Donʼt Panic!

The C&M Online PR and Web Content Handbook
March 2009 Table of Contents 2: 3: 15: 22: 30: 37: 42: Introduction Online PR Campaign Planning: The C&M Fab Five Rough Guide Party Harder: C&Mʼs Five Basic Social Theories of Online PR\ The Five Step ʻShut Up, Listen and Spinʼ Guide to Online PR and Social Media Agency Work QuickStart Guide to Content Optimization: Better SEO Content & Keywords Content Optimisation & Online PR Agency Tools (Whatʼs in Your Handbag?) A Practical Guide to Google & SEO in 30 Mins


Introduction: Donʼt Panic!
Online PR, Social Media, SEO and all this new-fangled web marketing stuff isnʼt witchcraft. Itʼs easy. Itʼs all about good content and smart implementation. This handbook gives you all you need to: • Run your own Online PR and Social Media campaigns • Understand the Basics of SEO (in a non-scientific way) • Disarm even the snootiest web consultant with an impressive array of best practises • Evaluate Online PR and Social Media consultancy services more comprehensively • Sleep more easily at night. (Donʼt worry, youʼll see all this new Interweb stuff isnʼt a threat: itʼs a low cost opportunity to do some really exciting and measurable marketing work)

About C&M
C&M is an uber-hot Online PR agency based in the UK. It uses a variety of groovy new web marketing techniques to help its clients win new friends and influence people. C&M works with industry-leaders like IBM and Cisco, plus hot shot contenders like open source development firm Squiz. It also works alongside large marketing and PR agencies such as Text100, delivering Online PR services as part of an integrated full service programme.

About The Author, Roger Warner
Roger founded C&M in 2008. He has over 15 years experience in web and PR-related communications – including a lengthy stint as Director of PR for IBM Europe, and running campaigns for HP, Toshiba and other household names. His favourite Thunderbird is 2 and heʼs obsessed with cricket and teaching his young son Lucas the art of wrist spin. 2

Online PR Campaign Planning: The C&M Fab Five Rough Guide
Here at C&M weʼve racked up a fair number of years in the marketing game, and – despite the grey hairs now showing – weʼre more excited than ever about the potential to create and execute wonderful, resultspacked Online PR campaigns.
Of course, this hasnʼt always been the case.  Before the web – and in particular the brave new world of web 2.0 – you needed extremely deep pockets if you hoped to move the needle.  Many of us would have sat in planning meetings a few years back wondering what the hell we were going to do to justify our fee or salary. To do good PR used to mean having either the resources or the assets to convince reporters that you were ʻhotʼ enough to write about for their magazine – and if you had neither, then it was probably best (and cheaper) to simply not turn up. Today, this is far from the case.  Good PR today is Online PR, and good Online PR represents just about anything and everything you do on the web. Iʼve written about some of the fundamental differences between old PR and Online PR elsewhere, so wonʼt dwell on them here – suffice to say that any company with an ounce of ambition and a browser can make an impact right now through Online PR…

This, then, is C&Mʼs Rough Guide to planning an Online PR campaign.  We have FIVE rules for you, but before we dive in, weʼd like to make the following points absolutely clear:
Anyone can do it You donʼt need to spend a fortune, but you do need to commit human resources to make an impact Everything is based on the publication of superior content You donʼt necessarily need an agency to do it for you 3

Online PR doesnʼt really translate well to campaigns:  itʼs a process and youʼre either in or youʼre out

If this sounds a little different than PR 1.0 to you, then great – so it should.  Itʼs also incredibly exciting and liberating.  So letʼs crack on….

Online PR Rule 1:  Have Something to Say and Say it (Get Some Attitude!)
The first rule of Online PR is nobody talks about Online PR.  No, scrub that – bad joke.  The first rule is, in fact, make sure you do have something to talk about and then talk about it all of the time. Think about this one for a minute.  In days gone by it was virtually impossible for any company of any size to say anything to its marketplace unless theyʼd just split the atom or landed a man on the moon.  PR 1.0 decreed that your main outlet for communication was a press release, and, as mentioned, it was only ever worth creating one if it was to have an audience. (Not that this stopped us – I pity the poor reporters who used to (and still do) fence calls from young PR execs on the importance of the release of version 5.1.3 of Sprocket X!) In other words, in the bad old days of PR, to talk to the world you needed a press release, a receptive reporter and a magazine willing to publish your story.  There were other ways, of course, like publishing your own magazine or advertising in the FT or on the TV, but these things tended to be out of reach for the majority of us. Today, we have web sites, blogs, content management systems, and email tools, and itʼs incredibly easy to publish our news, views and opinions.  We can cut out the middle man and go straight to the interweb, right!? So far, so obvious.  But reminding you how easy it is to publish is an important point to make, because to build an effective Online PR machine you need to adopt a new attitude. This isnʼt particularly simple because itʼs behavioural.  The machine needs feeding, and the only way to do this is to throw off the shackles of PR 1.0 and to start publishing your stuff on a regular basis. 4

Instead of filter, edit, polish and then publish, your new mantra needs to be PUBLISH FIRST, THEN FILTER.  (Read Clay Shirkyʼs excellent new book ʻHere Comes Everybodyʼ for a snappy review of this trend.) Donʼt sit on your ideas, conversations and stories and expect to lay the occassional golden egg… Get some some new attitude.  Get your content out there.  The cost is zero and the upside is huge.  (And you donʼt need to subcontract this if you donʼt want to…) More of the benefits below.  For now, hereʼs some publishing tools to help you spread your word easily and cost effectively…

Our Rough Guide to Online PR Publishing Tools
Blogging Tools:  Wordpress, Blogger, Moveable Type Open Source Content Management Systems:  MySource Matrix (disclaimer, Squiz is a C&M client), Alfresco Micro-Blogging Tools:  Twitter, Pownce

