Casey Meraz has a great post on How to Use Google+ Hangouts for SEO. Following some experimentation, he found that you can rank relatively easy by creating a video through a Google Hangout, placing the keywords into the title and then broadcasting it through YouTube. His eight-step process is now posted on my wall, and it provokes the thought: what kind of litmus test should be applied before using this for B2B companies? Here are three questions to ask:
1. Is this content right for video? Sure, this technique will make your content rise higher and faster in SERPs, but is video the best format to convey the content's meaning? If not, it will deliver an inferior user experience and fall in ranking as people navigate to competing text, pictures, audio or whatever medium they find most convenient.
2. Does the content lend itself better to a hangout than to your average interview video? Frankly, a hangout with a bunch of people talking, interupting and taking time for honorifics might veer over the line from authentic to annoying. So in what cases will these added people bring added value? How about when they're thought leaders the viewers will already know, such as those with large social media followings? Or those that are well respected given industry credentials? Or where the group offers a unique combination of expertise? (You rarely go wrong adding an economist, an attorney or a regulator to a B2B chat.)
3. Is the content searched enough? A hangout video will likely require more time to set up than your typical interview-style broadcast. You'll have to research and recruit the right attendees, and the more people you have on the line (up to 10) the longer it will take to sync schedules. That added time means added cost, so if your keyword is too far down the long tail, the costs will exceed the benefits.
What other factors are good to consider for B2B Hangouts?
Making it clear that this is not another tome on tags, Odden asserts that "Companies are now vying for central positions inside consumer networks" and so it has become "essential…to understand the online information discovery, consumption, and engagement preferences of the people they're trying to reach."
The way to achieve this, he explains, is by seeing optimization not as a series of technical techniques, but a "state of mind" that pervades every department. Sure, that includes sales, PR marketing and social media. But it's really any division that needs their information to be found: HR, customer service, internal communications and others.
The most valuable sections to me are those that evolve your perspective on SEO. These include:
A hierarchy of strategic questions that help organize and customize best practices at your company
A section on metrics with plenty of KPIs to draw on, along with a healthy approach that focuses on objectives within a business goal context
The critical nature of upfront research, with Odden comparing it to intelligence gathering before a war
On the tactical and practical front, he offers:
Five types of SEO audits that provide benchmarks to measure against
Dozens of tips on how to optimize content of all kinds and social channels (blogs, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+)
Suggestions for free and paid tools
If, as Odden says, "optimization is a state of mind," then you can consider his book the way to achieve it.
One of the most effective things a B2B company can do is post research, especially charts and graphs, online. It’s valuable from a customer perspective, because you’re providing useful information, and it’s effective from a search engine/findability standpoint, because you’re competing against fewer images than you are pages of text for visibility.
Google has now added its knowledge graph feature to image search. This makes the case for posting images (and tagging them accurately) even stronger, since that image could either add nuance to what Google is trying to present about a concept, or it could become the centerpiece for new knowledge graphs. Check out Search Engine Land’s explanation of the knowledge graph.
SEOMoz just published a must-read case study on Google News and how they discovered it can become a major traffic funnel. The catch? It has to fall within Google’s definition of “news.” Snip from Google’s help articles:
“Google News only includes sites that publish articles reporting on recent events. We currently do not include informational and how-to articles, classified ads, fictitious content, job postings, event announcements, advice columns, and various other non-news content.”
Now, how-to’s and advice columns are some of the tastiest bread & butter a B2B can serve to their stakeholders. But there’s no reason why B2Bs shouldn’t go beyond that and publish articles on recent INDUSTRY events. I had written earlier about Diversifying the Temporality of your Blog Posts, and how writing for the long-term would drawn in more long tail readers. But SEOMoz’s idea makes a strong case for writing about things happening within a news cycle.
Guess it’s the content that’s useful in the medium term that should get short shrift (Marsha! Marsha! Marsha!).
Message bibles are like deodorant. When they work you don’t know they’re there. When they don’t, you stink and everyone knows it.
Speaking of which, if your message bible was last updated before social media went mainstream, it’s probably getting ripe. Why?
