SEO Tip Jar: Tools to Track Your SEO Success

December 21, 2009

seotipjar-header-v11

Within the PR world, 2009 would probably be considered the year of Social, but for many it is also the year where SEO went from yet another random acronym to a high priority for clients and agencies alike.  For many web savvy PR practitioners, press releases now serve double duty as both a communication tool and an SEO tool.  But now that you are actively trying to make an SEO impact, how are you tracking the results?

Business Wire users may already be familiar with our Press Release Measurement features included in our NewsTrak reports, but in this edition of the SEO Tip Jar I want to introduce you to some free and paid reporting tools that can supplement your existing efforts by helping you track your historical page rankings for specific URLs and keywords on your own sites.  These tools will likely evolve as we enter the era of more real-time and personalized search, but as long as measurement is important they will continue to be some of the best indicators of SEO success.

SEOMoz Rank Tracker
URL: http://www.seomoz.org/rank-tracker
Cost: Free to monitor up to 5 rankings, $79/month to monitor up to 50 rankings as part of SEOMoz Pro account

The SEOMoz Rank Tracker refreshes rankings weekly by default and can update more frequently with manual requests.  It also includes very pretty historical graphs and can export historical data to CSV for use in Excel.

This tool is only available for limited use as a standalone utility, but is well worth it as part of the SEOMoz suite of web-based tools and resources.

Raven SERP Tracker
URL: http://raven-seo-tools.com/features/serp-tracker/
Cost: $79 as part of package of tools.  Monitor up to 1,000 keywords.

Raven’s SERP (“Search Engine Result Page”) Tracker works in much the same way as the SEOMoz Rank Tracker, but automatically tracks across each major search engine (Google, Yahoo, and Bing) rather than having to add each search engine individually.

It also provides historical data as charts and CSV format for easy export.

Raven’s SEO suite also offers a large number of tools and resources that help you with your SEO efforts.

SEO Rank Monitor
URL: http://www.seorankmonitor.com/
Cost: $19/ month, monitor up to 100 keywords on a single domain

This standalone web-based tool features the same sort of functionality as the SEOMoz and Raven tools, and also features Google Analytics integration.

SEOBook.com Rank Checker
URL: http://tools.seobook.com/firefox/rank-checker/
Cost: Free Firefox plugin, requires SEOBook.com account

Unlike the other tools I’ve mentioned, this free Firefox plugin runs within your web browser rather than a dedicated server, so you can only collect data from a single computer.  It doesn’t produce any fancy graphs, but does feature CSV export for the Excel set.

Also, with its myriad of customizable options this tool is probably geared more towards the geekier among us.

All of these tools feature either free options or free trials, so what are you waiting for?  Get started tracking your site’s rankings today.


Delicious New Ways to Find Niche Story Ideas

November 11, 2009

A tried and true technique in the world of public relations is to hook your news to a popular story.  Many experienced PR practitioners are great at this, but in today’s media world, narrowly targeted and easily accessible ‘hit’ stories are often overlooked.  However, building off these hits or using them for PR inspiration can be easy if you know where to look.

Take this page on delicious.com, for instance.  If you are an experienced Delicious user, you can gather a lot of information on what to expect simply from the URL: http://delicious.com/popular/publicrelations

Delicious.com Screenshot

Translated into plain English, this page is composed of recently popular web pages that have been tagged with ‘Public Relations’ by Delicious users.  One article that immediately jumps out to me is the AdAge piece about PR Managers converging on Marketing.  Perhaps we can reference it or build off of it in a future press release, webinar, blog post, or newsletter item.

You can browse Delicious’ popular listings for any relevant tag and find inspiration and topics that people are interested in right now.

Another great place to look is Tweetmeme.com.  Tweetmeme collects and categorizes ‘tweets’ across Twitter to determine what webpages are getting popular or have been popular in the last day or week based on the number of ‘tweets’ and ‘retweets’ including the same webpage.  You can either browse by category or search based on keywords, but be sure to select ‘Top in 24 Hours’ or ‘Top in 7 Days’ to see the most popular stories.  Below is a recent screenshot of the Technology News category.

Tweetmeme.com Screenshot

Other useful aggregation sites include Digg.com, Reddit.com, Mixx.com, and Newsvine.com along with countless others focusing on different niche and vertical markets.


Five Tips for More Search Friendly Headlines

October 29, 2009

by Joseph Miller, EON: Enhanced Online News Product Manager, Business Wire San Antonio

I recently wrote a post that covered some key search engine ranking factors and how they apply to your press releases.  Today I thought I would dive into one of those key factors: the page title.  In the context of press releases, your headline serves double duty as your page title and is thus the most important signpost for steering searchers and readers towards your content.

Using these simple tips can help you get the most out of your headlines and reap benefits for your organization.

