Why communicators should get to know SEO

by Shannon Paul on January 11, 2009

How can your content be social if it’s downright unavailable or even difficult to find?

By content, I’m referring to anything you post on the web — from press releases to blog posts and podcasts as well as marketing materials, polls, opt-in forms, newsletters, ebooks, whitepapers etc.

Individual social networks are bound to have a life cycle, which includes an eventual death, as behavior and relationships on the web continue to grow and evolve, but the web itself is here to stay. For me, 2008 was all about engagement and participation in social media, but I feel it’s time to take my understanding to the next level.

My goal for 2009 is to learn the underlying fundamentals of how the Internet works — how information travels, how and where money changes hands through content and traffic on the web. SEO (search engine optimization) is just one of the things I plan to continue to study this year and of course I plan to share what I learn with you here.

The way brands/companies/marketers/PR pros communicate with people on behalf of their companies needs to change and a lot of people already get that part. It’s not rocket science. It’s difficult to teach, but that doesn’t mean that authentic two-way communication cannot be learned by those who are already engaged in the commerce side of the web.

Even if you don’t want to specialize in search marketing or SEO, developing a solid B.S. meter is definitely a good idea especially since some SEO consultants are overly concerned with numbers and/or have a limited understanding of social media. Basic SEO strategies just help to ensure that your company or clients’ content can be found by those who are already searching for the stuff they provide. P.S. Learning a bit about user experience won’t hurt either.

In short, SEO is a way to make the content on your site friendly to search engines so when people search for relevant keywords in Google, your site will show up at the top of the search results — or at least on the first page.

If Google is an ocean of content, good SEO makes your content more bouyant which helps get relevant hits to your website. This means more interested eyeballs and more money if you’re ultimately creating content to boost business. Knowing a bit about SEO can really help that ROI discussion a lot more than breaking out the old ad-equivalency charts.

Here are some resources to help get the learning under way:

  • Google has a really great Webmaster Help Center with a lot of great tools that explain how to optimize your site for search. They have even posted their Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide for download. Google 101: How Google crawls, indexes and serves the web is also a great place to start if you never really contemplated how Google retrieves information.
  • SEOmoz is a great resource for all things SEO, but also has a Beginner’s Guide to SEO that is extremely detailed and provides the basic arguments that detail why SEO is important for doing business on the web — just in case you have to have that conversation with a client or boss. Another great read: Why Companies are Investing in SEO During the Economic Downturn.
  • Lee Odden’s Online Marketing Blog is also a great resource for communications professionals looking to learn more about SEO, but he also posted a list of the top SEO blogs ranked according to the number of subscribers. He also has a BigList of Search Marketing Blogs. Click on the OPML file and add them to your reader in one fell swoop.
  • Search Engine Land has a great list of subscription-based and free SEO tools to help get the job done.

Even though people are still in the habit of proclaiming that content is king, bad content can get just as much play on Google as good content, especially when plural search terms or common mispellings are entered into search queries. This post by Wil Reynolds explains how search engines still don’t understand the difference between good and bad content in many instances. Another post by Laura Callow explains why many big brands downplay the importance of SEO.

Hat tip to Tamar Weinberg for her comprehensive list of the Best Internet Marketing Posts of 2008. This list was a great resource for putting this post together and for helping to inspire me to dig deeper this year. I’ll be referencing this for months to come.

I’m interested to hear from communicators as well as those who work in SEO: how can we bridge the gap to make our content rise to the top of the web? How can we work together to make sure our messages are not only crafted well, but reach the intended audience? For communicators, how are you adapting your content to get better traction online?

Photo by Petulant_Seraph

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

January 11, 2009 Paul Baiguerra 1

‘Even though people are still in the habit of proclaiming that content is king, bad content can get just as much play on Google as good content…’ – true, but when you and all your competitors are doing all the best technical SEO stuff they can THEN the differentiator from that point will be content. Not because it’s ‘better’ content in and of itself but because good relevant content should enhance your SEO.

I posted on this recently: ‘Why you will waste money on SEO this year’ http://tinyurl.com/7mjwh7
(yes I was being provocative with the title)

Don’t you think they go hand in hand – Content and SEO?


January 12, 2009 Shannon Paul 2

Paul – of course SEO and content go hand-in-hand. I never asserted that SEO was a substitute for good content, but good content can often go ignored or overlooked if it doesn’t consider what people are searching for.


January 12, 2009 Joseph 3

I agree, internet is one way of the communication design for many purposes. SEO optimizes way of communication for business and marketing purposes. That’s why it is important for communicators to know or get SEO. Thank you for sharing your article to us, hope to hear from you soon. Cheers.


January 12, 2009 Todd Smith 4

I agree that both are important. If you want to throw a great party you’ve got to send out lots of invitations and be a great host when they come.


January 12, 2009 Brandon Cox 5

I think SEO has gotten a bad wrap because of some black hat methodologies and some ignorance of what the term means, but white hat SEO is just a matter of serving your communications to search engines on a platter.


January 12, 2009 Yu Yu Din 6

Anyone who write online should know the basics of SEO, it’s the foundation of online content.