Online PR Rule 2:  Help People to Find You
I sat through a meeting last year with a Hollywood Exec who had been asked to bring his wisdom and philosophy to the Online PR space.  His closing words were ʻIn Space, Nobody Can Hear You Scream.ʻ  Now, despite his rants about production values and the spirit of Ben Hur, I left the meeting impressed. His point was this:  all this new-fangled publishing is just posturing unless you can get people engaged with it.  The web is a big old space, and itʼs easy to sink without trace. Rough Guide Rule to Online PR number 2, is then, is to get out there and get yourself noticed.  How? Well, there are already a bunch of well trodden paths, ranging from paid-for (eg, Pay Per Click advertising) to more traditional PR-ish ways (eg, have an online magazine or influential blog write about you).  But these arenʼt the most exciting because in our book theyʼre not the most cost-effective.  The best ways are free… Here they are… Firstly, identify and participate in important blogs, magazines and forums.  This is simple and essential.  You ought to be keeping a running book on all of the most influential media (blogs or otherwise) in your space, and have someone dedicated 5

to monitoring them and contributing to them by way of comment posts, contributed articles, responses to questions, posing questions and providing feedback to other participants.  In doing this youʼll build both awareness of you and your company and also some important link equity for your SEO.  More of this in a moment… Secondly, publish your stuff on platforms other than your own.  Issue your (now plentiful) press releases via online news hubs.  Submit your thinkpieces to article submission sites.  Maintain profiles on social media destinations like YouTube, Flickr, Viddler and Squidoo and publish your content assets on them.  All these activities will establish a footprint for you beyond your own backyard and will help to persuade influential people – prospects, partners, media, etc – to come and visit your site.

But the real payoff for feeding an Online PR machine with a steady flow of content is in search engine optimisation (SEO) – more of which comes next…

Our Rough Guide to Blog, Social Media and Buzz Monitoring Tools:  for identifying content and debate related to your brand…
Google News Alerts Technorati Search Monitor This Social Scan Twitter Search

Our Rough Guide to Online PR Distribution Hubs and Article Submission Sites: for propagating your content on sites other than your own…
PitchEngine FastPitch ClickPress Sane PR PR Log e-articles


Our Rough Guide to Social Media Sites:  for maintaining a profile and posting your content…
YouTube Flickr Viddler Squidoo SlideShare Scribd

Online PR Rule 3:  Help Search Engines to Help People Find You (an SEO Primer)
When it comes to thinking about Online PR, the Godzilla in the room is SEO.  Put simply, everything you publish online, in whatever format and on whatever platform, is Googlejuice. Depending on your objectives, you might want to think content publishing first and SEO second, but whichever way you look at it, you canʼt ignore the fact that your Google PageRank is 100% dependent on your publishing efforts. Iʼve written here about the mechanics of SEO, how to do it properly and why your content publishing efforts are so important, so Iʼll lay off the science here.  But if you donʼt know much about the subject, just remember this:  your ability to rank well in Google is wholly dependant on your content being ultra-high quality, ultra-equipped with keywords and ultra-accessible to web crawlers. As such, your Online PR efforts have two audiences:  the first is made of flesh and blood and the second is made of lines of code. So, whether youʼre publishing content on your site, participating in forums, commenting on blogs, or publishing articles on user generated content sites, your aim is to please the God of Search as well as a human audience. And this where the Online PR and Content and Search Optimisation smarts come in… Put simply, your goal in SEO is to publish compelling content that will i) encourage people to create backlinks to you in their web sites, blogs and social bookmarking tools, and ii) 7

encourage Google to crawl your site extensively and to index it in relation to certain keywords. ʻCompelling contentʼ in this sense means a) findable, b) readable and c) indexable.  Hereʼs how you make it so… a) Online PR and Content Findability:  AKA Keyword Research Your first task when planning your content is to make it findable. Your goal is to engage with ʻhigh value,ʼ ʻprospectiveʼ customer traffic.  ʻHigh valueʼ means visitors who are engaged with your product/services set and are actively looking for help.  ʻProspectiveʼ means visitors who are new, or relatively new to you/your site and are looking to you as a potential vendor. In simple terms, you need to structure your on- and off-site content using the words that your audience is using to search the web – so that you improve your chances of featuring on the first couple of pages of Google in relation to a given search query. For example, if youʼre in the business of IPTV and your audience is searching around your backyard using phrases like ʻIPTV set top boxes,ʼ then you need to align the language of your content with these terms. There are an abundance of tools to help you identify these ʻkeyword markets.ʻ  Many of them are free.  Iʼve already created a list of great Keyword tools (and related things) for you here…. In the meantime, check out this recent blog post if youʼd like to learn more about the art of effective keyword discovery and how important (but easy!) it is…

