PR and marketing personnel face reduced budgets due to an economy sickened by the coronavirus epidemic. Many believe search engine optimization (SEO) provides a cost-effective option to improve search rankings and increase website traffic. More than two-thirds of marketers anticipate reduced budgets, according to a survey by the marketing agency Conductor. While high-cost channels like paid media have fallen out of favor at least temporarily, more than a third (34%) of marketers plan to invest more in low-cost channels like SEO, the survey reveals. About two-thirds believe marketing will become more important during the outbreak. Even if consumers are not purchasing products now, brands that invest in SEO become well positioned for recovery.
As savvy businesses soup up their search engine optimization efforts, PR can help drive results. With that in mind, here are six ways PR can help improve search rankings.
Interview employees and customers about their unique experiences with and knowledge of your products, services, and culture, suggests Miranda Miller, a content marketer at Miranda-Miller.com. “In the coming months, these transcripts and videos will be a rich source of insider info for your blog posts, social content, media releases, and more,” Miller writes in Search Engine Journal.
Review current content. Create a Google Sheet or Excel spreadsheet to record different types of content, such as webpages, blog posts, whitepapers, ebooks and external mentions of your company and products in blogs and online news sites. Then analyze which pieces can be repurposed, improved with new calls-to-action (CTAs), or updated and re-promoted. Blog posts that garner a large number of views but relatively few conversions could be improved with better CTAs. Posts that are winning conversions can attract even more with additional promotions.
Add backlinks to brand mentions. Make sure your brand mentions include backlinks. Brand mentions may increase awareness, but backlinks are the actual URL or address of the page. “Backlinks — not mentions — are the currency of the internet, acting as votes in your favor,” writes digital marketing expert Neil Patel. “Getting mentions but not links mean you’re only driving a fraction of the traffic or sales you should be.”
With the help of a media monitoring tool, locate brand mentions that lack backlinks. Send a polite request and link to the journalist, blogger or webmaster, asking them to link to your site. Provide them with the link address.
Submit content. The Covid-19 crisis does not preclude submitting pitches to journalists, blogs and other websites. It’s critical to include backlinks in guest posts and other types of content that PR creates.
While links to your home page and product pages are most valuable from a marketing standpoint, PR can also add links in other text to link to background information and other educational resources on the brand’s website. Remember to include a link to the corporate home page in the author’s bio. First, search for the website’s writer’s guidelines and investigate its policy regarding backlinks.
Review keywords. Some businesses may rank for terms that no longer make sense for their industry, cautions Michael Davis, content director for On the Map Marketing. Re-examine keywords that you focus on now and determine if they’re still terms that your target audience enters into search bars.
“If not, then that’s a place where you can make some room in your budget and dedicate those freed up funds to go after something of greater value during these leaner times,” Davis says.
Google’s Keyword Planner can provide insight into ideal anchor text. It’s important to add links naturally and to avoid keyword stuffing. Experts warn to include no more than two or three backlinks in press releases to avoid SEO penalties.
Fight to maintain funding. Despite the economic difficulties and slashed PR and marketing budgets, those who invest in digital marketing now can seize market share. Organic SEO is a zero-sum game. Firms that maintain or increase SEO and PR budgets will be able to replace page one positions of those who cut funding.
“The fact is, we don’t know how long this pandemic is going to last, but whether it’s a few weeks or a few months, you don’t want to lose the goodwill and name recognition that you’ve worked so diligently to build with your clients or the rankings that you’ve achieved with Google,” Davis says. “If you want to stay in the minds of your clients, you need to be proactive during the economic slowdown.”
Bottom Line: SEO is an affordable and effective marketing strategy that smart brands are embracing during the COVID-19 difficulties. With their content-producing and relationship-building skills, PR pros can take a leading role in improving search results and setting the stage for recovery.
William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.