Gini Dietrich

On-Page SEO Tips for PR Pros

By: Gini Dietrich | August 27, 2013 | 

On-Page SEO Tips for PR ProsBy Gini Dietrich

About a week ago, we talked about content marketing and how to get started. In that blog post, I promised to come back and talk about on-page search engine optimization, a topic that still evades many PR professionals.

Though experts on storytelling tell you not to start at the beginning, that’s precisely where we’re going to start today. The beginning (I feel like Julie Andrews singing in The Sound of Music – it starts at the very beginning; a very good place to start).

What is On-Page SEO?

On-page SEO is what you do to the text people see when they read your website, your blog, or any of your online content.

It used to be SEO was all about what happened on the backend of your website. The meta descriptions and title tags and links were all the rage. But then Google discovered the search experts were gaming the system and changed their algorithm.

Now Google wants to see really good content that has keywords inserted in the way a human being would read. What they found before was what is called keyword stuffing. A search expert would take the word or phrase they wanted to rank for and put it in a piece of content as many times as they could. This would alert the search engines they were relevant for that topic and the page would be returned at the top of the search results.

The problem? It tended to read something like this:

I’ve always wanted to be a fairy princess. If I were a fairy princess, I could snap my fingers and little fairy princess elves would clean my house. Little fairy princess elves would paint my toenails and fairy princess elves would brush my hair. My laundry would be done by fairy princess elves and the fairy princess elves would cook my dinner. The fairy princess elves would make me chocolate cake every night and the fairy princess elves would make me homemade ice cream.

That was painful to write, let alone read.

How Does On-Page SEO Work?

In January, Google released its 24th version of  what is called Panda. The goal of Panda is to return only high-quality search results from sites that have high authority. So, if you want to rank for “fairy princess,” you have to be smart about how and where you place that phrase throughout your copy. If you write it like I did above, not only will you not rank for the phrase, Google will slap your hand by pushing you down in the search results. Now you have to think about:

  • Content of the page
  • The title tag
  • The URL
  • The image alt text

Content of the Page

Now you know you have to write content that makes human beings happy. Not only does it need to be valuable and informative and educational and engaging, you have to write it in a way that the search engines understand you have authority on the topic, without overkill. You can use any combination of your phrase; in this case, we’ll use combinations of “fairy princess.”

I’ve always wanted to be a fairy princess. I would sit in my library every morning and read some books while my elves tidied up my bedroom and made my bed. Then I would move to the patio, where the sun would warmly welcome me to my fairy princess chair. There I would write about the handsome prince who would someday find me and sweep me off my feet. We would have scads of children who are raised to believe in their very own prince or princess.

You want to have at least 300 words, but 500-700 is magical. In a 500-word piece of content, you might have some combination of “fairy princess” five or six times. The three times I have it in the few sentences above is a little too much – one phrase every two sentences is a lot – but you get how it works now. Think about how you incorporate your phrase without overkill.

The Title Tag

If you write in a content management system (I’m using WordPress to write this), you can create title tags without having to go into the programming side of things.

The title tags are also called headings.

For instance, the headline above (The Title Tag) is what is called an H3…or heading 3.

Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 8.30.48 AM

You’ll notice I’ve used my keyword “on-page SEO” in two title tags to this point. That’s the easy part!


This is another easy part, but it takes a little formatting at first.

Have you ever noticed a URL on your own site that reads something like this:

This is bad.

What you want is this:

This is good.

Alt Text Image

The keyword or phrase should always be in your URL.

If you’re using WordPress, it’s easy to change by clicking on the “edit” button next to the permalink at the top of the post. I just copy my headline, paste it there, and voila!

The Image Alt Text

The who, what?

Every piece of content you write should have an image. After all, people are visual learners so you want to give them something to look at that helps break up the text.

When you insert a photo or image into your content, it will let you change the line that is labeled “alt text.”

Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 9.03.31 AM

You’ll see title, caption, alt text, and description. You really only need to worry about the alt text. I copy my headline and paste that into that box, too.

Now I have my key phrase on the image.

Tools to Use

There are plenty of tools you can use to help you with on-page SEO, but my favorite is Yoast (I know many people like what Genesis does automatically if you use one of their themes).

It attaches to your content management system so you can see blank boxes when you open a draft post or page. It gives you a red, yellow, or green light based on how well you’ve optimized your content.

If you have a red or yellow light, it makes recommendations on what you can do to fix the page.

