Tuesday, August 31, 2010

How to optimise your press releases for search engines

The roles of the PR company and the digital agency are blurring all the time, particularly in respect of the use of Press Releases for SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). As you may have seen in a previous post, my view is:

If your PR agency is not thinking about the ways to make Press Releases more SEO friendly, then I suggest you need to reconsider your PR agency
But if you're either an in-house PR person or are looking to improve the SEO capability of your Press Releases, here's some pointers (assuming you already know how to write one)

  1. Keep your words to between 250 - 900 in number
    Although opinion differs from SEO consultant to SEO consultant on the precise number of words to use in a Press Release, there is a general consensus that focusing on the first 250 is the right approach and that there is minimal value in going beyond 900.
    (Note: a press release must also be at least 250 words to be listed on Google News)
  2. Ensure you have the right keywords in the content and in the right proportions
    Whether your Press Release is going on your own website, posted to news wires or has a different home on the web altogether, search engines can only index content to appear for the those search terms where the content actually contains the words. Keyword targeting has been around almost as long as the search engines have been and is well used by sites to create traffic from organic search results.
    However, avoid the practice of 'keyword stuffing', the act of packing as many repeated keywords into your content in the misguided belief that this will push your page to the top of search engines.... you will apparently eventually get penalised for this action.
    But how many mentions of your keyword is seen as 'stuffing' and how much is fair usage? The answer to this question is usually "it depends" or even "Who cares. Its a myth that Search Engines actually look at this stuff". Its even a question that is pretty hard to answer by those who focus on the mathematics of this stuff (which is essentially decompiling the Google search algorithm, so good luck to those people attempting this!) and each has a slightly different opinion on the subject. However the general advice is to write 'normally' and not create content that 'obviously' abuses the number of times keywords are mentioned. But this doesn't really help you if you are writing content that targets certain search terms and if you're looking for an actual figure.... many experts suggest that your keyword density ratio should be around 1 - 3% of total word usage.
  3. Hyperlink keywords back to your own site
    Many Press Releases are copied in entirety to some news sites and this includes embedded hyperlinks. These links all contribute to your SEO efforts and build traffic to your site.
  4. Ensure the target site(s) uses correct HTML code
    Does it utilise semantic code? Does it use your Press Release header as the page 'Title'? (As the page title is typically given more weight than any other text on the page).

As you can see, there are many ways to improve upon the tradional Press Release to help your Search Engine Optimisation efforts. However, if anyone has an further suggestions I look forward to hearing them and discussing their relevant merits.

Friday, August 27, 2010

The digital PR toolkit

In recent posts I've provided my thoughts on the convergence of digital PR, Marketing and Conversion.
Post 1: Discussing how the roles now blur
Post 2: Covering how SEO is no longer just for marketing
Post 3: Showing the AIDA customer acquisition process
Now I've gone into a fair amount of detail about the process of customer acquisition that they all contribute to and the overlapping roles they play in this process. But now I'm going to cover the respective digital tools and methods that each role can use, based on the model that I created in my previous posts.

The first one up is digital PR and to illustrate this I've provided the diagram below with the simple key:
The things you can do on your target site are within the circle and the tools used off-site are logically outside it.
(Note: I've also tried to group these tools near to similar or relevant ones both on-site & off)

The respective digital PR tools that I believe you can use are:

  • Keyword targeted content
    Are you producing content that whilst being readable also focused on specific keywords typed into search engines?
  • Blog/Editorial
    Have you considered that writing a blog - with whatever name you give it - will also creates great content that user like to read - as well as for search engines - and that could deep link to interesting useful content around your site?
  • Analytics
    If you don't know what works (gets more traffic, converts more users, etc.) then how are you going to do more of it?
  • Press & News Content
    If you're not using this on your own site to highlight your own successes, then you should. If you don;t want to set up your own content managed press area on your site, then either create one using a blogging platform or even just take a relevant feed from your PR company's site.
  • Community
    Providing forums or even just a place for users to comment on articles and blogs gives a sense of community to visitors. Rewarding frequent ones goes a step further. These user generated comments are not just great content to read and spider, they are great PR fodder.
  • Link building
    Encouraging sites to link to yours in their news items and articles (although try to avoid reciprocal links)
  • Social News & Social Bookmarking
    Posting your Press Releases to Digg, Delicious, etc. is a way of getting your story to a wider audience
  • Email
    Both one-to-one and more general email marketing techniques can be used to announce news to those who want this form of communication.
  • SEO
    This speaks for itself and I've covered this already in a number of topics. But if your PR company doesn't already understand and use SEO techniques......
  • Feeds & syndication
    An RSS feed empowers those who want to pull this information and consume it (or re-publish it) in their own way, rather than via email or traditional means.
  • Social Media Press Release
    Consider posting your Press Releases online, with other useful information such as: RSS feeds, links to previous relevant releases, imagery, audio & video, etc.
  • Blogger engagement
    Look for them, understand them, communicate in a relevant manner and build up engagement with them.
  • Twitter
    Make sure you are promoting your releases via this important medium. Also use it to build up a community of followers who you can ask things of (e.g. feedback).
  • Social Media monitoring and tracking
    Listen in to blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc and find out who is saying what.
  • Photo sharing
    Use sites like Flickr.com to build up an online PR image library
  • Video sharing
    Use sites like YouTube.com (although personally Vimeo.com is my choice) to build up an online collection of suitable video clips.
  • Facebook
    Its pretty easy these days to build up a Facebook presence and grow a community. Its also quite easy to integrate Press Releases (potentially with comments allowed) and other content from different sources into this popular social media site.
  • Online surveys
    This is a quick way to understand if your content is reaching it required audience and finding out what other information or data they would find useful.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

UK Facebook at saturation point

Following on from my recent post about the numbers and demographics of the total Facebook population in the UK, it was hardly surprising to read that various people are now saying that Facebook has reached 'saturation point' over here in the United Kingdom.

As I have been rather busy in the past weeks (a quick hat-tip to Social Media Influence for pointing out this useful article) I missed the blog entry from Robin Goad at Hitwise . It shows that for June 2010 Facebook now dishes up one in every six Internet pages viewed in the UK. It is also only second to Google in terms of visits, with 25 million of them (making up over half of all social media site visits).
Robin then went on to highlight that not only had Facebook's share of the UK page views seemingly stagnated at around 16 - 17%, but that since the beginning of 2010 the average time on the site has dropped from almost 30 seconds to a little over 27 seconds.

Now what does all this mean? Well, here's my thoughts:

1. This point was inevitable.
The astronomic growth in Facebook's (registered) user base cannot grow to beyond the total potential size of the target audience. For an island of 61.8 million people (with 38.3 million of them between 16 & 64) that's a huge percentage of the population covered.

2. Just measuring page views is too arbitrary
Facebook is not just a social media site for emailing and 'following' people. Its a platform for instant messaging, sheep throwing and even gaming (lets not forget that MafiaWars, Farmville and their ilk require constant input to stay in the game). If an activity or game becomes less popular (or 'sticky') this affects the number of page views of the site.

3. Its still about monetisation
Google may be second in page views, but its still top for visits and overall revenue. This is because Google's aim has always been to give people the most likely sites for the search term entered on the first page of results. In selling adverts alongside these results and encouraging the most relevant ones by making it cheaper to advertise them, Google recognises the value in delivering the least number of pages. It is this business approach that continues to give them the revenue it has done so far.

4. Facebook will develop and diversify
Its already decided to go after Foursquare's lunch with its own geolocation service (Facebook Places is currently only available in the USA) and the acquisition of location-based service Hot Potato. However it is also likely to further develop its gaming platform and could well try and push its way into the gambling sector in the USA (Especially should the 4 year old U.S. online gambling ban be revoked any time soon). Perhaps this is why Google has invested as much as $100 million in Zynga, the developers of Facebook games such as MafiaWars, Farmville and Texas Hold'em Poker.....?
Also check out Niall O'Malley's thoughts on where Facebook could go in this direction.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

One swallow doesn’t make a summer

So you've decided to monitor Twitter, Facebook and blogs as your first step into understanding your cusotmers' use of social media.

But if you wield social media in your work (as well as your play), they you should understand that one negative Tweet doesn’t make a brand backlash. Yup, that's right... one bad review or blog posting doesn't necessarily mean you have to stop what you're doing and do something else.

As Hotel Blogs author Guillaume Thevenot posted just today:
Apart of responding to the consumer opinion through the platform, there is nothing to be done. Unless you think there is some genuine improvement to be made to your product, service delivery, there is absolutely nothing you can do about people giving their own opinion and share this with the world.
Amen! By all means listen to what has been written and challenge any inaccuracies (correctly and with understanding, of course), but one bad comment is exactly that.... just one.

Take for example the new River Island website that I've recently project managed through to implementation. Only yesterday a Facebook group was set up called “Change The River Island Website Back” that up until now has amassed just 10 fans/likes so far .. .. Yes more are bound to sign-up, but its hardly a groundswell of dissent now is it?. For me it is actually a sign of brand familiarity and attachment when the occasional person voices their negative view.