Press Release Grader (http://pressrelease.grader.com/) from HubSpot gives you excellent pointers on SEO. You can keep tweaking your press release to get higher grades so you know what goes in.

Same thing with twitter, use the keywords that are relevant to your service a couple of tweets so the right crowd follows you. It’s a way to stand out from the din.


January 12, 2009 Kim 7

SEO is a must for website success in this competitive era. Check the seo performance of your website using free tools from http://tools.khrido.com/


January 12, 2009 Kim 8

SEO is a must for website success in this competitive era. Check the seo performance of your website using free tools from – tools.khrido.com


January 12, 2009 Lauren Vargas 9

I have the same goal! I really want to do a better job of diving deep into my data (personal and professional) and relate back to objectives. I used the same resources you mentioned above in my daily work and to teach students about SEO practice…not just theory! A post I have found very helpful is by Avinash Kaushik, Google Analytics Maximized. http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/2009/01/google-analytics-maximized-deeper-analysis-higher-roi-free.html


January 12, 2009 Lauren Vargas 10

I have the same goal! I really need to make time to do a deeper dive into data (personal and professional). The resources you quote above are those I also recommend to my students…not just theory, but practice. Another resource I have found helpful is Google Analytics Maximized by Avinash Kaushik: http://www.kaushik.net/avinash/2009/01/google-analytics-maximized-deeper-analysis-higher-roi-free.html


January 12, 2009 wil reynolds 11

Thanks for referencing my blog post, much appreciated. People with great content do need to do a little optimization.


January 13, 2009 Louis Vuitton 12

Thanks for Paul’s share, i will bookmark this page and browse the links mentioned later. In my thought, i think SEO is a compositive job: tech+marketing+writer+web designer+UI designer+……….. maybe we should look SEO like a project of integral business, keep uniform with the targets of search engine, company and internet people


January 14, 2009 @SocialJulio 13

Hi Shannon, good post & great links.

Take a look at this book: http://cli.gs/SEMinc from Mike Moran and Bill Hunt.

I’ve know Bill for over 5 years and I’m still learning great SEO tips from him. I trust his knowledge so much that I’ve just joined his company after working for 8 years with Oracle Corp where we I was responsible for Oracle’s Google campaigns.



January 14, 2009 Tiffany 14

SEO is one of my priorities at work for this year too, so thanks for sharing these resources! I’m looking at it from the standpoint of how much money do I need to invest and how much can – and should – I take on for my own. Since my department does a ton of web content, I’m thinking our best strategy will be investing in search term research and then writing SEO copy, but luckily the tech team is on board with SEO so hopefully we’ll be able to work on all angles together. Finally. :)


January 14, 2009 forumcommunications 15

Shannon, thanks for sharing what you’re learning. I look forward to reading more, seeing it through another perspective. I agree, SEO and good content go hand in hand – SEO heavy content is easy to spot and always looks manipulative to me, on the other hand, I’ve seen (and, sadly, written) blog posts, press releases, etc. that would do so much better with just a little tweaking. For me, social media in 2009 is all about contributing – finding my lane on the two-way street, so to speak. Content is top priority, but it isn’t really meaningful unless someone sees it…


January 17, 2009 Danny Brown 16

Anyone that has online content, whether it’s business or personal, and doesn’t know the basics of SEO is missing out big time.

As you say, Shannon, great content is key but who cares how great it is if you can’t see it? I made sure I learned SEO in depth and the results speak for themselves – top listings on Google for websites and individual posts. Not bragging, just making a point.

And to anyone who says SEO is tough – it’s not, it’s just common sense.


January 17, 2009 Kaitlyn 17

Regarding the overlap of SEO and social media- As a white hat SEO, my perception is that there is a bit of a disconnect between the SEO and social networking communities. It seems to me that everyone wants to know how the two interact, and the two fields sometimes argue over which practice is more effective, when in fact they are often concerned with two completely different effects altogether. Social media is about the conversation and sharing of ideas and interpersonal connections. (And for a corporation, that would essentially mean “branding” value). But many social networking/bookmarking sites are of little value for the sole purpose of increasing rankings (because of nofollow tags, etc). While I totally agree that social networking can be an important part of overall PR strategy, I’ve found that it’s not always a good SEO resource and doesn’t always affect search. I use social media to stay on top of the latest knowledge in the SEO industry, but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to a client who is looking specifically to increase their rankings. Take a look, if you like, at some research on what kinds of social networking activities do and do not have an effect on SEO results: http://tinyurl.com/8jq5sz


January 18, 2009 Eric Brown 18

Shannan, Good Morning, Hope you are staying warm today and enjoying all of this snow here in the “D”

You have a well written post here. And as one who spent a lot of money (at least it was a lot for our small business) on a couple of versions of web sites, killer copy and content doesn’t get you the goods. To your point, if they can’t find you, they will never get to experience that “killer content” I am all for great content, as that is what sells the customer, but find you first or as close to first is a key factor.

Another great resource are the Jennifer Laycock and her team over at Search Engine Guide; http://www.searchengineguide.com/ They provide lots of free advice for Small Business owners.


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