Myths vs. Facts of Search Engine Optimization

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When you have a question, where is the first place you look? You probably don’t call up your local public relations professional. You’re far more likely to open up Google and start searching. Once you find a promising snippet, you click and land on an organization’s page. Now you’re on their turf, surrounded by the branding and messaging that has been created for audiences just like you.

Knowledge is power and a good PR professional understands that the client they represent has a lot of it to share. But how can this wielding of information be leveraged for public relations purposes? The key lies in an often underestimated or misunderstood discipline: search engine optimization (SEO). There is immense value in having a presence on search results and the savvy PR pro can help the client get there.

MYTH: PR professionals don’t need to understand SEO.

FACT: If you create content, SEO should matter to you. Upwards of 60% of traffic to websites comes from organic search. At the very least, overlooking SEO leads to missed opportunities to engage with target audiences at key touch points. Without a good SEO strategy, content is just more clutter

TAKEAWAY: You can’t advocate for clients when your voice is just noise in the Internet abyss.

MYTH: SEO is just using keywords.

FACT: While keywords are a major component of SEO, a successful strategy also considers links, page organization, source code, meta data, URLs, images, site navigation and more. There is so much to know about SEO that it can make an entire career!

TAKEAWAY: Even if SEO isn’t your full-time job, it is worth the investment to become familiar with its many facets.

MYTH: Using large quantities of keywords improves SEO.

FACT: Saturating pages with keywords negatively impacts SEO efforts. Using keywords is critical to improving page rankings but search engines think that pages with too many keywords are spam. What’s the balance? Choose one or two keywords and use them naturally and with variations.

TAKEAWAY: Focus first on creating pages that provide quality and relevant information, using keywords where appropriate. Remember, besides body text, there are three key places to use keywords: the URL, headers and meta data.

MYTH: Any link is a good link.

FACT: There are two sides to the link “coin.” The first is placing links to other pages on your page and the second is getting links directed to your page (called link building). Generally, having both is a good thing but not all links are created equal. A good quality link is attached to a reputable site and is placed on a relevant keyword. Links to or from spammy or sparse sites can actually be detrimental to SEO efforts. Think quality over quantity.

TAKEAWAY: Look for opportunities to leverage existing content by linking to previous blog posts, press releases or webpages. Also remember to choose links wisely, especially when asking for backlinks.

MYTH: What you learned about SEO a year ago is still true.

FACT: The world of search engine optimization is constantly changing so the best practices of yesterday might not be the same today. Small tweaks and massive revisions are made to algorithms all the time. Endless alterations require SEO experts to regularly rethink and fine-tune their strategies.

TAKEAWAY: Stay up-to-date on the latest SEO news and tips by following reputable sites such as Moz and Search Engine Land.

Creating great content is only the first step. Understanding SEO will bring you leaps and bounds closer to meeting audiences where they already are: search engines.

Makayla is a senior at Liberty University where she is the Firm Director of Innovations PR and a PRSSA Regional Ambassador.

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