Obviously if the complaints grown or a trend reveals itself over time you need to take action. But always bear in mind (especially if you've done your user experience work correctly in the first place) that there will be plenty of satisfied vistors & customers who show their positive response... not by tweeting their approval, but but returning back to your site and continuing to give you their trade.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Digital PR, Marketing & Conversion - part 2

In my previous post on this subject, I mentioned how the roles between online PR, digital marketing and website conversion now overlap.

I think its fair to say that a lot of communication techniques are no longer just used by one particular role, but are now employed by different communication practitioners for the collective benefit of: informing the customer, creating engagement and winning a fair share of their online spend.

Take SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) for example, is that just the tool of the online marketer these days?

No, it now has implications for:
  • The writing of press releases
    If your PR agency is not thinking about the ways to make Press Releases more SEO friendly, then I suggest you need to reconsider your PR agency
  • Conversions metrics
    For most eCommerce websites, customers convert differently depending upon whether they come via the main (organic) links or via the pay-per-click adverts down the side.
  • Others (e.g. User Experience)
There are now a load of different tools that can be used for a bunch of different communication and activation purposes. The secret is surely in the combination and effectiveness of their use?

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Does your company provide a consistent user experience for each customer contact point across the range of multi-channel options available?

  • Does your website look like your retail outlet?
  • Does your store-based kiosk provide the same information as your call centre?
    (If so, then let me know who you are... as I've not heard of you)
  • Does your customer services team give the same information as your website?
Customers are becoming more sophisticated in their information consumption (see this video for my thoughts on the subject) and therefore they ways to convince them to buy something needs to be more complex too. But this complexity, unless managed correctly, has the potential to be disjointed or even contradictory.

But what are companies doing about this? Well, not enough in my opinion!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Digital PR, Marketing & Conversion - AIDA

If you've been following my recent posts, you'll know I've menitoned the convergence of Digital PR, Marketing and Conversion.

As I see it, they are all part of the overall online customer acquisition process. Each one has a part to play in contributing to the eventual aim of the website (customer sign-up, purchase, forum contribution, etc.).

One of the more familiar references for customer marketing and acquisition is AIDA, an acronym for
Attention, Interest, Desire and Action.

The diagram here shows the flow of a user as they move through the various AIDA states.

Now, although there are 4 different states given here, there are 3 key areas of customer activity. And these areas then map to the 3 disciplines of: PR, Marketing and Conversion:

Its probably fair to say that these 3 areas may change in size and scope depending upon the product or service involved, but as a conceptual model I think this works.
  • PR is mainly involve with gaining initial Attention & Interest
  • Marketing covers all 4 states, but acts by turning Attention & Interest into Desire & Action
  • Conversion is concerned with optimising the path of those who already have an Interest & Desire through to carrying out the required Action
Any thoughts?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Digital PR, Marketing & Conversion

Traditionally there's been a lot of differences between the roles performed by PR and marketing types. And both of them in the past would have claimed that they were little to do with the actual selling of the products & services (although Marketing would undoubtedly have more of a role to play).

However online has pulled apart those traditional roles and there's now a lot of similarities between the disciplines of digital PR and online marketing. Furthermore, the science of ecommerce conversion brings another aspect to electronic transactions which can no longer be seen as entirely separate.

This therefore means there's now a chance that the tasks carried out by internal people or agencies will overlap or be duplicated by each other. Its one of the issues raised by the new communications economy, where old customer acquisition roles no longer fit very well and we have to re-think things.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Digital Strategy - the basics

I'm currently working with a few businesses to trying to help them make the most of digital communications, technologies, sales, etc.

No matter what the size of the organisation is, I recommend putting together a digital strategy. This doesn't have to be a huge document starting with a table of contents and ending with several appendices... It can just start with just a statement of intent and evolve from there. All journeys have to start with a first step in one direction....

Its also surprising when you find out that even the basics haven't been thought-out. So for those who have yet to consider the essentials.... here's a few key pointers and examples to get you started:

Q1: What are your business aims?
To maximise the business benefit of the web. To either improve the financial position of the company by increasing revenue and\or reducing costs or to improve the perception of the brand (which has potential longer-term revenue consequences).
Note: Having actual figures at his point (e.g. x% increase in y) gives your aims some actual meaning.

