By UCLA X425 Student Nicole Street
Tony Adam, President & CEO of online marketing consulting firm Visible Factors, was the guest speaker for UCLA X425 on the topic of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for the PR Pro.
As defined on Wikipedia, SEO is an Internet marketing strategy that “considers how search engines work, what people search for, the actual search terms or keywords typed into search engines and which search engines are preferred by their targeted audience.” The definition goes on to explain that “promoting a site to increase the number of backlinks, or inbound links” is another primary SEO tactic.
The in class discussion with Tony was great because we really did gain an understanding of the Wikipedia definition.
We discussed whether authority and relevance are still the primary factors in a Google search; we also covered the relative importance of each. Relevance refers to the content on a page, while authority refers to the inbound links.
Tony told us we need to focus on both in a roughly a 50/50 ratio. A page must be relevant; amazing links are worth little if you don’t have relevant content.
We looked at a graphic called “The Periodic Table of SEO” that looks at just about every on-page and off-page factor affecting SEO, including quality of content, keywords, freshness, etc.
HTML is the actual code on a page, and includes the title-tag, which Tony said is one of the most important elements and among the easiest to change. The title tag is the first thing search engines see when they read a page. The description is what shows up in a search engine. The blue link is the title tab. The actual content under that is your meta-description.
We then discussed how and why Google ranks sites like Wikipedia, Yelp and IMDB so high in search results. It’s because those sites have generated so much authority.
We then talked about how SEO is increasingly about creating great content. Techniques such as creating and syndicating an infographic work to drive inbound links and build authority. Try to find something that’s really funny/compelling that you can turn into a post or series of posts. The technique is to create content and seed it out to publishers/bloggers who then include a link back to your site. However, he noted that you should keep your expectations in check, because 90% of the time you don’t get the coveted link.
We discussed the Google algorithm and learned that Google changes it frequently. It’s like a black box, and nobody knows what happens when Google’s spiders crawl and evaluate pages.
Tony then showed how a marketing or PR person at a small company or non-profit can make a presentation on SEO analysis to his/her superiors. The first and most important thing to understand is who’s searching and what he/she is searching for.
He showed us how to conduct simple keyword analysis by signing up for a free Google AdWords account. You can type in any term, for example “Luxe Valet” (Tony’s client) and see how many times terms such as “parking,” “LA parking” and “LA valet service” are searched each month. You can enter a lot of these keywords and create large Excel documents with rows of all the queries. In addition to results for specific keywords you search, AdWords can provide keyword ideas and help you determine what people are searching for and what’s relevant for your topic.
This in-turn can create an opportunity analysis showing how much potential traffic you’re missing monthly. You might then get revenue details to illustrate how much more should be invested in the SEO effort to prevent leaving so much traffic on the table.
Tony actually did this when he worked at Yahoo, and that’s how the company got a lot of things moving forward. For example, they found that Yahoo Finance was leaving about $5 million to $10 million a year in ad revenue on the table because it wasn’t doing enough SEO. When they started focusing on search, they started getting a lot more traffic and a lot more revenue.
We also learned about some of the less ethical types of SEO known as “Black Hat” techniques. In the past, article directories/forums/blogs could be spammed easily with links, and people were also paying for links. Over the long-haul, Google has also caught on to efforts that automate link creation on the web. Tony predicted that legitimate content marketing will sooner or later be the only way to do SEO.