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TODD SMITH: Improve Google search results for your PR

Google_web_search_rgbEver heard the adage about the best place to hide a dead body is on page five of Google search results – because no one ever goes there?

Current and prospective audiences do not travel that far on a search engine because they are either busy, lazy, or simply assume there is nothing past page two that they need to see in the first place. And how wrong are they, really?
Folks are bending over backward to make things happen because digital PR is so competitive. So, outside of bribing Google, Bing and Yahoo, how can you make the most of search relevance?
Here are a few tips from digital PR experts to help you climb toward the top of those all-important search results.

Know the King and Queen of the Internet
We all know that content is king, and although that many people in PR think that just means writing anything, it’s like any other marriage: the king needs a queen, and that queen is … links! While your client loves new content, Google adores the links that should come with it. Is your client able to score a few linkbacks via relevant, authoritative websites? Good. If not, find a website that would allow a guest blog to link back to your site. Join industry associations. Submit that website to directories for backlinks. If the Internet really is the “Web,” you need the largest possible net to make your content stick and provide links.

Learn to Write SEO-Friendly News Releases
The days of cramming all the client’s content into a news release template are over. Do your releases have links in the copy? Does your release contain words and links germane to your website? Bold terms? Keywords?

Quantity, Not Quality
Now that Google has brought its zoo to the Internet (e.g., Penguin, Panda, Hummingbird), your content needs more than anything to have a purpose. Search results are, ideally, based on the content quality, not just quantity.

Speaking Engagements Are Internet Appointments
What usually happens when you get a speaking opportunity? Exposure to various people, a nice chance to network, and the occasional honorarium?
All that stuff is fine, but if the organization holding the seminar is worth anything, they’ll place a bio on their website. That quality content and its backlinks are most appealing to a search engine. The brief bio linking to your website is yet another outside source designed to increase credibility and authority.
The more backlinks and guest speaker bios you earn, the higher up on Google, Bing, or Yahoo you will land.

Keywords are Still Key
This is one of the most overstated and least understood topics on the Internet.
To put it in the most simple terms possible: when people are searching for your brand, what words do they use? No one searches by URL any more, which is why understanding the words used to describe your business and industry is crucial for page rank.

Tips on telling compelling LinkedIn stories
Recently, Dan Roth, LinkedIn’s executive editor, pulled the curtain back on telling compelling stories on LinkedIn. He was part of the Ad Age Digital conference in New York and offered different examples of great content. An overarching message: It’s hard to be heard in noisy times, so you need to take messages and make them your own.

So if you are dedicated to cutting through the digital clutter of the platform’s 100,000 weekly posts, here’s some advice and pearls about shifting into high gear on the sometimes gridlocked information super highway.

“When Richard Branson writes, LinkedIn explodes,” and he’s one of the most popular LinkedIn contributors, Roth said during the conference.  Yet while not everyone is as newsworthy or as active on various social networks as the Virgin CEO, with the right formula Roth said others can — and do — break through.

Roth explained how LinkedIn identifies “buzzworthy” stories.
T

he network’s algorithm contains machine-generated signals, and its team of editors (including former AP Wire Services pros) and data scientists analyze what drives readers. They see if a post leaves a writer’s network, then decide whether that post merits extra amplification. They mark certain posts as “high quality” and use sentiment analysis tools to review comment sections and other engagement measures to determine the overall value of each story.

Based on LinkedIn’s continual feedback loop, here are the five winning types of content:
1. Start the conversation: When he began writing about typical corporate themes, the posts from Bernard Tyson, chairman and CEO of Kaiser Permanente, fared “OK,” Roth said. But when Tyson started sharing personal issues, such as what it’s like to be a black CEO, his posts took off. Many readers and commenters shared their own experiences.
2. Change the conversation: “After Target’s data breach, the brand went from being perceived as cool to toxic,” said Roth. Jeff Jones, Target’s EVP and CMO, then wrote a post, “The Truth Hurts,” about the company’s troubled culture. He poured out his soul, and the post received 400,000 views. Comments were mixed: while many were harsh, others thanked him for acknowledging and “owning” the problem. Subsequent Target articles were more about his post than the breach itself, Roth added.
3. Create a halo effect: If you write interesting posts about timely topics, they may also lead readers to check out your company. Melanie Curtin, senior director of marketing and communications at e-commerce site OpiaTalk, used to work at Uber. Roth said she writes about subjects like sexual harassment and white privilege, leading her readers to explore what OpiaTalk has to offer.
4. Share your passions: Posts on personal passions can encompass light or heavy topics. One Dell employee, for example, wrote about his father’s death from Parkinson’s disease, and the story gained widespread traction. Roth said that Dell’s HR department is on board since such posts humanize the brand and help with recruitment.
5. Boutique approach: While seeking a narrower target audience may seem counterintuitive, Roth said this is an effective way to reach and influence a group of similar professionals. He cited the case of a writer who described the state of modern butlery, noting “It’s not like Downton Abbey.”
Overall takeaways: don’t be boring or write in “corporate speak.”
While these five tips may appear to contain some elements of risk (as the executives and employees cited here have discovered), the “safer” approach often just doesn’t cut it.
In other words, if you want to get attention on LinkedIn, get ready to take a few risks.

Cord-Less Mic | Comcast — Time Warner merger gets DOJ scrutiny
Recent news reports indicate that attorneys at the Department of Justice’s antitrust division are about to recommend blocking a merger between Comcast and Time Warner Cable. The attorneys are reportedly concerned that Comcast’s $45.2 billion purchase of Time Warner Cable would harm consumers by creating a “nationwide cable giant.” The Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission are not negotiating with Comcast about how to sell parts of its business or change practices in order to avoid antitrust concerns. If a deputy attorney general agrees with the attorney’s findings, the government would sue in federal court to block the deal. For these seemingly real antitrust concerns, these cable behemoths get an unplugged, Distorted Mic.

Each week, The Spin Cycle will bestow a Golden Mic Award to the person, group or company in the court of public opinion that best exemplifies the tenets of solid PR, marketing and advertising – and those who don’t. Stay tuned – and step-up to the mic! And remember … Amplify Your Brand!

Todd Smith is president and chief communications officer of Deane, Smith & Partners, a full-service branding, PR, marketing and advertising firm with offices in Jackson. The firm — based in Nashville, Tenn. — is also affiliated with Mad Genius. Contact him at todd@deanesmithpartners.com, and follow him @spinsurgeon.

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