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A silly image of a penguin and a panda on Google's logo

Panda and Penguin

Last month, I wrote about how SEO is not just the domain of consultants. Rather, every person in digital media production needs to know how their work affects search effectiveness. If SEO is seen not as a well-kept secret by the few SEO consultants, but as a vital skill for everyone, organizations will be much more effective in producing findable content for the target audience, especially in the age of Google Panda. Thing is, if you rely on Google to discover your content and give it the value it deserves, you will often be disappointed. You also need to build a network of links into your content, which tell Google about the relative importance of the content in the context of other related content. In the age of Google Penguin, this can’t be an artificial process performed by SEO consultants. It needs to be built into the publishing process. This means coordinating your publishing efforts with other internal content strategists, with paid search leads, media relations managers, and especially community managers. Giving these folks the SEO skills they need to help promote your content is just as important as building the content right in the first place.

Paid Search Leads

You would think that in-house SEOs  have strong connections with their counterparts who run paid search. In my experience, this is rare. Most of my counterparts in the B2B tech space don’t even sit in the same division with their paid search leads. Yet we know that the two roles need to collaborate closely.

The consensus among experts in both paid and organic is that 1+1 =3, meaning that you get much more value if you buy the words and point to the pages for which you rank organically. Several studies showed that users tend to click organic listings up to 30 percent more often if there is a paid listing for the same page on the search engine results page (SERP). On the other hand, if the paid listing points to a different page than the organic ranking page, it just confuses prospects.

It is not hard to train paid search leads to work with their organic counterparts. You certainly don’t have to convince them of the importance of search marketing. And even the mechanics are similar. In paid, you rank against the other ads on a SERP based, in part, on the page’s quality score. The quality score criteria are similar to what it takes for a page to rank organically. Another thing that can help you climb the rankings in paid ads is the quality of the “creative”–the text and images around the link that entice clicks. If a paid listing has high click through rates (CTR), it will ascend the paid rankings all things considered, similar to organic. But if the landing experience has a high bounce rate, it will descend the rankings, again similar to organic.

The main difference between the two roles is bid and budget management, which is beyond the scope of this article. But the words that the paid search person bids on, the creative she uses, and the landing page she designates can all be improved if she understands SEO and collaborates with her organic counterpart.

Media Relations Managers

It has long been a dream of enterprise SEOs to be able to train their media relations colleagues  in SEO, and thereby to maximize opportunities to build links. At minimum, press releases and other media relations assets need to use the right keywords and URLs they list within them. This might be easy for a small company. But enterprise SEOs struggle with this mightily. I lost count of the press releases that used only branded words and pointed only to the home page.

Every time a media relations manager publishes a press release without the right keywords or URLs within them, it is a missed opportunity to build links. Of course, the press release itself carries some link juice (contrary to Matt Cutts’ December statements). But that is of minimal consequence compared to a reputable journalist or blogger writing an article or post with the link inside of it. In the age of Penguin, links are only valuable to the extent that the domain of the linker is strong. Getting an influencer to link to your page can improve your ranking by several slots in one day.

In my experience, the biggest barrier to training media relations professionals in SEO is a disdain for marketing “chest thumping.” So Job One is convincing them that the pages you want them to link to from within their press releases are authentic, transparent, accurate, and clear. Above all, you need to convince them that they are free of hyperbole. Not coincidentally, these are some of the qualities that can help your content rank better for Google’s Panda algorithm.

Community Managers

Community managers, also known as social business managers, constitute a new role within marketing and communications. Part blog editor, part influencer relations manager, part social media expert, these folks are on the vanguard of digital. As I recently wrote on WritingforDigital, search and social are interrelated. With the advent of the new Facebook Social Graph, and the ascendency of Google+, they are, in fact, converging. I expect within the next three years that the roles of SEO, content strategist, and community manager will be functionally interchangeable.

I normally have no difficulty explaining to these folks the importance of SEO. More often than not, they come to me asking for advice on how to make their blog posts rank better. But we can’t take for granted that their blog authors are using the right keywords and URLs in their posts, or that the shortened links in tweets and Facebook posts stem from the right canonical URLs. And we need to work together to ensure that their blog authors are registered with Google+, so they can begin accruing Author Rank and we can get their pictures in SERP snippets. Consequently, I’m in almost daily conversations with dozens of community managers. I consider them to be some of my closest colleagues. Enterprise SEOs would do well to follow my example.

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