Our Rough Guide to Keyword Research Tools
Google Suggest:  tells you average searches per month on any given search term WordTracker:  like Google Suggest but pulls independent data from multiple sources, and can therefore be considered more comprehensive and neutral.  Free version provides data from a small pool of searches; paid for version is extensive. 8

b) Online PR and Content Readability:  AKA Publish the Good Stuff Your second task is to take these keywords and apply them to content thatʼs worthy of being read – by both humans and crawlers.  In simple terms, this is all about researching your market, or having a driving purpose to base your content around. Unfortunately, thereʼs no silver bullet here.  Your content is either going to be hot or itʼs not.  Much of this will depend on your target audiences and how receptive they are to your overriding Online PR objectives, but hereʼs a few ideas to help things fly: Go back to basics and read those journalism manuals.  Creative headlines are what sells copy.  (Coincidently, theyʼre also what will show up on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) as and when you get indexed.)  And donʼt forget to include those keywords! In terms of subject matter, a good dose of Money, Sex and Ambition also helps – but if youʼre out of these, then think of creative ways to frame your content.  Whether youʼre producing text-based stuff, or audio or video, lists are always a good idea because they signal a snappy purpose and state clearly the claims youʼll be making on a readerʼs time:  for example, ʻFive Rules for….ʼ, ʻA Ten Minute Guide to….,ʼ and ʻThree Reasons Why X Will Fail.ʼ Write concise excerpts (meta descriptions) for your content – including your keywords at the beginning.  This ʻmetaʼ content will feature prominently in the SERPs (….more on this below) Try to align your content with the search and keyword zeitgeist.  Use Googleʼs free Keyword tools (like Google Suggest) to get a read on the areas of interest that surround your keyword markets, and Google Trends to see if you can gain any play with the most popular search topics of the day.  For example, you might have a great research report to promote and you may be confident of pick up, but aligning its title with a hot keyword can earn you extra readership and linkage because it will ʻpopʼ that little bit more:  eg ʻFifty Consumer Trends in IPTV Adoption:  Why Christina Aguilera On Demand Just Wonʼt Cut Itʼ

c) Online PR and Content Indexability:  AKA Content Optimisation Finally, having established your keyword set and some marketable content ideas, you have to have laser-like focus on making the content as accessible and indexible as possible – via some strict Content Optimisation work. 9

Hereʼs what you need to do to make your content more Google-friendly: Keep your page titles brief – around 70 characters or less, and use your keywords within them Edit each pageʼs metadata descriptions. Use around 160 characters and ensure your keywords fature prominently. Include a rich variety of keywords in the pageʼs keyword metadata field.  Whilst this used to be extremely important, itʼs not so much any more…. but you ought to do it as a matter of good practice. Use keywords as part of your navigation labeling wherever possible. Also use them (sensibly) in important on-page functional items like buttons, pull quotes, maps, and other such eye candy.

In addition, you should apply the following principles to your on-page content: Make your content chunky – use header tags to split it into bite-sized paragraphs that are easy for crawlers and humans alike to read and understand. (ie, header, para, space; header, para, space, etc.) Use keywords in your headers wherever possible, and wherever it adds value to the process of scanning or skimming the page. Create as many internal links in the page as possible, whilst still retaining a (human) readerʼs focus. Use keywords in the descriptive link anchor text (if youʼre using a half decent CMS, then you ought to get prompted for this). Create as many external links as possible. Use the same approach to anchor text as described above. If youʼre blogging, or using a CMS that uses blog-style principles (and if your front end can accommodate them) then use categories and tags for your posts/pages wherever possible, and try to infuse some keywords in there whenever you can.


Put your most important content at the top of the page. By important I mean the stuff thatʼs full of useful keywords, headings, and links. Save the waffle for later in the page. (Like humans, crawlers get bored easily.) Think of your page as a hierarchy of content. In fact, think like a robot in a hurry. Big, important words and concepts go at the top of the page in big important heading styles. Weave linkage into these areas wherever you can, and try to ensure that this linkage reinforces your big keywords in its anchor text.

If youʼd like to learn more about effective Content Optimisation tactics, then check out this recent blog post – it contains a bunch of practical information on the whys and wherefores.

Online PR Rule 4:  Help People to Help Others Find You
OK, so youʼve created some great content and youʼve optimised it to help humans and search engines find it, but itʼs not time for a tea break just yet. A further consideration is Online PR ʻenablement.ʻ  How easy have you made it for other people to spread the word on your behalf?  Unlike PR 1.0, good Online PR is extremely scalable because it exploits the network effects of the web. A few years ago, notions of ʻscalabilityʼ and ʻnetwork effectsʼ were tied to a practise called ʻbuzz (or viral) marketing,ʼ which, by and large, involved dreaming up humorous video shorts and emailing them to a large list of random people. Then we discovered Malcolm Gladwellʼs Tipping Point, and thought the smart thing to do was to dream up humorous video shorts and give them to ʻinfluentialʼ people whoʼd enjoy passing them on to other people on your behalf. Both efforts were half-baked and not particularly empathetic.  But they did prepare our thinking in a positive way for the new world to come:  Web 2.0 and the FaceBook crowd. Social Networks are fascinating things.  They give an online home to people with common interests.  If you own a community of followers (eg, your magazine subscribers) or can encourage one (eg, around a business or charitable campaign) then you should start exploring them right now.


In terms of Online PR, social networking platforms are superb tools for encouraging people to engage with you and others with similar needs and/or ideas.  An old school example is the forum. Squillions of these things exist on the web, and many of them will deal with your industry.  As mentioned before, our advice is to get in amongst them and start participating…. But when it comes to building your own, or building apps and widgets that sit on a third party platform, we recommend you think carefully before diving in.  Online PR through Social Media is very different to PR 1.0. For instance, thereʼs a difference between using web forums to ʻpitchʼ ideas to influential people and using them to participate in conversations which may influence other people.  The former involves persuading an influencer, and the latter involves being an influencer and helping people to connect with your ideas and services. In our book, Social Networking platforms – and social media in general – serve a far better purpose as tools for participating and facilitating communications activities than for ʻpitchingʼ your ideas. A good example is Barack Obamaʼs brilliantly executed electoral Online PR campaign..  This is big time.  His web site uses the best of the web -  a social networking platform, ʻMyBOʼ, a Twitter feed, etc -  to help people to enable other people to spread the word and get engaged.  He didnʼt just use the web for pitching himself (which is what, by comparison, Hilary Clinton, seemed to do -  use the web as a soap box). So how does this apply to you and your business?  Well, you can start thinking about creating platforms, tools and content that are designed to be taken up and used by interested parties – staff, customers, partners, etc – for engaging with other parts of the web, or for helping them conduct their business more effectively. This can be done at both the micro level and the macro level.  Hereʼs some ideas…. Online PR Micro-Facilitation Make your content easy to link to and/or embed in other peopleʼs sites.  For example, rather than solely hosting and branding your own video, think of the benefit of using YouTube as well:  aside from giving you another potential audience, YouTube outputs code snippets which allow people to feature your content on their 12

