I particularly enjoyed Jayson DeMers’ article on the 3 pillars of SEO in 2013 – and I especially add my vote of emphasis to his pillar #3 – Making Friends, Engaging and Sharing Content.

In fact, I would go so far as to maintain that public relations, in the form of quality content, is the New SEO. And I’m increasingly less alone in this idea and goal. But for the sake of discussion, if we can accept at least in philosophy that PR is increasingly becoming SEO’s strongest vehicle and anchor, how can companies take best advantage of PR’s SEO role?

Here are my ideas (with help from a couple of resident experts) for the 15 Steps to Power SEO. Here we go:

1. Set up Google+ authorship

Jayson points out the growing importance of Google+ in your SEO stronghold as well. Why? Because Google’s search algorithm favors, understandably, the network it owns: Google+. Take advantage of that fact. Create a profile. Take the time to build and support an audience there. In particular, if you are involved in thought leadership and authorship in your area of expertise (as you should be), link your publications and your site to your Google+ profile. There are many great online resources that can show you how to create a Google+ author tag to attach to your posts and writing. Here’s just one. Next, publish quality content. This is not self or company promotion. Put the tag at the end of each of your pieces, to clue Google in to pick it up and aggregate it within your search results and automatically compile the results for you within the authorship portion of your Google+ page. It’s easy, but will yield high SEO rewards.

2. Get credible PR coverage (with back links when possible)

How do you define ‘credible’ PR coverage? In a couple of ways: The information is relevant, true, and non promotional. It appears in a credible location. It’s not “what you want to have heard.” It’s what you’d tell your best friend, person to person, if they wanted a real and unvarnished look at a viable idea or solution. Coverage can come from you or from a customer who is willing to tell a meaningful and genuine story that would benefit others (not a testimonial). The opinion of a respected columnist or expert is generally accurate and credible coverage. Is a guest blog post credible? Maybe–or maybe not. Think about the compelling value and the “a-ha’s” a guest post you write may provide for the audience you serve. Also remember that the coverage (with linkage) from strong media within the right targeted audience niche can potentially bear far more relevant SEO traffic than thousands of links from a general source filled with people who don’t know how or why they were directed to your site and who have no conscious desire or reason for being there. Think quality over quantity when you decide where to invest your “earned media” work.

3. Define a thought leadership campaign         

Think about providing relevant information that serves your readers. Create a publishing schedule. Develop the content that serves your marketplace with an eye toward keyword and topic research. Develop an editorial calendar of the right content from you and others to serve your audience well. Then, as you write, be certain to write with a purpose. And no, the purpose in most cases will not be to become more visible and famous. It will be to become more visionary, more purposeful, and more trusted in the audience segment that can benefit from hearing and from engaging with the material you share.

4. Make your material compelling.

Choose strong titles, topics, and images. Brainstorm with customers and ask your readers for suggestions about the topics that are most relevant and interesting to them.

5. Syndicate through relevant media.

Find ongoing blog sites with strong and relevant subject matter and audiences you are aligned with that you can contribute to on an ongoing basis. Look for multiple contributed content opportunities, and treat those opportunities with great care. Engage fully in the comment strings and conversations that result from your articles. Return the favor by inviting contributed content on your own blog and website with other expert sources whose material would be interesting and useful to your audience as well.

6. Leverage social media.

Spread the conversations and topics through your social media outlets as well. It’s amazing how many otherwise savvy organizations and authors forget this one simple step. Leveraging social media is both an art and a science, however. It is not simply a medium to promote yourself from. Be certain to provide meaningful information, but to remark and engage in dialogue with other organizations, other executives and other readers as well. This feeds the reads and shares to your site and to your content, but it also fosters true engagement. Many of the greatest article ideas, sources and long term working partnerships I engage with most, for example, have come from social media and publishing opportunities. These connections with talented and like-minded individuals nets tremendous benefit you’d have otherwise never had.

