms, it’s best to employ best practices to improve your clients’ exposure in organic, unpaid search.

Here’s a quick playbook for improving SEO with public relations.

  1. Determine the keywords and phrases your clients want to be known for in organic search, e.g., your client’s value proposition, brand or product names, and top three communication pillars or points.
  2. Measure where your client ranks for those keywords and phrases. There are a number of web and desktop applications that you can use for rank measurement including Rank Tracker, Bright Edge, and others. You’re looking for search volume (number of searches for these terms), competition (where competitors rank), and your client’s current rank.
  3. Create a plan to integrate the highest value and highest opportunity keywords into future communications. Map these words and terms to the most relevant pages on your client’s website. You want to match keywords to pages where high-value information and transactional goals are in place, e.g., a download, a lead capture form, etc. Or, create new landing pages that best serve your clients’ customers.
  4. Even if you’re measuring rank for 50-plus keywords, be sure to prioritize 5 – 10 keywords that will send viable leads or sales to your client’s website. This prioritization helps focus efforts across marketing channels and disciplines.
  5. Now it’s time to do the work:
    • Update web page meta data (your page titles, keywords, and descriptions) to include the targeted keywords and phrases.
    • Integrate keywords and phrases into your press releases and boilerplate, again mapping back to relevant pages on your client’s website.
    • Run your links through your measurement package’s link tracking tool, e.g., this is the tool for Google Analytics.
    • Create a process so that all internal stakeholders take these steps across all published materials.
  6.  Measure natural search referrals and results weekly (or monthly, based on resources), using any additional learnings to fine tune your SEO efforts – carefully reviewing how visitors navigate through your client’s website.
  7. For keywords and phrases where there is too much competition and your client cannot rank highly in natural search, consider using paid search and social marketing to boost visibility.

This same methodology can be applied to all outgoing content-related efforts, including press releases, website content, white papers, and more. Any digital content that enables links to your client’s websites, microsites, and other digital presences, such as social media, can help reinforce brand messaging and pillars. If there are special targeting considerations such as geography, customer job roles, etc., be sure to incorporate those into your planning.

This type of optimization on-site (websites, microsites, social destinations) and in outbound communications ‘tells’ search engines that your client has content authority, thereby improving their search engine rank over time. Be patient however, ranking result improvements take 30 – 90 days to start materializing in organic search results.

Originally posted to Quora.

Simply relying on customers to find your product through social media and PR channels limits your ability to market and measure results.

Audience segmentation should take a holistic view of the audience – demographics, psychographics, social conversations, interview revelations, technographics, etc. A thorough review of the quantitative and qualitative data gives marketers and merchandisers the information they need to target products and messaging to consumers in a consistent, contextual, and continuous manner.

Accurate segmentation allows marketers to:

  • Align stakeholders around defined audience personas or archetypes
  • Create targeted and relevant messaging
  • Focus teams on content and promotions
  • Automate and/or hand-craft relevant push notifications and personalized content
  • Often, inform product design and pricing, etc.

Layering social sentiment (conversations, feedback, interviews, etc.) over a segmentation exercise can illustrate the customer’s voice, purchasing drivers, concerns, etc. Segmentation also helps create the framework for engagement and conversion measurement.

With the right data, segmentation, messaging, and measurement, a brand can find direct correlations between its outreach and the customer response.

For all of the talk and work around consumer data integration, the industry is just getting started with the type of data correlation/merging that enables seamless, relevant experiences across the Web. When systems play nice it’s a beautiful thing, e.g., Amazon.com, the promise of Facebook Custom Audience Targeting, etc., but when systems get the wrong instructions (keywords, omission of negative keywords, algorithm weighting) you get this headline with a food ad.

ritz-crackerfuls-cnn

I’ll be speaking on a Sacramento Public Relations Association (SPRA) Professional Speakers Series panel about “Defining Your Digital Strategy” on May 23, 2013. Josh Morgan from Edelman will also be on the panel, as will Phil Tretheway of Position Interactive. It should be a great conversation; I hope you’ll join us.

Venue: Cafeteria 15L
Date: May 23, 2013 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Address: 1116 15th Street, Sacramento, CA, 95814
Cost: $25 members / $30 nonmembers

More details and the RSVP Eventbrite form is here.

Retailers should make amends when customers voice a perceived wrongdoing, however, J.C. Penny’s new ad is a miss – a lost opportunity to draw in new customers. The ad does go to rebuild goodwill among the retailer’s current core audience, but to those unfamiliar with JCP’s newest product assortment, the ad strikes a desperate tone.

I’d planned to visit JCP because of Ron Johnson’s once lauded (and now derided) merchandising strategy. News of the new, brighter, more open JCP featuring independent brands that exude curatorial respect – Levi’s, Martha Stewart, Jonathan Adler, and others – got my attention. Now, I’m not so sure. While I applaud J.C. Penney for trying to protect (and win back) their core audience, this misstep might be a case of winning the battle, but losing the war. They’ll save today’s shopper, but lose tomorrow’s; shoppers that embrace experiences and narrative and who will pay a premium (or at least full price) for it.

In my opinion, J.C. Penney’s retail reversal is a loss of the “surprise and delight” that propelled Target (Johnson’s former employer) to retail stardom. They’ve exchanged a “new position” for an undifferentiated return to mediocre pricing tactics. J.C. Penney is once again about price – not value – a position shared by many others in an increasingly crowded space.

Come back, Ron Johnson. You were just getting started.

‘If you’re in a race to the bottom, to the best price, you’re not going to win long term.’ – J.Crew CEO Mickey Drexler

jcp