web sites.  The same goes for images on Flickr, presentation material with SlideShare, and so on… Make it easier and attractive for people to pass on your content via embedded ʻemail a friendʼ forms. Make it easy to bookmark your content on social bookmarking sites by including aggregation tools within your content, like ʻAddThisʻ.  (In turn, these social bookmarking sites will make your content more available to other people.) Render your content assets in a ʻWidgetʼ format, so that others can access it and feature it on their own sites as (for example) a sidebar feature.  There are now a ton of interesting widget-ization services available, many of which are free and do the work for you if youʼre creating simple tools:  see WidgetBox, for example. If you can find the right angle, create more sophisticated widgets or applications to feature on other Social Networking platforms.  For example, thereʼs been great work done lately by the NSPCC to help donations through FaceBook.

Online PR Macro-Facilitation Create a ʻuser generatedʼ FAQ section or forum for your site, or create a profile via a hosted service like Get Satisfaction.  Allow your customers and partners to engage directly with you and others on support issues. Create your own Social Networking platform for specific activities via hosted tools like Ning, or other Open Source social networking tools.  Good applications for Social Networking environments include:  events management (allow people to meet and greet online); education or training (host your coursework in an interactive space and have people mark it up, amend and improve it); host your fan-base (if youʼre a rock star, or have any following of note!); best practise hubs (share your tips, tricks and insights in information-hungry or ʻexpertʼ environments)

The above examples show you how easy it is to co-opt other people into your Online PR efforts.  Itʼs not a rocket science activity, but one that does need to be treated sensibly.  One mistake to avoid is the ʻBuild it and They Will Comeʼ mentality of many early Social Media marketing efforts. 13

Just because youʼre a brand or you have an audience doesnʼt mean that people will care about your new networking widget.  The most successful applications of Social Networking for Online PR tend to be those that are focused and designed to support a specific activity or application – eg, events support, customer support, and the like.

Online PR Rule 5:  Your Reputation will be SafeGuarded by Your New-Found Attitude
As mentioned above, good Online PR requires a different attitude.  Publish then filter is the way forward, rather than polish, polish and then publish. In many respects, Online PR is a volume game.  The more great content you publish, and the more platforms you publish it to, the better your SEO will be and the more scalable your efforts will become. Whilst this is a reductive view, it nonetheless speaks strongly to one aspect of PR thatʼs even more sensitive in the online environment than it used to be:  Reputation Management. On the web, the idea that yesterdayʼs news is tomorrowʼs chip paper simply doesnʼt exist.  The web is more or less an indelible environment.  Whatʼs published today remains published tomorrow, and will be forever findable via the links that are built up around it.  Indeed, search engine algorithms are built on this premise! So, when it comes to Reputation Management, aside from monitoring whatʼs being said and published about you, your job is twofold: Donʼt publish stupid things that may come back to haunt you (think twice and edit your content sensibly before firing off that angry blog post), and… Publish as much great stuff as you can, encourage good Online PR karma, and have as many pages host your content and/or link to you as possible in a positive way.

The second point is the most important here.  What weʼre talking about is an Online PR insurance policy of sorts, so that when the crap does hit the fan, the weight of your positive footprint outweighs that of your negative.  In other words, if youʼve published enough good stuff, and have built some serious SEO equity around this, then this ought to see you 14

through the bad times… in the sense that Google searches on your brand name are more likely to return the good results than the bad. Hence, Reputation Management becomes a case of ʻmay the best content winʼ….

Our Rough Guide to Reputation Measurement Tools:
Google News Alerts: get alerts on breaking news containing your brand/keywords Technorati Search: a Google search for the blog world Blogpulse: another Google-like blog search tool that allows you to track brand ʻconversationsʼ via graphs Monitor This: get a huge variety of RSS feeds on specific keywords in one place Social Scan: monitor how popular your site is on common Social Media sites Twitter Search: monitor micro-blogging discussions about you in real time

By way of a summary… Online PR is everything that you communicate online.  Specifically, Online PR is an attitude that requires you to publish more high quality content, more of the time in a way thatʼs sensitive to Google and to customers, using tactics that make it easy and attractive for other people to wage your campaigns for you.  Itʼs a continual process to adopt – in particular because these new publishing habits will protect you from storms when bad weather kicks in. Measurement also matters of course, but weʼll save that for another paper sometime soon. The key thing to remember in all of this is that effective Online PR can be free and easy to plan and execute, and that the field is open to companies of every shape and size.

So, no more reading…. go play!


Party Harder: C&Mʼs Five Basic Social Theories of Online PR
Weʼre having an increasing number of conversations with clients who are looking to us for that all-important pixie dust that will drive new levels of awareness and traffic.
No surprise there, right? Thatʼs our job! But rather than sit on these experiences, we thought weʼd do the decent thing and share our insights with you… Nine times out of ten we strike on a a set of common, fundamentally ʻsocialʼ ideas that we know will make 100% of difference – and yet, for one reason or another, they tend to grate with traditional marketing theory. As such, this paper is our attempt to convince you that great Online PR is easy. All it takes is some basic rewiring. The idea is simple: in order to engage with your audiences online, you need to shape your words, messages and tactics around their agendas, not yours. In other words, your Online PR efforts need to be a whole lot more social than they have been up until now.

