Is your website PR ready?

This is a re-post from our guest blog on Vordik.com

When a potential client approaches me to help spread their story through traditional and social media, the first thing I do is check out their website. This, of course, is so I can learn more about the company but it’s also to make sure their website doesn’t—to put it bluntly—suck.

If the potential client has a bad website, my advice is to hold off on external PR activities and get back to the basics.

I was speaking with Toronto freelance journalist Jared Lindzon—who writes for top-tier publications like The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Fast Company and The Guardian— and he emphasized the importance of a solid web presence:

Coming across an out of date website while researching sources immediately raises a red flag. As someone who is required to interview only the most reputable of sources, often in the technology and media industries, there is simply no excuse for a sub-par web presence in this day and age. When I arrive at a company’s website I want to see a clear indication of their authority and expertise in their field, and if I have to look too hard to find it I will simply move on to one of their competitors.
— Jared Lindzon

I want to touch on two main points that Jared Lindzon brings up:

1. “A Sub-Par Web Presence”

We’ve all seen them and we cringe when they come up on our browser. Investing in a well-designed and highly-effective website is a good business decision.  It doesn’t have to break the bank, but it does need to be the best reflection of your business.

First thing you should do is test your website and make sure it’s representing your company well. Part of that process is getting acquainted with Google Analytics and your website’s metrics. For example, if your website has a bounce rate of over 70%, it could be cause for concern and is a sign to hold off on any external communications. It’s better to fix your site first to ensure people actually stay on your site in the future.

Your site must also be optimized for mobile devices. In today’s world, it’s important to ensure your website looks good across a variety of platforms because 60% of all online activity comes from mobile devices, and social networking generates more than 70% of its activity on mobile.

2. “Clear indication of their authority and expertise”

Now you have a beautifully-designed and optimized site, but your website upgrades don’t stop there. You need to make sure the copy and content on your site are going to capture the attention of visitors.

I enjoyed reading this blog post by @lisabuyer on Search Engine Watch about the difference between copy and content. She explains the difference well so I’m copying and pasting it directly here:

Content vs. Copy

A brand’s digital copy should communicate the value proposition and what makes you different from the competition. Examples of copy include:

  • About Us Page

  • Services Page

  • Products and Catalog

  • Guarantee Page

  • Executive Team Bios and Facts Sheets in the Company Newsroom

Content is best defined as what helps support and tell your brand’s story and news. This could be visual or text based. Content is more of a subliminal means to communicate a brand’s value proposition and could come in the form of press releases, testimonials, infographics, product reviews, or editorial style articles that might offers tips and helpful resourceful information.

When you proactively reach out to media, they’ll want to know what makes you an expert in your particular industry. Trust me on this one—unless you have the most innovative, unique and shiny new gadget, you have to tell a bigger story.

This is where the content on your website becomes so important. Content is a massive PR component and helps secure those ever-important and cherished news pieces.

The secret to getting good media coverage is to make the journalist’s job as easy as possible. When they arrive at your website, make sure they are seeing you at your best—a well designed website with captivating content, and a well thought out pressroom where they can easily find your latest announcements—all these components and more will help your company get that prized Globe and Mail article framed in the office!

So before investing in PR, ask yourself: “Is my website PR ready?”  

 

Guest Blog: PR and SEO are converging before our eyes

A few years ago, not many connected the dots between SEO and PR. While SEO focuses on website analytics and PR focuses on audience engagement, these two practices have been heading in the same direction for quite some time.

There’s a very important meld happening in the industry, and it’s one of the main reasons the team at Vordik was excited to partner with a PR firm.

MAKING SEO HUMAN

Back in the day, website owners thought SEO was a tricky Internet game that could be won by stuffing as many relevant keywords into a page as possible. The more variations of "PR" you included (Public Relations, Relations with Public, media, media relations, hype), the better your ranking, right? Well, if this technique was possible before, it won’t get you anywhere with Google today.

What lacked when SEO first emerged was the human aspect. The whole point of driving traffic to your website is to build relationships with real people, not bots. So your SEO strategy should be based around the person, not trickery. This year alone, Google has switched up its algorithm over 40 times so no one can hack the system. If we look at the human element of the formerly dry art of SEO, it's no wonder that SEO and PR are a natural fit.

BUILDING YOUR STORY

Building your brand’s story to be newsworthy and unique is key to mastering SEO. Once you have your angle and solid, high-quality key messages, then it will improve, what we call in the industry, ‘Longtail Keywords’, which are an important aspect of SEO strategy.

Image courtesy of Moz.com

Image courtesy of Moz.com

Longtail keywords have lower traffic but the conversation rate is much higher. The closer to the end of the tail, the more specific and unique the keyword. These words in combination make up about 70% of all searches. So having a unique message will end up paying off big time.

The Role of On-Page SEO

On-page SEO has drawn away from a calculated formula towards newer concepts designed around UX. On-page, or the SEO activity conducted on your own website is the best chance for you to showcase what your brand stands for on home-grounds.

The strategy here should involve keeping content fresh and relevant. Websites with stale or static copy will eventually get buried deep beyond the first page of search engines. Writing often not only enhances your PageRank, but also allows you to experiment with website copy and keywords. Keeping the user in mind, PR professionals can help choose a topic that will interest the audience, and SEOers can then break it down in to several keywords or phrases to be fit in to posts organically. This diversification based on theme or topic rather than a sole keyword will help cast a wider net while maintaining a naturally compelling brand story. 