1.  Give ’Em What They Want
When crafting your headline and release, it’s important to think like a searcher.  Look at past release reports or your web analytics to see what keywords tend to bring readers to your unique content and build on that.  If you don’t have access to your company’s web analytics, try to request a report from your web team with top search referral terms.

2.  Emphasize Your Most Important Keywords
Once you have some quality keywords to choose from, pick one or two that are most important to you and focus your headline on those.  You don’t have a lot of room to work with, so don’t try to work too many keywords into your headline just for the sake of it.

3.  Keep It Brief
Speaking of room to work with, Google generally displays only the first 63 characters (letters and spaces) of release headlines in search results, so make sure to get your key information across as concisely as possible.  If you are going to go beyond the limit, always make sure that your headline reads well when truncated.  That’s how searchers will encounter your news. If it doesn’t make sense, they are much less likely to click through and read the rest what you have to say.

Here’s an example. This is how the headline of this release from 977music.com reads on EON: Enhanced Online News:
977image1
And here’s how the title reads, as displayed in Google search results.  Note that the headline’s been shortened, but it still conveys key information:
977image2
4.  Choose: Descriptive or Catchy
It can be very difficult to be both descriptive and catchy at the same time, and both techniques have their benefits.  Descriptive headlines may be more relevant to more people and tend to work in more keywords for SEO, but catchy headlines might be better ‘linkbait’ and more likely to be shared via social networks or blogs.

5.  Keep At It
Search engines like Google and Bing are here to stay and securing your place in search results is an ongoing effort.  Incorporating press release SEO techniques can provide both short term benefits and serve as part of a long term strategy to build your presence in search.

For more press release optimization tips, visit EON: Enhanced Online News.


The Power of Push and Pull

September 18, 2009

In a recent AdAge column, Steve Rubel of Edelman wrote an excellent essay on the increasing power of pull that led me to think about how our mix of push and pull services can serve public relations and marketing professionals in these ever-changing times.

There’s no doubt that the world of information dissemination is shifting.  Previously dominated by Push (think Television, Radio, Newspapers, and Magazines), where information is relatively scarce and blasted out to wide audiences, we’re now operating in a vast mix of both Push and Pull (think Search, Permission Marketing, Twitter, and narrowcasting to niche audiences).  In this environment, your organization’s major news announcements are still best served by reaching the widest relevant audience possible with a big Push, but sometimes whether due to budget or news content a Pull approach is wiser.

When approaching news and content creation from a pull perspective, it’s best to think from the searcher’s perspective.  As Steve writes, “One way to think of it is that Googlers are looking for “how to get rid of roaches,” not necessarily for “bug spray.””  Think of all the topic possibilities this way of thinking can open up for you to create content surrounding your brand.

Your source for ideas is often right under your nose too, namely in your Web Analytics package.  Whether you use Google Analytics, Web Trends, Omniture, or any of the other great services available, you or your web team likely has access to reports from search engines containing the keyword searches that led people to your site.  If you notice certain keywords that lead to lots of visits, long visits, inquiries, or orders you can build on them!

One strategy may be to start with a blog post, use channels like Twitter to generate buzz, craft related press releases to publish on EON: Enhanced Online News for more exposure and SEO help, and give your campaign periodic boosts with wire distributions.  Of course no news distribution service does that better than Business Wire.  Just take a look at our Distribution Catalogue and then imagine the time it would take to reach out to the thousands of news outlets individually.


Should my Small Business use Press Releases?

August 28, 2009

While it’s true that we count some very large companies among our clients, we are also mindful of the needs of startups and small businesses and provide press release distribution tools and services that can fit almost any budget.

EON: Enhanced Online News, one of our press release platforms, facilitates your news being discovered in a number of ways:

-An optimization tool which we call the Press Release Builder that helps you create or optimize your release for search engine performance,
-Distribution in Google News, targeted RSS feeds, and Docstoc.com
-Social sharing links that facilitate your release getting into the social sphere
-Multimedia galleries providing assets such as photos and video in multiple formats to interested journalists, bloggers, and consumers for easy redistribution.

Beyond that, EON enables you to embed images within your release, include active hyperlinks with anchor text of your choosing, and a website preview window with any website of your choosing embedded.

EON starts from $295 for lifetime release hosting.  Multimedia assets are $100 for the first and $50 for each additional.  Here’s two examples of EON releases which really get the most out of the platform:

Candle Lovers’ Dream Come True

Bluetooth Technology Gets Faster with Bluetooth 3.0

…and here’s a coupon for $100 off your first release.  EON releases can be ordered directly from our website.  Simply create an account at http://eon.businesswire.com .

Our metro wire circuits are also very affordable, starting at only $210 for a release under 400 words.  Take a look at your options and get in touch with a Business Wire representative near you (we have over 20 offices) if you have any questions or would like to get started.