An Early Digression: The ʻParty Hardʼ Principle of Online PR
Aida Eldermariam wrote a great piece for the Guardian in December 2008 on this very topic. Entitled ʻThe Most Popular Story in the World,” it looked at how news media are adapting their tactics to engage better with a fragmented online readership. She shares the same problem as our clients: how to ensure a message hits home in the manic environment of the web…? Eldermariam draws a super analogy with the social mechanics of a networking party. Imagine itʼs in full-swing and you have an important message to pass on to your fellow 16

guests. You have limited time and resources, and no stooges to spread the word on your behalf… How do you do it? Do you… a) Stand on a chair in the middle of the room and shout your message repeatedly? b) ʻSpeed dateʼ by shaking the hand of everyone at two minute intervals, cranking out the message whirlwind-style as you go? …or c) Mix, mingle and meet folks, and – when you find the nice guys – pass on your message in the context of a conversation (and in the process encourage them to go spread the word on your behalf)? Unless you carry the charisma of Jack Nicholson, then options a) and b) are out. Actually, theyʼre counter-intuitive – theyʼll probably alienate you. (Who are you? Why should I care? Jesus – go away!! Somebody call the authorities!!!) The point is, of course, that when youʼre operating in a loosely structured environment like the web / a party – an arena where nobody ʻownsʼ the terms of engagement – the best way to communicate is by being more social. Yet we seem to miss this point on a consistent basis. As Eldermariam describes, the crux of our problem is that when it comes to the web (or newspapers, or any form of mass communication) thereʼs “a great tension between what people want and what we think they need to know.” Weʼre so obsessed with the importance of our message – and so ignorant of our audienceʼs wants and needs – that we seem content to bleat without direction into outer space. In practice, we run elaborate flash banner campaigns (hey, give me that big chair to stand on – Iʼm gonna try to shout the LOUDEST!), and we build reams of funky little microsites (hey, screw this, nobodyʼs listening…letʼs have our OWN party!). A much better approach is to listen first, and then do the talking. We should try to understand what our audience cares for before we open our mouths. Effective web marketing does this in spades, just like the good guys at the party. They get their message 17

across (and get all the traffic) not because they shout the loudest, but because theyʼre the most engaged and the most engaging… In other words, itʼs all about being more social. With this in mind, hereʼs our five Basic Social Theories of Online PR… (We recommend you print them out on nice glossy paper, stick them on your wall and then bake them into everything you do online…)

C&Mʼs Basic Social Theories of Online PR
1) Listen up! Donʼt attach names or labels without taking counsel
Launching a new piece of content or a new site without first understanding the language of your marketplace is Online PR suicide. SEO 101 teaches us that in order to make our content ʻfindableʼ by users and ʻindexableʼ by search engines, we need to work within the linguistic framework of our searching public. Itʼs easy to understand the psychology of search via tools like Google Suggest and Wordtracker – both will give you an instant read on the keywords your audience is using. Your job is to take this vocabulary and weave it into the fabric of your content: in site names, urls, page titles, meta descriptions, headers, links, and so forth. For example, if you provide a slicker-than-average ʻpersonalised tone serviceʼ for mobile phones, you may want to position yourself as something bigger and groovier than a plain old grubby ringtone …but your customers wonʼt be making that distinction. They donʼt even know you exist. You might prefer to call your stuff a BingTone or a HumTone, but theyʼll be searching for a plain old ringtone. And if ringtone isnʼt at the heart of your content strategy, then rest assured youʼll be off the Google map and missing a stack of motivated traffic. Getting these principles right is whatʼs known in the trade as Content Optimization – and you can learn how to do it here. Itʼs inherently social: itʼs all about talking like a customer, and itʼs the most cost-effective way of generating the right kind of web traffic.


2) Be interesting: create noteworthy content (make people laugh, mad and/or excited)
Whenever you create content you have a choice to make: you can work hard to engage with your audience, or you can choose to be lazy and just crank the stuff out. This dilemma is what separates good Online PR from bad. Your primary goal is to find a home for your message. Your secondary goal is encourage people to spread it on your behalf. As such, you should do everything you can to make your content interesting and worthy of emailing to a friend, bookmarking, commenting upon, or linking to. If you can encourage people to do this, youʼll achieve a wonderful snowball effect (formerly known in ʻcreativeʼ circles as ʻgoing viralʼ). In simple terms, a reference to your content on someone elseʼs blog enhances your ʻfindabilityʼ in the true sense of a referral. Itʼll also help your SEO because it represents a ʻbacklink,ʼ which makes you more desirable to the Greater Google God. As such, you should ask yourself what itʼll take to frame your next piece of content in a more desirable, funny and/or controversial fashion. Tools like Google Trends, Twitter Search and BackType will tell you what the world is currently searching for and talking about. Use them religiously and try to find ways of embedding relevant and popular themes into your work. At the same time, other more basic formatting ideas will make your content more enticing and accessible: for example, you could re-cut that white paper as a natty, controversial list rather than a long boring essay. And you might find the right angles to change your product literature into cool three minute VoxPops video shorts. Another thing to consider is the inclusion of ʻsocialʼ tools that will make it easier for people to pass your content around and/or bookmark it. Itʼs a simple task to embed an ʻemail a friendʼ widget and a social bookmarking tool at the bottom of your page templates; and you really ought to provide an RSS feed for all your content as default. In addition, there are a number of great ʻwidgetʼ tools to help you create ʻContent Feedsʼ for FaceBook, desktops and web pages – so that users can get hold of your content when and where they please, without having to visit your site.