As you make changes, and click “save draft,” it changes the color of the light for you until you’re at a green.

So there you have it. Next week we’ll talk about how to use calls-to-action in your content to motivate buyers.

A modified version of this first appeared in my weekly AllBusiness Experts column.

P.S. Don’t forget we have Jay Baer here on Thursday to talk about all things Youtility! Register (for free) here.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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157 responses to “On-Page SEO Tips for PR Pros”

  1. I love that you put this together! With Google continually redefining the rules when it comes to inbound links, having strong on-page optimization is critical to a successful SEO campaign. Of course social networking, strategic guest posts and quality articles help– but if you don’t have a strong website as a foundation, you’re going to ultimately struggle with rankings.

  2. decillis1 says:

    There’s an easier (and better) way to do the url in WordPress. Go to Settings>Permalink Settings. I use custom structure and then have “/%category%/%postname%/” to get the category and post name into the url. 
    And I live for Yoast. It makes life so genuinely happy.

  3. OF COURSE you used “fairy princess”.

  4. I’ll add that while the goal is to get every page indexed and properly optimized, you have to choose your battles wisely. Think about the function and purpose of each and every page on your site and optimize to meet that purpose. For example, a resource library for use by internal sales staff needn’t be optimized, nor should parts of your site that require a login to access.

  5. rdopping says:

    I have to say I am doing most of this right except for the URL and the Image Alt Text. The other stuff (all this backend mumbo-jumbo) I still need to sort out. 
    I like coming here. It makes me feel good. Thanks Fairy Princess!

  6. Lara Wellman says:

    It bothers me to no end that  Panda doesn’t like posts under 300 words and prefers 500-700 words.  Clearly this isn’t your fault but I like to complain about it 😉  I’m always trying to keep my posts as clear and to the point as possible…  and now if I can say it in 250 I have to up my word count.  SIGH!
    Those title tags are my friend though because it lets me skim long posts to see if I want to read it in more detail, so everyone should definitely use those – not only for SEO but for me 🙂
    Great info, I have a couple of people I’m forwarding this to now!

  7. Tinu says:

    Great primer. Our folks try to stay ahead of what Google is doing – litmus is, if trends continued the way they were, would this page pass muster in three to five years? If yes, we go. If not, we adjust. That way, instead of jumping through the hoops of the minor changes, we made the shift in focus everyone is making now about 18 months ago. 
    If you look at what changes were made in each update (especially pre-Panda), you can see that Google is Trying (though sometimes still failing) to deliver the best content, but are using apparent popularity as the most influential factors. Before popularity is clarity – if the on page isn’t up to par, off-page SEO can’t kick it without setting off spam alarms. 
    It’s incredible how many of these basics are so often neglected.

    • ginidietrich says:

      Tinu Are you trying to butter me up so I’ll give up Robin on Saturday nights, too?
      The big, big issue I see, particularly among business leaders, is they get sold a bunch of hooey by people who don’t know what they’re doing and they spend money buying links and the such. In fact, we had a client do that (without talking to us first) and I threw a hissy fit. He told me he thought I was wrong and we ended up ending the relationship. Fast forward four months and they just got slapped with a penalty. Sigh…

  8. Great new tips and reassurance that some of what I have been doing with my content is bang on. Also would love a fairy princess elf or two for my house.

  9. Word Ninja says:

    Thank you. Love how you broke this down, and the Moz article is great, too. Like rdopping, I had most of it down but wasn’t taking advantage of the alt text. In WordPress, I was paying more attention to the title field for the image than the alt text field. Thanks for the tip!

  10. John_Trader1 says:

    Next step – get people to share the content. You have then completed the SEO golden circle. 
    Great post Gini, thanks for breaking it all down in a simple and easy format. It’s important that people not ignore Google’s algorithm tweaks and pay attention to the new format. Simply ignoring it and doing business as usual is just foolish at this point.

    • ginidietrich says:

      John_Trader1 I initially wrote this for business owners and then tweaked it for this audience. It always pains me when an SEO firm is hired that doesn’t know what the heck they’re doing.

  11. jolynndeal says:

    Gini to the rescue, once again! Thank you for wrapping it all up for us. I have a quick question. Do you use a plugin for the headings? My theme doesn’t have the nice little drop down box you picture in the post, so I was wondering if it was a plugin. Or… if you or others in the group knew of one.

