Welcome to the sixth day of Christmas at Spin Sucks!
We’re not really talking SEO “tricks” per se (I used that only because it fits better in the lyrics of the song); more like SEO best practices.
SEO, or search engine optimization, often feels a bit like magic.
We know we should know how it works, but do we really?
It turns out, it’s not magic, we don’t have to be David Copperfield—and it’s pretty easy for a communicator to add to one’s skill set.
After today, you’ll know how to incorporate these six SEO best practices into your communications planning.
SEO Best Practices #1: Know Your Priority Keywords
Yes, this is the sixth day of Christmas, but you should have 12 keywords, one for each month of the year.
You’ll hear lots of people talk about a priority list of 10, and that’s fine.
I prefer 12 so that you have one focus per month.
This doesn’t mean all of your content for an entire month has to focus on one keyword.
It does mean that, at least once a month, you’re developing content that focuses on that keyword.
For instance, one of our priority keywords is the PESO Model.
Can you imagine if we only produced PESO Model content for an entire month?
This blog would be boring. Our podcast would be boring. Everything would be boring.
Heck, I would be bored.
I love advocating for the PESO Model, but jeez Louise. Enough is enough.
But throw in one PESO Model episode and maybe two blog posts and an AMA with someone who has effectively used it inside their organization and one Facebook Live with a professor who teaches it and suddenly we have some interesting content without being boring.
This approach also allows you to test which content track works best for your audiences.
The Keystone of Your Owned and Earned Media
Your keyword of the month should be the lynchpin (or, dare I say, the KEYstone—bahahaha!) of your owned and earned media.
What that looks like in your communications plan is this:
- You produce some content that’s focused on your monthly keystone and make sure it’s on your site with the appropriate title tags, alt text, and meta descriptions. If you don’t know what those things are, become very familiar with Moz. They have an entire library dedicated to helping you figure out the basics—and they make it really, really easy to understand.
- Then you want to let the content sit on your site for a couple of weeks. This allows Google to start to crawl the content and understand that you are an expert on the topic. Let the spiders do their job while you focus on some other things.
- Once a couple of weeks has passed since you first hit publish, it’s time to grease your media relations chops. In this instance, I prefer to pitch contributed content because I can control the message and the very important link back to my site, but any media relations will work.
Create a small list of publications and blogs that accept contributed content and also write on your topic. In the example I used earlier, I would want to pitch publications and blogs that talk about the PESO Model—PRWeek, Mashable, PR Daily, and others.
- Once they’ve accepted content on your topic, this is where you become an SEO master. Write the article and make sure it follows all the great rules about storytelling and messaging and value. And then add one little thing—make sure your priority keyword is used as the anchor text that includes a link back to your site on the same topic.
Best Practice Example
Let me talk you through how this might look.
Let’s say I pitch PRWeek and they agree to run an article on the PESO Model.
I write something worthy of their site that will also be valuable to their readers.
And in that article, I highlight the words PESO Model and I hyperlink them to a PESO Model article on Spin Sucks.
Now I’ve told Google that a highly valuable site like PRWeek thinks Spin Sucks is the expert on the PESO Model and we get a gold star.
That’s how you want this to work.
Choose one word per month.
Create content for your site—it can be audio, video, and/or written content.
Then pitch the media and, once approved, include your priority keyword in the article with a link to the content on your site of the same topic.
Voila! SEO master.
SEO Best Practices #2: Mind Your Backlinks
Now, let’s say you don’t pitch contributed content or you have a media outlet or blog where you want to garner a feature or interview or even be included in a roundup.
The anchor text and link work here, too. You just have to ask for it.
Now, now. I can hear you yelling, “I can’t ask a journalist to include a link to my site!”
Oh, my friend.
That is just what you’re telling yourself—or that’s your head trash, as a client of ours calls it.
They will include a link and most won’t mind that you’ve asked.
They know how the SEO game is played and it helps them as much as it helps you.
I’ve only ever had two journalists tell me no: one was TechCrunch and there was no getting around that and the other was the Chicago Tribune, which made me mad because I freaking live here and I know those people.
So I went to the digital director instead and asked him.
Luckily, he used to work for me and had no problem including the link.
The moral of the story is this: you absolutely can ask for the link and for them to use your priority keyword as anchor text.
SEO Best Practices #3: Respect Your Domain Authority
Now we’re on to the third SEO best practice: understanding domain authority, what it means for your own search results, and how getting a link from a media site helps.
Domain authority is a search engine ranking score developed by Moz that predicts how well a website will rank on search engine result pages.
A domain authority score ranges from one to 100, with higher scores corresponding to a greater ability to rank.
To give you some context, the New York Times has a domain authority of 95.