Of course the world doesn’t revolve around Business Wire, and there are some great low cost or no cost ways of driving traffic to your site or blog include everything from actively twittering, participating in blogger communities such as BlogCatalog.com, writing guest posts through services like Bloggerlinkup.com, searching for PR opportunities on HARO (or our ExpertSource service), and studying up on everything SEO on sites and forums such as SEOMoz.org to name a few!


SmartBrief reviews EON: Enhanced Online News

August 4, 2009

SmartBrief, the media company most well known for their vast network of excellent industry newsletters (disclosure: we have a partnership with SmartBrief), recently reviewed EON: Enhanced Online News after conducting an experiment with word-of-mouth and other promotions for their free viral marketing webinar.smartbrief_logo

Here’s an excerpt we’re particularly fond of:

We liked that EON does a lot of the painful stuff for you: Distributing the press release via RSS feeds for news hounds, consumers, and journalists. When you create the release, the Enhanced Online News service prompts you to tag it by industry, subject, geography and keywords so it can target your announcement to the most relevant readers possible.

You can read the entire review at SmartBlog.com or take a look at SmartBrief’s press release for more details.


Don’t Ask the Barber if You Need A Haircut and other Press Release Wisdom from Warren Buffett

May 26, 2009

Last week, HubSpot’s provocatively titled webinar “How to Be Smarter than your PR Agency” took a stab at analyzing the effectiveness of press releases.   We applaud their efforts and will chime in here with some footnotes based on 48 years in the press release biz.photo from Times Picayune

But first, thanks to HubSpot for tackling this topic.  We’re delighted to see an inbound marketing software firm like HubSpot acknowledge how well press releases can perform in linkbuilding and organic search. 

Among HubSpot’s findings:

  • “Traditional” press releases are “syndicated” 20% more frequently than “social media press releases”  — meaning they are republished in full on major portals like Google and Yahoo! and authority websites.
  • “Traditional” press releases drive 14% more traffic to your website than “social media releases.” 

We’ve known this for years–but as every PR pro is aware, third-party endorsements breed credibility.  Thanks again, HubSpot!

Wire services “push” content

Presenters Rebecca Corliss and Michael Volpe explained that services like Business Wire have media relations teams that work directly with portals, to whom we “push” content based on need.  At Business Wire, we have 30 full-time media relations professionals worldwide.

HubSpot gives full credit to “the wires” for being able to “push” content better than anyone but bemoan we can be “pricey.”

Here’s where we disagree.   Starting at $210, we believe the press release is a multi-tasking bargain with its ability to work NOT ONLY as an SEO/linkbuilding tool but as  direct marketing.  

Treat your press release like its own interactive web page and it works as a tipsheet for reporters, a mini website, a brand ambassador.  Awareness raised by the well-done press release is hard to beat, because NOT ONLY does it contribute to SEO, it markets your message directly, ESPECIALLY when  pushed out to other authority sites, or “syndicated” as Hubspot calls it.

HubSpot discouraged the use of multimedia and XHTML formatting–bullets, boldface, italics, white space–in press releases.  Again, we disagree.

Attractively presented content gets read

Sure you want traffic to your site, but you also want people to READ what you WRITE.  That’s much more likely when content is attractively presented.   Our metrics show press releases with graphics get two to three times more clicks.

When HubSpot introduced the “the inbound marketing press release” to join the H-release, the social media release, the SMNR, SMPR, it was hard not to wonder:  Do we really need another template?    

Thanks to investments in NewsML by Business Wire like our patented NX technology, real world applications exist NOW for virtually any template or format you choose.  Every press release can include multimedia or not, can be shared or searched, include anchortext and/or lengthy URLs–it just depends on how you build it, having something to say, and your goals. 

Good content, well written, appropriately distributed

Our press release mantra:  Good content, well written, appropriately distributed.  No need for your press release to serve as SEO link builder OR a direct marketing tool–it can do both.  

And here’s where we quote our boss, Warren Buffett:  Don’t ask the barber if you need a haircut. 

HubSpot is a software company, so naturally they will encourage the use of  software and website solutions for online marketing success.   More power to ‘em.

Those beating the drum for the social media news release are often in the business of profiting from its acceptance–frequently by carving a consulting biz out of a very crowded social media echo chamber.  It makes sense these folks would promote various templates’ alleged strengths.   Are they ”tech agency execs push(ing) faux ‘innovation’ for the sake of making names for themselves”? as one HubSpot blog commenter posted?  That’s for the reader to decide.

We, meanwhile, remain in the press release business and believe that well-done press releases address myriad online marketing challenges and at a reasonable price. 

The movie business began with silent movies, which became ”talkies,”  and later, color motion pictures.  Today we call them movies.  So it is with press releases.  They’ll continue to evolve and at Business Wire we embrace the evolution because in the end, they’re all press releases.

photo: Chuck Cook / The Times-Picayune


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