  12. KateFinley says:

    Wait. So are you or are you not a fairy princess? I could use a few elves …

  13. We use Yoast and love it; do you know if it’s been updated to reflect the changes Google made to Panda?

  14. ginidietrich says:

    claudeoggier Thanks Claude!

  15. ginidietrich says:

    KurtScholle Thank you, sir!

  16. This is great information, ginidietrich, and reassuring. Sometimes Yoast is such a nag. “You have your keywords in the headline, but they really should be the first words,” etc. Sometimes that just doesn’t work out, but as someone else said, as long as I get the green light I feel pretty good.
    One thing you didn’t cover is the meta description. Is that less important for SEO than the other elements here?

    • Word Ninja says:

      RobBiesenbach ginidietrich Does Yoast nag you as badly as the GPS?

    • ginidietrich says:

      RobBiesenbach Yes, it’s important, but that’s off-page SEO. 🙂

      • ginidietrich Ah, I see, said the blind man!

      • CjShaffer1 says:

        ginidietrich have to disagree with you here. Anything you can control on the page is on-page 😉 Off page seo is generally not something you have complete control over I.e. Link building or social signals.

        • ginidietrich says:

          CjShaffer1 Sorry – I’m talking about what people see vs. what they don’t see. I originally wrote this for business owners who have to do this stuff themselves and it’s easier for them to understand on-page as what they see on the page and off-page as the stuff they have to do behind the scenes. It’s not technically correct, but it works for the non-SEO folks.

    • CjShaffer1 says:

      RobBiesenbach ginidietrich Rob, didn’t see your comment before I wrote mine or I would have responded earlier. Meta Desc has a lower impact than the words on the page, title tags, (and probably image tags). That being said, it’s not unimportant. A solid meta desc will increase the click through rate when you DO show up in search results. Click through rates DO have an impact in where you rank, so anything you can do to increase the number of people clicking your results and staying on your website, the better.

      • CjShaffer1 ginidietrich Thank you. That makes sense. I think the meta description is also another good exercise for really focusing your content and pulling out what’s important to your potential market.

  17. Cherri Littleton Megasko says:

    Excellent … bookmarked!

  18. photo chris says:

    Soo- I see you’ve found the topic for your next book! Little girls everywhere will be so thrilled! I know my daughter would like a room full of elves at her disposal. Her little brother is just not cutting it.
    Seriously, I am printing this and tacking it up on my wall as a checklist for future posts! Will nudge powers that be about Yoast. Again. Thank you thank you thank you!

  19. These are great how to tips showcasing your content expertise ginidietrich  
    I sent this to the NY Times and told them they should re-optimize all their digital content going back to 1857. 
    Which is my humorous lead in to…..
    What about your old content optimized for the old algorithm. Does that get washed away? So do we need to re-optimize all our content?

    • photo chris says:

      Howie Goldfarb ginidietrich oh- excellent question!

      • crestodina says:

        photo chris Howie Goldfarb ginidietrich Hi, everyone! I like this question too, so I’m going to take a quick shot at it. 🙂
         Yes, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on old content and find ways to make sure it’s still relevant. There are trends in keyphrases. Some become more popular. Other phrases are dying out. Just last month “content marketing’ surpassed “web marketing” in popularity. Interesting, right? So it’s good to review old content from time to time.
         But unless you had over-optimized things before – as in, the fairy princess of keywords was overdoing it – you probably don’t need to edit past content for keyword usage. As long as you were just indicating relevance and not keyword stuffing, you should be fine.
        One exception: if you check SEO > Queries in Google Analytics and you find some phrases that you’re ranking for, but not ranking well, these are good ones to edit for search. Make sure that phrase is right there at the beginning of your title! 
        Hope this helps! It’s easy to lure me in with an SEO post. 🙂

  20. jkempAPR says:

    ginidietrich This is good info! I just heard a similar (& GREAT) presentation in June by theAustinot. You should hear him talk about this!

  21. DickCarlson says:

    I, Dick Carlson, really like your post.  It makes a big difference to me, Dick Carlson, that you understand how important SEO is to people like me, Dick Carlson.  So many people (not like me, Dick Carlson) just don’t get that.  If it wasn’t for people like you, people like Dick Carlson (that’s me!) just wouldn’t get the kind of links to their pages that they deserve.

  22. Thanks for the tip on where to put the image text.  I’ve been wondering the best place for that!
    –Tony Gnau

  23. eveypistorio says:

    howielb Thanks Howie 🙂

  24. CjShaffer1 says:

    Don’t underestimate the importance of the meta desc field. While it doesn’t have the inherent SEO value that it first did. It is still can play a major impact in how you rank, because it impacts various other factors like click through rate from Search Engine Results pages, which can give you the bump you want.