7.  User experience

Watch and measure the elements in your site’s analytics such as bounce rate, time on page, and “depth” (number of pages) of each website visit. For example, it is likely not valuable at all to draw an audience of 10,000 viewers who stayed an average of 7 seconds apiece. Clearly these are visitors who don’t know how they got to your site and have no desire to engage when they get there. So skip them. Be keenly aware of where your traffic is coming from, and put your energy and resources into the sources that serve you the best and the most. Use A/B testing tools like Google Website Optimizer and Unbounce to ensure you are giving your site visitors the kind of information they can most readily use.

8. Offer free tools or downloads.

In traditional SEO parlance, the term for these goods is “linkbait”. Be aware of overusing this tactic, or of using it badly. But if you have useful and relevant content to share, such as 31 Ways to Increase Your Sales Through LinkedIn, you may have a useful and desirable resource at your disposal. In this case, create a way to capture the email addresses of the people who download the resource material you serve.

9. Use effective site structure.

When creating your company’s site, don’t think only of the backend code and html structure being SEO friendly, but do all you can to optimize the front end navigation of your site to improve user experience as well.

10. Collaborate with experts.

Create a connection with other industry providers, experts and leaders by either reflecting and citing their comments (with attribution an links) or making statements of disagreement respectfully, in a way that allows constructive dialogue, learning and a deeper level of thinking to occur.

11. Provide excellent customer service.

Crisis communications is a critical element here. If you have an unhappy customer, engage candidly and constructively in the conversation. Ideally, pay close attention to the smoke signals – from a PR and SEO standpoint, don’t wait for the full-blown fires to occur.

12. Use Social Media monitoring 

Be sure to pay attention to reputation management. This is one of the key areas we capture and share in our PRScorecard—but with or without a scorecard program, make it a practice to see where your personal and company name is shared. Watch for the auto-suggestions in Google—if you find a plethora of complaints, penalties and negative news about a person or an organization, check more deeply. Deal with any misinformation in aconstructive and appropriate way.

13. Work with brand advocates.   

There are paid tools that can help you identify and work with brand advocates; but even simpler, in most cases, you can find out who your brand advocates are through simple customer response surveys. When you find your strongest advocates, find ways to engage and reward them further by inviting them to share their stories and reviews on the sites your prospective customers visit most frequently.

14. Use Transparency.

Don’t engage in deceptive PR or SEO tactics. Be up front about everything you do. For example, when you make a PR or a sales call, it’s clear you called for a reason. Give the other party the courtesy of saying what it is you want or need, straight away, at the beginning of the conversation or call. Don’t beat around the bush. Give your listener the benefit of the good reasons you can provide for them to engage with you or go with you on an idea or prospect, but never forget that the decision is theirs. Any conversation you and they continue after the reason for the call has been covered is now genuine, enjoyable, and the opportunity for a deeper working relationship or even a friend or partnership bond, after you have been entirely open and transparent about your reasons for making the call. Be fully transparent in your business practices and responses to problems as well. Don’t try to fake your way through a situation or to gloss over a problem by making excuses or assigning false blame. If you make these mistakes, the problems will follow you, they will likely escalate, and can create irreparable damage to your positive SEO and PR.

15. Use “on land” promotions to drive your online results.

Some effective tactics: Get people to ‘check in’ on Facebook for extra discounts or deals as they shop in person. Tag your company in Facebook/Pinterest and Instragram pictures for extra SEO mileage. Create opportunities for engaged audiences to upload user created videos and or stories that can be tagged with links to your program or company and stored on YouTube, where search tools will find the material again and again. Are these ideas enough to get you interested and started in the new arena of SEO and PR? There are even more ideas and strategies we could add to this list. Feel free to add your own additional thoughts to the comment string here.

The message should be clear: Great PR and SEO is likely not as hard as you think. Communicate clearly, be appropriate, and provide the meaningful information readers and prospective customers really do want to know. Think less about promotions and more about engaging aligned individuals and groups in the meaningful interactions that will allow them to make their own discoveries about the products and services they use. Provide your audience with the evidence to make their own decisions, and more often than not, they won’t let you down.

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