1. An unscientific starting point. At best, your bible drew its word choice from focus groups, industry research, media clips and native industry knowledge. That’s really good, but it’s not scientific. With social media monitoring and SEO keyword tools (especially those that measure keyword density), you can count how many times and how often your verbiage appears. You can see with perfect clarity — in multiple languages — how people describe your company, its products and the issues that affect it. They even remove the variable found in focus groups of people subtly changing what they say when they know they’re being observed. Companies have been using these tools for industry intelligence purposes, but it’s time PR applied them to messaging.
2. It’s being used as a dead tree. Like their advertising cousins, message bibles are static devices. You throw them out there hoping something sticks; hoping even more that you’ll be able to see if it does. But it’s not meant to be changed often. Heck, it’s called a “bible” because you want employees to get that it’s really important NOT to change, to stay on message. (Note, I’m not saying that a company’s DNA or value proposition should change. Just the language that’s trying to communicate it.)
But with social media, small, but scientifically valid testing of terms can happen on the fly and on an ongoing basis. Like one of Darwin’s finches, each syllable should be run through the evolutionary wringer, with only the fittest phrases surviving.
Adopting this approach turns your message bible into a living document. That dead-end corporate speak that someone insisted be in the boilerplate? Gone. Courtesy of search results that show it’s not being repeated. The phrase everyone thought was solid, but not exciting? Turns out your customers embraced it, spread it through the meme-o-sphere and it’s now the title of your CEO’s roadshow speech.
Like songs in the music industry, you can never quite predict what’s going to happen until you test it. And people don’t have to worry about being wrong, because everyone’s right when they start off by saying “we’ll do what works” and then use the scientific method to figure it out.
So what do you get with a message bible that social media & SEO helped build?
You and your communities speak the same language, lowering the cost of customer acquisition and extending loyalty
Your SEO program operates on a different verbal track than that of your competitors, lowering its costs while delivering more.
Your communications to customers (via sales and customer service), the media, investors, analysts and everyone else mutually reinforce one another.
What do you think? What tools and approaches would you use to update your message bible in 2011?
A very respectable 48% of B2B companies are using their social media programs to build inbound links and improve their search engine rankings, finds a study released this week by B2B Magazine and Business.com. About half of those, 44%, say the impact is positive. The one fly in the ointment — and it’s a small one given the progress made — is that just 26% are examining conversations about their products to discover keywords.
Of course, while that aspect of listening can help you reverse engineer your keyword list, there’s nothing like the classic PR approach of influencing the very terms that are being used. Buy those keywords and you’ll leave your competitors wondering where their traffic went. Snip:
“For example, for a client that specializes in virtualization software, GyroHSR started using the phrase “server virtualization” in conversations about database virtualization on social channels such as Twitter and Facebook. (DeShazer declined to name the client.) ‘As the conversation shifts to “server virtualization,’ people will search on Google and will use the term being spoken about in social channels. We have an opportunity to influence what queries users are searching for,’ DeShazer said.”
Via TechCrunch, an SEO expert captured video of a new feature Google is testing that updates search results in real time as you type. It has to be seen to be believed. I can just imagine being on the phone with a reporter, having a live chat on Twitter, or getting into an edit war on Wikipedia and the person on the other side of the line running searches based on each syllable I utter. Talk about the integration of conversational marketing and search! How many months (years?) do you think it will take for the PR industry to catch up?
“For example, news about Al Qaida will show links to searches for “Al-Qaida Camp” or “Al-Qaida Flags.” The idea is to allow readers to access related content they would search for without having to go to a separate search portal and type in the query.”
Given that the feature “results in twice the amount of user engagement” this capability is sure to be incorporated on news sites of all types.
On the plus side for B2B PR, stories you’ve secured for a new product launch would automatically include search suggestions that lead deeper into your marketing funnel. On the other hand, what if the algorithm calculates that the reader would be interested in a recent lawsuit? Accounting scandal? An activist shareholder proxy battle?
All of which means that PR pros must not only deepen their understanding of SEO, but learn the ins and outs of algorithms like these.
Remember the old days when PR meant pitching a reporter instead of pitching a formula that’s in turn pitching your audiences?
In any case, Yahoo says it will be “rolling this out to all users as soon as it is ready.” Are you?