  25. So I hate SEO. I just don’t like dealing with it, it’s not how my brain works. To me SEO is sort of like putting away laundry, I know I have to and it is an important part of the process, but clothes still sit on my dryer for weeks.
    Anyway this is the second SEO post you’ve done that has given me actionable advice that is easy and not overwhelming. The last one made me adjust a lot of things and this one will as well (plus you discuss fairy princesses, so win all over this post)

    • ginidietrich says:

      LauraPetrolino If you think about SEO as a competition, I think you’ll like it a lot better. One of the things Sean, Andy, and I do is choose a topic, all write on it, and then see who ranks better. It’s FUN!

      • ginidietrich LauraPetrolino That’s why I like the simple approach, too. SEO always gave me hives, and I’m far, far from an expert in it. But I look at it now as good audience-focused messaging. 
        You want to appeal to a certain audience, you need to know what interests them (the keywords they’ll respond to), so you focus your content on that and be sure it’s repeated and reinforced, in the headline, subheads, body, etc., like key messages.

        • photo chris says:

          RobBiesenbach ginidietrich LauraPetrolino yes, before I read this I didn’t even THINK of using the headings as “searchable” It’s going to change the way I write!

        • photo chris RobBiesenbach ginidietrich LauraPetrolino one day when someone searches for Supreme Ruler of the Universe my name will come up in the top slot vs 4th right now behind Diddy, Bieber, and Kim Kardshian.

      • ginidietrich Ohhh! I LOVE that!

      • photo chris says:

        ginidietrich LauraPetrolino you have a strange idea of fun, lol.

        • photo chris ginidietrich LauraPetrolino sadly this IS what OCD type A people do for fun. Along with organize closets by color and type of clothing item and time how long it takes to do daily tasks so to maximize efficiency (not that I do these things of course, just saying….) 🙂

  26. ryancox says:

    I’m a pretty fairy princess, and to be perfectly honest, I couldn’t say it any better than the pretty fairy princess Laura Petrolino. So much in fact, I’m just going to copy and paste a specific part of the pretty fairy princess Laura’s comment: “Anyway this is the second SEO post you’ve done that has given me actionable advice that is easy and not overwhelming.” I think the pretty fairy princess LauraPetrolino #nailedit that actionable easy-to-digest posts from pretty fairy princess @ginidietrich make even us somewhat savvy SEO pretty fairy princesses happy.
    Like you said — think of it like a competition. I hate to lose, most business owners or entrepreneurs do, …more than most… so it helps. Thanks Gin-eeeee.

    • ginidietrich says:

      ryancox You’re welcome, nut case.

      • ginidietrich ryancox Dearest Gini, please do not speak to Sir CoxyMonkey in this manner. I believe with this most recent post of his he has shown himself to not just be of extraordinary intelligence, but of extremely honorable character.
        Notice how he not only showed appreciation for my commenting wisdom, but also acknowledged my royalty. This man deserves respect.
        Thank you

  27. ginidietrich says:

    MatthewLiberty Thanks Matt! You’re always so good to me!

  28. ginidietrich says:

    neicolec Thank you!

  29. ginidietrich says:

    rwohlner Oh goodie. It’s almost football season!

  30. JeffSheehan says:

    theshiramiller Shira, TY for the RT. Greatly appreciated. Hope you’re enjoying your Wednesday here in #ATL ?

  31. ginidietrich says:

    Bessiejking SpinSucks Thanks Bessie!

  32. ginidietrich says:

    LizReusswig LOL

  33. SpinSucks says:

    Kato42 😀 Hope all is well Kate!

  34. SpinSucks says:

    aileenabella Great tips in that post!

  35. srogers60 says:

    Hafenbrack This is exactly what I was looking for today.

  36. adinarosalind says:

    I simply wanted to say thank you for always posting content that is highly relevant, applicable, well written, and always to the point. Your sense of humor is the icing on top 😉

  37. […] If you’re not sure how to do this, here’s a great step-by-step guide on how to optimize your blog posts. […]

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  40. portmanjohnny says:

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  41. […] √SEO -Before you write a post, decided what keyword(s) you want to be found for -Include them strategically throughout your post, in your headlines, title, URL and meta description -Link back to resources […]

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