FOSTERING A SOLID REPUTATION

Creating the right content isn’t easy. That’s why there are so many content marketing firms out there today trying to master this practice. A company may put out all sorts of content with all the right keywords and relevant information, but if you’re not reaching the right people through the right channels, it’s just a big time-suck.

This forms the basis for SEO and PR. Link building from quality websites (referred to as off-page SEO) is becoming more and more crucial, and having connections to top influencers and journalists oh so important in gaining credibility. Whereas on-page content can be all about your brand, off-page should be a mix of tactics that will ultimately draw the audience back to your website. Techniques such as guest blogging and gaining backlinks from respectable sources up your credibility both in terms of earned media, and page authority.

Whether it’s online or off, you have to be careful choosing all the right channels to share your content, or the outcome won't be as powerful as it could be.

STAYING ON TREND

SEO and PR require constant attention to what's going on in the world around us. With the fiery power of the Internet, trends can change as quickly as your newsfeed on Twitter. Staying on top of relevant news and making the best of it by riding the media wave is what PR professionals do best, while aptly predicting and utilizing Internet trends lays at the core of solid SEO.

This is where metrics come in to play. SEO and PR professionals can work together not only to decide topics to create content around, but also gauge the target audience’s reaction and see how well a campaign worked. While keeping up with the news and utilizing Google keywords tool are a must before-hand, measuring results using Google Analytics throughout will allow you to tweak and improve tactics. Take a look at the visible difference before and after:

NorthPR client Google Analytics after coverage in Toronto Star

NorthPR client Google Analytics after coverage in Toronto Star

That being said, the combination of SEO's focus on analytics and PR's focus on audience engagement make a pretty powerful team.  When these two disciplines come together and work closely with each other, brands win big!

About the Author 

Anastasia Lamotchkina is the Marketing and Communications Coordinator at Vordik, a Toronto-based digital agency that specializes in designing web, mobile and cloud applications. For more on the importance of SEO, get in touch with NorthPR and Vordik.

The Problem with Sponsored Content

This post comes almost one year after I attended Mesh Marketing Conference and sat in on a presentation to learn about Native Advertising. I gave myself some time to think about this 'new form' of advertising, and while it's becoming wildly popular, there are many kinks to be worked out. 

John Oliver shared his opinion on Native Advertising a few weeks ago. If you haven't seen it yet, please take the time to watch it.

Being in PR, I've written advertorials and News Canada stories for clients - and this is a form of Native Advertising. However Sponsored Content in media outlets is now becoming extremely popular. 

For example:

Yesterday I read a really interesting article in Canadian BusinessDear Canadian businesses: time to get it together on Internet commerce. The article states facts from a recent white paper by the Internet Association: "3 per cent of our retail economy takes place online-less than half of the US and 1/8 the level in the UK. Between 2004 and 2009, the Internet contributed 10% to the country's GDP growth, far lower than the average of 21% across other industrialized countries."

I sent it to my partner over at Vordik, a digital company that develops ecommerce sites, and they confirmed: "Yes, this has been an ongoing issue - while Canadians are among the most active online shoppers, Canadian businesses have always been behind the global curve in leveraging eCommerce."

About an hour later, Vordik sent me this article which appeared in the Financial Post on the same day stating: Canadian retailers staying ahead of the ecommerce curve. The Vordik team thought Canadian Business and Financial Post should get their stories straight! Which of the two conflicting headlines were accurate?

After a quick investigation of the Financial Post article, I saw the following disclaimer at the end of the piece:

"This story was produced by Postmedia’s advertising department on behalf of Canada Post for commercial purposes. Postmedia’s editorial departments had no involvement in the creation of this content."

So, that makes sense. The Canadian Business article is based on hard facts from a white paper and the Financial Post article is based on Canada Post's agenda. However we can't hold Postmedia's editorial team responsible for the misleading headline because they have no involvement with the article. Which makes you wonder, who is fact-checking these articles to ensure accuracy?

Now I don't think the Canada Post article is factually incorrect, although how can you know for sure? When you read the full article, it comes across as very 'RAH RAH Canada Post, you're mastering this ecommerce thing - good for you!' It doesn't read like a news article, but instead sounds like a case study for Canada Post. Does a case study about Canada Post's success belong on the Financial Post new site?

Contently did a study this summer investigating trust levels of Sponsored Content. They found:

  • Two-thirds of readers have felt deceived upon realizing that an article or video was sponsored by a brand.
  • 54 percent of readers don’t trust sponsored content.
  • 59 percent of readers believe a news site loses credibility if it runs articles sponsored by a brand.
  • As education level increases, so does mistrust of sponsored content.

Most people aren't even sure what Sponsored Content means - I believe it varies depending on the publication. In Financial Post's instance, they take no editorial responsibility for the article. Again, I find this troubling.

Read Contently's full article about their study here.

My job as a PR pro is to help my clients make the news and I always aim to do this by being part of the news cycle and allowing the editorial teams to create the story using facts and spokespeople expertise. This way the news remains credible and it gains readers' trust.

I know media outlets are scrambling to make money from advertisers. I'm afraid, however, that this kind of Sponsored Content could ruin a publication's reputation as a credible, unbiased news source (that is the reputation the media still keeps, right)? And for brands - is this kind of content delivering the results they're hoping for?

It's a hot topic and being navigated by many marketers. I welcome and want your opinions!