If you get a link from them to content on your website, you will have found the golden ticket.
Go to Moz to figure out your website’s domain authority.
Click on “free SEO tools” in the upper right hand corner and drop your site’s URL in the box. Hit the yellow “analyze domain” button and it will give you a score.
Most organization’s websites range from 20-40 so don’t panic if yours is in that range. That’s totally normal!
Now that you know your domain authority, your goal is to work with media outlets and blogs that have a higher domain authority than your own.
When you create your small media list to pitch for contributed content, make sure every site on the list has a higher domain authority than your own.
It certainly doesn’t hurt if it’s lower, but it won’t help, either.
It’ll be really tempting to watch your domain authority daily or weekly, especially right after a story is published that has your priority keyword and link included.
Don’t do that!
Your domain authority will fluctuate. It’ll go up when a story is published and it’ll go down when Google makes a change to their algorithm.
There are two things you can do to prevent panic:
- Keep an eye on the domain authority of your competitors. If their score drops when yours does, you know it’s an algorithm change. If theirs stays the same or increases, you know you have some work to do on your own site.
- The second is to read the article I wrote about this. It will help you maintain your sanity.
SEO Best Practices #4: Optimize While You Create
You’re busy. I’m busy. Everyone is busy! Which means no one has time to re-do work.
To avoid having to do that, optimize your content for online, voice, and mobile AS you create it… and that is best practice #4.
- When you optimize to be found online, you want to make sure you always do what we talked about earlier—title tags, alt text, subheads, and meta description all with your priority keyword included. One of my favorite articles to help with this is the blog checklist, which works for any type of content you’ll publish online.
- When you optimize for voice search, you want to consider how people might ask questions of their voice-activated assistants and create your content in that way. People tend to speak in a more natural, conversational language when performing a voice search. The words they use, and how the phrase them, are different. Voice search is a conversation with a device. And voice queries are longer than typical searches. For example, to find a coffee shop, you might type “best coffee shops.” But if you’re asking your voice-activated assistant, you’ll ask, “What is the best coffee shop near me?” Tom Jager wrote a really good piece for us last year that you can refer to as you create content for online, voice, and mobile.
- And last, but most definitely not least, optimizing for mobile means your visitors don’t have to scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll and scroll to read one paragraph. Keep your paragraphs reasonably short, make sure your images are high enough resolution that they can be viewed, but also don’t have to be pinched to be made bigger, and that videos have captions for those of us who don’t like to watch with the volume on.
All of this can take a little getting used to, but you’ll be happy you did when you don’t have to republish your content three times to get the full value out of it.
SEO Best Practices #5: Don’t Stress Over Google Updates
For about a decade now, we’ve been talking about the importance of creating the best piece of content for the topic on the internet. That’s it.
If you create the best piece of content for the topic on the internet, it won’t matter what Google does to its algorithms.
You will always rank high in search because, well, no one else has anything better.
If you create expertise, your content (and your site) will have authority, which then begins to build trust.
When you create the very best content on the topic on the internet, you automatically gain all three of those.
And where Google is today, your best piece of content for the topic on the internet gets even more gold stars because it actually reads (or hears or watches) as good content.
If your communications strategy has evolved to create for humans first, robots second, you will continue to be rewarded.
So what does that look like?
Answer the questions your prospects, customers, loyalists, and ambassadors ask with your content.
This strategy still works and the best part is this works for both traditional search and voice-activated.
If you answer the questions your people ask, you will be found.
The moral of the story is this: don’t stress about all of the Google updates as long as you always create the best content on the internet for your topic.
SEO Best Practices #6: Write for Humans
The sixth and final SEO best practice is that you should never write for robots.
Sure, we’ve just spent time talking about priority keywords and domain authority and meta descriptions and alt text, and more.
You definitely need to keep those things in mind, but if they rule your content, you won’t have the best piece on the topic anywhere, let alone on the internet.
You know what this looks like—it’s content on a website that looks like someone threw up a bunch of keywords and phrases that don’t make any sense.
They’re less obvious today, but they certainly still exist.
Don’t do that.
While the goal is always to get on the first page of Google results so prospects can find you, you won’t achieve that if you don’t write for humans first.
If you follow the other five best practices outlined here, you’ll master search engine optimization because it will have been produced for human beings.
And human beings, after all, are who buy—not robots.
Produce the very piece of content on the internet for your topic every time, while using the tips outlined today, and you will win at the SEO game while your competitors try to figure out what the heck you’re doing that has garnered you so many results.
Go Forth and Prosper
In the end, while you must master SEO if you create content, it isn’t the only source of new leads.
It must be used in tandem with other tools you have at your disposal in today’s digital world.
Implementing these six SEO best practices will help you go forth and prosper.