3) Party harder: seek and you shall find. (Donʼt expect folks to come to you!)
The most profound idea in Online PR playbook is the ʻgive to getʼ rule. Your content could be optimised to the max, super-hot and super-sharable, but if you donʼt work hard to hawk it around then it still might still miss the mark. This principle is all about operating within your target markets. Once your content (or web site, or widget) is ready, you need to make it stick by seeding it in the most vibrant, influential and interesting places. Tools like Addictomatic, Google Alerts, Twilert (for Twitter), BackType, and MonitorThis will help you to keep a close watch on the most active and relevant communities of the web. Theyʼll all provide you with a daily dose of alerts based on your chosen keywords. Theyʼll also allow you to identify and follow the most influential people within a given debate. Itʼs powerful stuff! Once you have this ʻsocial targetingʼ knowledge, your task is to actively participate in the right hot spots and to seed your ideas and content. You should be commenting on and contributing to other peopleʼs blogs, forums and profile pages on a daily basis, and generally getting engaged with the conversations that youʼd like to be part of. Like the party analogy, you need to be a social butterfly. And if you can do this effectively, we guarantee that youʼll soon be able to steer the debate. (In addition, tuning in to communities, debates and forums is simply the best way to get new ideas for new content. When you participate you become part of your own focus group, which takes the guesswork out of content generation.)

4) Be a good social citizen: give your content away freely and generously
This idea ought to be common sense by now …But we still see firms that are obsessed with locking up their finest content assets in secure zones that only reveal their secrets in exchange for a name, an email address and an inside leg measurement. This approach is crazy. Itʼs you who should be working hard to generate buzz, sales and leads, not your customers! You invest stacks of time and money to drive people to your web site, so thereʼs no sense in locking people out. 20

In our experience, when you take away the sacred ʻweb to leadʼ form, the effect is always positive: you open up more keyword-rich content for Google to index and you enable more people to distribute it freely on your behalf. What you lose in ʻleadsʼ (and Iʼd question that term strongly – how hot-to-trot can a web sign up ever be!?) you gain in increased visibility and distribution. So, if you havenʼt done so already, get your content out in the open today. The same goes with any non-core tools and services that you create. When you give peripheral value away for free you generate respect, trust and loyalty. A great example thatʼs close to home for C&M is SEOBook. If you ever need a steer on the science of SEO then look here. You can pay to buy the book or attend the courses, but the site also gives you a stack of fantastic free tools to help you do better SEO work. As a result, SEOBook makes a lot of money and has an incredibly loyal following. Even better, its decision to give much of its value away for free has had an immensely positive effect on its Google performance on ultra-competitive keyword searches like ʻSEO tools.ʼ (Note: because much of their stuff is free and because I love it, Iʼm linking to the site here and adding to that SEO equity. In this respect, ʻfreeʼ and ʻusefulʼ approaches can really become virtuous.)

5) Be socially useful: donʼt build unnecessary content services
This last point is an extension of ʻfreeʼ thinking. ʻFreeʼ is only good if itʼs also ʻrelevantʼ and ʻuseful.ʼ Your latest whiz-bang content widget will only be successful if it ticks all of these boxes. This point is best illustrated by some negative examples: The celebrity CEO blog sounded like a great idea in 2005 – until we figured out that it had a) no audience, b) nothing interesting to say and c) no real value or utility. (So we ditched it and replaced it with a product development community blog, which is now going great guns.) Likewise, the FaceBook widget that lets users connect and share their passion for SprocketWise version 5.7 is also doomed to fail. It may be free, but it has no purpose. (Iʼll stop now. This one really gets my goat!)

The point is that all of these new-fangled widgets, platforms and content services can really help us to sell, support, and educate in more sophisticated ways – but only when 21

theyʼre used in the right context. Social networking platforms are great for hosting virtual ʻbefore and afterʼ a conference session. Theyʼre superb for any product or service that has an inbuilt community with a passion for sharing information. But they tend to fail when theyʼre built for the hell of it. So make sure you can prove their value before you start working with them.

Conclusion: Great Online PR is Social
I started off by saying that effective Online PR grated with more traditional marketing techniques. From our perspective, itʼs important to let go of yesterdayʼs ʻcommand and controlʼ approach to communications. In todayʼs web-dominated world, the winners will be the firms that are able to listen and tune in to their audiences before they embark on the next big thing. This is what we mean by a ʻsocialʼ approach to Online PR. Itʼs not happy or clappy, itʼs just common sense. Do a bit of research first, understand your users wants and needs, and then give them a little of what you know they want. In other words, make like the good guy at the party and work the room. You donʼt need an MBA or a degree in Marketing to do this well.


The Five Step ʻShut Up, Listen and Spinʼ Guide to Online PR and Social Media Agency Work
Question:  How many Online consultants in flip flops does it take to screw up a good marketing plan? Answer: Normally just one, but weʼve seen whole agencies go ʻtribalʼ on a perfectly sound set of ideas on more than one occasion. Youʼll be pleased to learn that weʼre a different kind of consultancy (we own sensible shoes and  often wear suits to meetings).  Taking the pretentious out of PR, this paper is designed to demystify all this hip digital marketing stuff and show you how we normally execute a basic Online PR campaign – in under 10 pages!   Itʼs quite simple really:  all we do is shut up, listen and spin.  Hereʼs our five step guide…

1: A Good Online PR/Social Media Agency May Ask You to Shut Up
This first step is arguably the most important aspect of good Online PR and Social Media strategy. If our clients are good talkers but not so good at listening then we politely request their attention. Shutting up is really important because, as youʼll see, great Online PR programmes are never just about ʻme, me, me!ʻ  For this reason, we never normally advocate building an ʻAcme Corpʼ Facebook widget or a dedicated social networking platform straight out of the blocks. ʻIf we build it, they will comeʼ was never a great maxim for the Interweb.  Instead, we recommend some of the following…


