A 10 minute guide to SEO and PPC for PR people


I deliver training workshops and webinars for both the CIPR and PRCA. I cover subjects such as SEO, social media, analytics and overall digital marketing – but always in the context of PR.

It is gratifying when attendees tell me that I’ve helped demystify many of the concepts around SEO and PPC – and to help them see how they can either start doing this kind of work themselves – or at least be better placed to evaluate which 3rd party partners may be more appropriate to work with.

I thought it might be worthwhile to have a quick look at how any PR person might go about sanity checking what do with regard to SEO optimisation around keywords.

Let’s take some example seed terms (PR training, social media training and SEO training) and see what tools like Google Insights, Google Keyword Tool and Market Samurai tell us about demand – and guidelines for PR and marketing approaches.

Google Insights

Google Insights is a great (free!) tool for getting a general sense of keyword trends. Is relative interest in a term rising or falling. What are the likely search trends in the future? (if Google has sufficient data to make a reasonable prediction).

Here’s what the chart looks like for our seed terms (in the UK):

Google Insights for PR Training, SEO Training and Social Media Training

A quick caveat – just because the general trend lines are downward, it doesn’t mean absolute search volumes have fallen. It just means that relative to the overall universe of search terms, interest is relatively lower.  To see absolute search volumes, we need to use the Keyword Tool (see next section)

Unsurprisingly, SEO training only appears on the scene in late 2006. Social media training emerges in mid 2009. Though both appear to have overtaken interest in PR training. And the forward trend for SEO training is upward into 2012.

Again, we should treat this data with caution. We are using Google search data as a proxy for intention ie that someone typing in the term PR training is indeed looking for information on PR training – or seeking to buy PR training services. Ditto the other terms.

GI also shows that in terms of regional interest, all three are largely concentrated in London.

Google Keyword Tool

Google’s Keyword Tool provides insight into the number of times a particular keyword term is searched for every month – both on a global and a local basis. It breaks down figures based on broad, phrase or exact match (go here for an explanation). It is important to understand these distinctions. Too often I have seen PR people quoting broad match figures when they really mean exact match.

Looking at our seed terms, it does seem to bear out that interest in SEO and social media training is currently higher than PR training (assuming search volume is a proxy for interest).

Google Keyword Tool

Who currently ranks highest for natural search on these terms and why?

This is where you would now turn to a tool like Market Samurai to analyse who currently ranks highest in Google SERPs for your respective terms (using the SEO competition module).

Here are the screen shots for the respective terms:

PR training

Without going into the nitty gritty detail on each element (why not come to one of my workshops if you want fuller insight?), areas coloured red suggest that these pages have some optimisation advantage – it could be the age of the domain, the number and quality of backlinks, the number of referring domains, etc. The point being, you can see very quickly what you are up against.

For example, if I was starting a PR training site today with a brand new domain, I’d be competing against these current incumbents. You’d certainly have to allow time, energy and effort to outrank these pages and sites. And think of the likely click throughs you would get even if you were to rank highly. Based on current search volumes, the number one ranked page could expect to get around 1000 click throughs a month (this is based on assuming the number one ranked page gets around 42pc of the total broad match search volume. And I fully appreciate that many out there in the SEO world dispute this figure today. Even so, the fact is, the number one ranked page is going to get the lion’s share of the click throughs. So anyone thinking of trying to rank highly for the term PR training needs to understand the competitive landscape. Or  as I constantly remind people, what is the point in ranking well for a term that no one is looking for?).

What about Google PPC?

What if I can’t expect to naturally rank number one for PR training overnight? (Or for whatever your chosen keyword phrase is).  What about paying for attention via PPC?

Again, Google helpfully provides a tool to allow you see what kind of money you’d have spend to gain the impressions and hopefully, click throughs, based on the term(s) you are interested in.

If we take PR training as the example, we’d see that we could expect to pay a CPC of £1.36 on a broad match basis and we might see around 4 click throughs per day. There is a lot more to be said about PPC, but suffice to say even the PR newbie to PPC can quickly grasp where they are likely to get more bang for their buck

PPC Competitive Intelligence

Wouldn’t it be great if you could also see who else is bidding on your keyword terms, what they are paying and what kind of ad content they have been trying? Well, you can. Step forward SpyFu.

In simple terms, SpyFu allows you to quickly see who you are competing against in Google PPC and what kind of ad content others are using. Perhaps more importantly, who are the advertisers that are testing different ads and sticking with formats that work?

In my experience, service suppliers to the PR sector generally don’t seem to test ad content or are largely unimaginative in terms of copy. Which may explain why most dip their toe in PPC and then give up, assuming that it hasn’t or won’t work.

This is just a cursory look at some basic approaches that PR firms can take to beefing up their SEO skills (hint: this should give you a clue as to why many of the claims made about press release optimisation are completely bogus). We should also bear in mind that search is essentially about fulfilling demand rather than creating it. PR clearly has a role to play in helping create demand in the first place – and we shouldn’t forget that.

However, at the very least this first look should help PRs to have more informed conversations with clients and colleagues about what are realistic starting points for planning and discussion around SEO and PR.

And don’t forget, if you want the full nine yards on SEO, Social Media and Analytics in relation to PR, then please do have a look at the workshops and webinars I will be delivering over the next 12 months here and here.

Of course, please feel to comment on any of the above!

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