I took part in an interesting Travelmole debate about online content tonight. Fellow panellist Giles Longhurst explained how Frommer's Unlimited creates relevant bespoke and syndicated content for different company websites - content not just to drive high traffic levels, but traffic with a low bounce rate to engage and deliver results.
Matthew Pack from Holiday Extras said his company is creating the most detailed useful content on anything related to airports - content which can be used by the travel industry. Karen Plumb of TripAdvisor summarised how we now need to have content conversations rather than push marketing and how her organisation is developing a business service to engage with industry more effectively.
"So.." mused our genial moderator Graham McKenzie of Travelmole, "there's nothing different required for online content compared to other discussions I've heard over the years. You need lots of pages, lots of useful relevant content, what's new?"
"People have been paying lipservice to content," replied Giles. "They've not acted on it"
"The difference," added Mathew Pack " isn't in the need for content, it's how we're using it. All our staff can now take a call from a customer, understand something isn't clear on our site and can get onto that site and change it. The change is that we all need to be creating content now"
The difference for anyone involved in communication is that your words, pictures and news are all hugely valuable online content that should be an important part of a natural SEO strategy. We all need to be creating content now.
In the past communications roles have been put into nice neat boxes - below-the-line, above the line, digital marketing, SEO, PR, advertising. But Google and Microsoft's Bing search engine scan organic results, news, images, maps, social results, live feeds and blogs before returning what they think you want to see against a given search term. They are reading the results of far more than your website, Facebook and Twitter feed.
My plea to anyone considering their online content strategy therefore to consider your offsite content strategy as well. Please don't leave it only to your SEO or advertising agency. Your PR person is a content creator.
The PR industry's mistake is not to commonly track or record its activity in the same way as SEO experts. That's changing and a good PR will not only have the contacts and ideas to get great PR coverage but should be able to set and deliver natural search results as well. For example in recent months we've helped Tourism Ireland to move a keyword from page 27 to page 1 of Google just using PR content. We've done similar work for hotels, ferry and online travel companies.
If you or your PR person haven't started using PR for natural search yet it's time to start. If you're not sure where or how to begin, there are lots of simple short training courses available from companies like ourselves or from specialist training companies. Start with some simple keyword analysis and check your current rankings (making sure the results you're viewing aren't affected by your own search history).
Rewrite your news or stories and submit them to relevant article sites or even use a press release distribution service like PR Web, which can help natural SEO. It's important you're not posting the same content in different places on the web because search engines will consider this to be duplicate content and are likely to disregard duplicates. As well as giving press material to journalists - find out where your customers are talking. Find a forum or facebook group that could be interested in your content and see if the moderator might be interested in posting a short item about it.
If you're unsure about what PR can do to drive natural search why not give your SEO company and PR people different search terms to work against and see what happens.
Content which can drive natural search should (just like good PR coverage) be relevant interesting and useful to the people you want to talk to.
Someone said to me recently there are no experts in the online world. Things are changing so fast we're all learning every day. So don't be daunted by this new world. It's liberating and exciting. If you've got useful content you can talk directly to the people you want to reach. You can influence your own search ranking by undertaking those conversations.
So lets get talking.