2: Listening & Learning is a Good Online PR/Social Media Agency Skill
This is good marketing 101: understanding what your customers. We always do a spot of research before we dive in.  The goal is to get a feel for the kind of language that our audience is using in relation to our stuff, and to identify when and where theyʼre actively talking about it. Hereʼs how:

i) Keyword Research
Using Google Suggest we can quickly tune in and learn how people are searching the big, bad Interweb for our specific product/service offerings and the things that are related to them.   Ideally weʼll find that our content commands a decent level of search traffic.  Just how much will depend on the market weʼre in – obviously one would expect less traffic for B2B terms and more for B2C… But whatever the case, this research will show us whether our current marketing language is in tune with the people that are out there looking for us.   Itʼs easy to understand how keenly contested these ʻkeyword marketsʻ are in relation to the rest of the web.  We just plug them into Google to see how many other pages are out there ranking for the terms.  Our aim is to find some keyword ʻsweet-spotsʼ around which to optimise our work …In other words, a set of descriptive terms that are well searched for and not particularly well used by our serious competition.

ii) Blog and Twitter Research
Next we apply everything that weʼve learned to Google Blog Search, Technorati Search and Twitter Search to see if these tools can reveal whoʼs talking about us and where theyʼre at.   Once weʼve identified relevant blogs and/or forums we can get a very concise feel for how ʻinfluentialʼ they are by running them through analysis tools like Link Diagnosis and Xinu (in basic terms, if a site is popular and influential, itʼll have a lot of links pointing to it – particularly from places like Technorati and delicious).  Having done this we make a note of the good ones and bin the rest. 24

iii) Research our ʻHigh Net Worthʼ People
Next we use BackType to get a handle on the blogs that our most influential people are reading and to understand how these people are interacting with each other.  BackType is basically a tool that lets us ʻfind, follow and share comments on the web.ʼ In simple terms, once weʼve established a set of keywords and people to follow, BackType alerts us to their presence whenever they show up in blog comment strings. It helps us to stay abreast of all the latest influential chat and to ensure that weʼre monitoring in all the right places.

iv) Stay Alert…
We also create a bunch of Google News, Blog and Video Alerts for all of our most important keywords, so that whenever somebody so much as sneezes on our patch weʼre the first to know about it.

v) Stay on Top of Things.  Create a Social Media Dashboard…
At this point, the prospect of so much data is probably making you itch.  But donʼt worry – the Dashboard is where we pull everything together in one place.  All of the ʻlisteningʼ information described can be accessed via a series of RSS feeds and aggregated into a simple Dashboard like the one below. This Dashboard is a central part of our work – itʼs our window onto the web.  Itʼs also one of the primary mechanisms for seeding our content effectively. 

From left to right we have a variety of ʻtabsʼ that provide important feeds on all of our brand-related terms and keywords from Google, MSN, delicious, Flickr, Twitter, and other key services.  In addition, we have tabs that relay every new posting from competitor blogs, partner blogs and keyword-related blogs.  We also have a variety of tabs dedicated to specific blog comments in relation to our target people, blogs and keywords.  And finally, thereʼs a tab for all of our keyword-related Google Alerts. 25

Our ʻdashboardʼ is created using Netvibes, but you could just as easily use any RSS reader.  The important thing is that itʼs web-friendly so that it can be published as a page for a distributed teamʼs perusal.  The other thing to note is that Campaign Dashboards are highly addictive:  theyʼve been known to kill mornings, evenings and weekends at single sittings – so use them wisely!

3: Social Content is the Key to Online PR/Social Media Agency Spin
ʻSocial-nessʼ is the magic ingredient of all great Online PR. Our primary goal is to find the right homes for our messages and to optimise them (with keywords) to resonate with our audience. Our ʻlisteningʼ research and  dashboard help us to write good targeted content and learn where it needs to be seeded. Our secondary goal is to ʻspinʼ it… to encourage people to pass it around on our behalf. In order to achieve this, we do everything we can to make it interesting and worthy of Tweeting about, blogging about, emailing to a friend, bookmarking, commenting upon, or linking to (ie, we make it spin-ableʼ). If weʼre successful at this then we achieve a wonderful snowball effect (formerly known in ʻcreativeʼ circles as ʻgoing viralʼ). Basic formatting ideas for Online spin can help. For example: if our clients have great spokespeople, we can make their demos more enticing and accessible by re-cutting them as (lo-fi) Vox Pop videos. Blog posts can be redrawn as useful ʻCut Out and Keepʼ charts, and best practice white papers can be re-edited as simplified ʻTop 10ʼ lists. Traditional ideas of spin are also essential.  Wherever possible we try to ensure that our content is aligned with the current news or ʻbuzzʼ agenda within any given market.  This is all about identifying the dish du jour via our dashboard (i.e. via Google, Twitter Search and BackType) and then integrating it with our core content.   Hereʼs a trivial example… It snowed here in the UK yesterday and, as usual, the country was brought to a standstill (nobodyʼs sure quite why, but it always seems to happen whenever the weather gets extreme).  Within an hour or two a popular meme was spreading across the Twitter-sphere.  Everyone had something to say about #uksnow, and so a Tweet using the phrase ʻuksnowʻ became a surefire way of driving traffic to your content.  Smarter applications of the same idea are fairly easy to come by – all you need is a nose for news, an intelligent way of tying your ideas to it, and a little bit of hustle (i.e. 26

spinning yourself into the right online media pieces, blog posts, comment strings, and Google search traffic). We also use simple web apps that make it easier for people to pass our content around and/or bookmark it – such as ʻemail a friendʼ tools, social bookmarking apps like AddThis.  And we always ensure that everything we do is published via RSS feeds. We also create simple content ʻwidgetsʼ via services such as WidgetBox with which users can plug our content into their own sites and profile pages (eg Facebook) at their leisure. Finally, we always try to be free with our ideas.  We ask all of our clients to give away any useful-but-non-core tools and services that they have.  We do this because giving away peripheral value usually creates respect, trust, loyalty and – most importantly – something worthy of being linked to.

