At a Travelmole event about online content last night we had a big debate about what constitutes "good content". The one voice that wasn't heard during the debate was the voice of writers who I know are often frustrated by their hunt for good content online.
So please remember that natural search isn't just about helping your customers to find you. Don't forget media and bloggers. These are the people who can amplify your content. How easy is it for them to do that?
Whenever we do a natural search audit for clients we always look at things from a writer's perspective as well - how easy is it for them to find your press contacts, what information pops up if they do a brand search on your company, how easy is it to find your press releases?
I'm constantly surprised by how little thought is given to this by organisations that may be spending huge amounts of time on communication, but not getting the essential online material in place.
Five common online howlers
1. Press office site behind an online registration wall. Please don't do this. It wastes writers' time. It loses all the natural SEO benefit of your regularly changing news content.
2. Press office content hidden on corporate rather than consumer sites or hidden from search engines in pdfs.
3. No PR contact details published for media to call. Many, many companies simply don't make this easily available.
4. Out-of-date press materials. Who is posting your news online? Do make sure this is happening regularly enough.
5. Insufficient online resources for media - do you have an easily accessed online image gallery with the right resolution and style of images. Services like fotoseeker can set these up as a simple white label hosted service so it doesn't need to tie up your web team in expensive development costs.
Five top tips to check that writers can find and use your content
1. Type your brand name and "PR contact" or "press office" into search engines. Where does your current PR contact appear? Correct your site so it's easier to find
2. Type your brand name and "press releases" into search engines. Are they available? Are other sites using your news more prominently? Go back to your site and make sure the press material isn't hidden behind a subscription wall, or hidden from search in flash or pdf format.
3. Undertake an image search of your brand or destination. (I really like Bing's new image search service) How easy is it for media to find and access your imagery? Please have a wide variety of lifestyle, newsworthy downloadable images available fast - not a 24-hour request service, or six beautiful brand shots that have limited use. There's a huge opportunity to create photo-led stories on websites which can all link back to your site. This is one example we've recently done on Marie Claire
4. Youtube yourself. How easy is it for bloggers to link to your footage? I was working for a major hotel group that was building up to a major launch. But on Youtube the only imagery present was some phone-shot footage taken by someone driving by the building site and speculating what it would look like. There was also a tour operator item using the hotel group's own video. So the hotel wasn't owning its own video image. How can you update your library and own your own broadcast presence?
I think there is still a tendency in PR to think that we need to communicate through other people. That's not always the case - particularly in a crisis and particularly with broadcast. Look at the way BA asked Willy Walsh to give Youtube interview updates on the recent strikes
5. Video is also needed for editorial websites of course and many travel editors want exclusive content shot for them in their own style. One B roll just isn't sufficient these days and please don't give your PR team video shot for advertising or agents training. One size really doesn't fit all but many opportunities are being wasted if companies don't have this essential piece of kit in their PR armoury. Websites increasingly want to feature a short video item in their editorial to bring stories to life - whether that's a website for a radio station or a blog. Video packages are as essential for online PR now, as pictures are for glossy magazine stories.