Q2: What other business strategies / plans do you need to consider?
We need to integrate the company brand & communications approach, our short & long-term sales & marketing plans as well as key parts of the IT and Operations road map.

Q3: How are you going to grow your business online?
Use a combinations of the following:
Acquiring new customers
Retain existing customers
Re-engage & re-activate lapsed customers
Convert all customers better

Have you covered the basics?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Video: How the world now consumes media

The world is a very different place from how it used to be. People consume media in new and wonderful ways.

Our friendly digital consultant tries to make sense of it all.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Bidibot site launches

Bidibot is a penny auction site that specialises in credits for popular poker websites. It is an easy, unique and fun way to either start playing or charge your existing account on sites such as InterPoker, PKR and Victory Poker.

Ideal Interface has been helping the team behind Bidibot in their launch efforts. We're therefore proud and exceptionally pleased to see the site up and working, as well as to watch people bidding on the auctions.

in reference to: Main Auctions | BIDIBOT.COM(view on Google Sidewiki)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Social Media - a long-term perspective

My close friend and colleague Marc Ames uses the phrase "Social Media is for life, not just for Christmas" a fair bit these days (he also says the same thing about Search Engine Optimisation, but then why not!). This phrase is a play on the old advert used to remind people about the commitment required to keep a pet. In changing the slogan to refer to Social Media I think he's making an important point that I'd like to reinforce.

Once an organisation decides to use social media, it needs to keep using it over a lengthy and sustained period. Its not like a short-term advertising campaign when the aim is the quantity of immediate customer eyeballs that see your message and click to do something, its about the quality of a relationship over time.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What is Social Media?

Well.. there's nothing quite like being put on the spot in front of the camera.

Here's a quick interview I did with Iain Macauley from Press Relations on what Social Media is.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Video interviews - the way forward?

I'm a great beleiver in the power of video to make an impact and using it online is no exception. That is, until I'm the person the camera is being pointed at and then I do question if everyone is cut out for a career in front of the lens.

Well recently I was asked for my thoughts on modern business communications & social media. These answers were then filmed ready to be put up to YouTube.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Combatting cybersquatting with Per Per Click

I've been posting recently on the subject of cybersquatting and what you can proactively do about them (assess their impact , create a company domain name process and engage in some Search Engine Optimisation to gain the upper hand).

In this final posting I'm going to suggest an approach to use when all this activity has been exhausted... something that really you should only consider if the cybersquatters are using a domain that is affecting your brand and that has gained a position above your URL in search engine results on your key brand terms.

Pay-Per-click (PPC) activity is a great way to build traffic to your site (and generate online revenue, if that's your business model).
Firstly I should state that engaging in Pay Per Click adverting (PPC) in search engines has no effect on SEO efforts. However it can also be use used to detract visitors away from your competition and also therefore cybersquatters. 

This is not an entirely guaranteed way of distracting users and a lot of search engine users automatically (subconsciously) screen out the adverts in search results in their mind (e.g. those across the top and down the right hand side in Google, etc. are not even seen by the users)  and you should also work to improve your organic site rankings via a proper SEO approach.

Obviously on no account would I recommend or even suggest paying to advertise on the squatted site, it just encourages this sort of activity. In fact some of these sort of sites even make some of their money by having PPC links in them as extensions of the search engine advertising mechanism. You should therefore  ensure that your PPC campaign doesn't use this extended network of advertising and is restricted just to the main search engine you want to target.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Creating a company domain name process

I've been blogging a fair bit recently about cybersquatting and how you can deal with it once it has happened.

However, prevention is always better than cure. So its always worth considering what you can do to ensure your exposure to future cybersquatting activity is minimised.
The best advice I can give on this subject is to create a domain naming process for your organisation. This doesn't have to be complex, but it really should be done if you want to reduce the effect of this nefarious activity.

A basic process is something like this:
  1. Conduct a domain name review within your organisation. This means gaining an understanding of all current and future project/brand names you are likely to be using.
  2. Prioritise this list of brands according to business & brand impact and their availability.
  3. Agree where your cut-off point is . In other words... recognise where the cost of buying and maintaining domain becomes greater than the impact a cybersquatter would have if it got hold of one of them.
  4. Make sure there is one individual (ideally a role not a person, as people move on) responsible within your organisation for the upkeep of this list, domain registration authorisation and liaison with your domain naming company.
  5. Register the domains that are available (or set up a plan of action to get those back that are possible)
  6. Agree a process internally for reviewing domain names going forward. New projects and initiatives come along all the time and its easy to assume that because its done once that you are not susceptible to the same thing happening in the future.