Additional Publishing and Distribution Thoughts…
So much for the ʻspin.ʻ  At a practical level, we need to publish effectively so as to maximise our chances of getting noticed in the first place.  To do this we use some fairly basic tactics: We publish our content to the most appropriate channel on our target web site:  i.e., the ʻresourcesʼ channel, the ʻtoolsʼ section, the press release page, etc (which in turn should be published via our RSS feeds).  This puts the content in the public domain for random browsers and returning site visitors. We blog about the new content (which also gets RSSd).  This gives us a second opportunity to promote our content by alerting those people who tune into our blog on a regular basis (via RSS or directly). We issue an online press release and/or a social media bulletin to announce the availability of the new piece.  This might get us a little coverage on other online channels (blogs, media, etc), but most importantly it establishes some third party backlinkage to our new web pages – something that Google likes and that will tend to have a positive (although lower level) impact on our search rankings.  We bookmark it via social bookmarking sites (eg, delicious and Stumbleupon) in line with our core keywords (often referred to as ʻtagsʼ on these services).  This puts it in the face of other like-minded people who are using these services to help their 27

browsing or search activities.   (Note: we never abuse these services.  Their true value lies in the communal effect of lots of people bookmarking lots of different web pages in relation to any given keyword/tag – so that fellow users are always presented with a rich and varied stream of relevant content.  We would be doing more harm than good to the wider service if we were to only bookmark things that belonged to us (in fact, some services like StumbleUpon will actively ban users who use their system for solely bookmarking  their own content).  This should never really be an issue, however, if youʼre using these services for your general bookmarking needs in your day-to-day work.)  We Tweet about the content on our own personal Twitter profiles as well as the campaign profiles.  This places the content in front of all of our current Twitter followers.  In addition, when keywords are used sensibly (as in the #uksnow example above) it also places it in front of people who are actively searching for related material on Twitter (either Dashboard fashion, or via Twitter Alerts (see Twilerts) or on an ad-hoc basis). We also publish the content ʻoff-siteʼ to relevant Social Media channels, using optimised profiles which have been set up in advance to support the campaign.  For example, we publish video to YouTube (and embed the results in our blog posts), photographs to Flickr and articles to Scribd.  Again, this places our content on other networks that have pre-existing communities that are – if well researched – already proven to be interested in the core keywords used to optimise our content.

We do all of the above to distribute our content, raise awareness of it and drive web traffic.  Because this activity depends on fixed assets such as the size of our team, the number of Social Media profiles we create and the general volume of our web traffic and blog following, it can only go so far.  This is why ʻGoing Socialʼ is so important to our work…

4: Engagement – the Mother of Online PR/Social Media Agency Spinning
Going Social really is the magic ingredient.  To go stellar we need to rely on more than our own distribution efforts: we need to invite other people to spin on our behalf.  This is where our ʻShut Up, Listen and Learnʼ principles come into play. 28

Our Listening dashboard gives us a view on whoʼs saying what in relation to our content.  It also tells us where and when.  We use it religiously to get engaged with the people, communities and forums that are likely to be most interested and therefore most willing to help us spread the word. (And, if weʼre smart enough, itʼll help us to find people that want to work with us and buy things from us at the same time.) ʻGetting engagedʼ in this way isnʼt rocket science.  All it takes is time and commitment. Weʼre talking about developing relationships with people and places, so itʼs nothing new (good PRs have always been great at doing this).  Itʼs worth remembering that a PR relationship is for life, not just for Xmas… so we always start as we mean to go on and give as much ʻutilityʼ as we can over the long term to each person, platform or community.   In practice this generally means getting involved in debates related to blog posts and Twitter streams, the giving away of something valuable (content, tools, widgets, etc) and generally just being a good citizen by participating fully so that the overall value of the relationship or target platform increases over time.  In short, we give a little to get a little… and if we can establish a good, professional (or fun loving) rapport then our counterparts are likely to reciprocate, get engaged with our content and spin it on our behalf amongst their networks and communities.  Itʼs a virtuous reciprocal circle of spin…    

Step 5: Online PR/Social Media Agency Measurement
Lastly a word about measurement, because in cash-strapped times like these, no campaign would be complete without it.  Itʼs important that we demonstrate progress and justify our keep.   Our general approach to measurement is quantitative and ʻby whatever means necessaryʼ.  I say this because weʼve learned over time that itʼs not particularly helpful to throw random rubrics around with our clients.  What they really need is a set of metrics that are a) understandable and b) applicable in a useful fashion.  To this end, weʼre not particularly big on ʻfavourabilityʼ or ʻsentimentʼ reports, but do like to create hard numbers and graphs that can be cut up and used in Powerpoints by VPs of Marketing and MDs.  You can check out our general menu of quantitative Online PR and Social Media measures here. We use it as a ʻpick and mixʼ for any given project, and usually focus on the following areas: Conversions: number of sales, sign ups, registrations, etc. Basic Web Site Metrics:  visitor stats, bounce rates, etc. 29

PageRank: have we moved the bar on Google and increased search visibility and traffic potential? Engagement: volume of blog comments, re-Tweets, media mentions, followers, etc.

…and thatʼs all folks.  An Online PR / Social Media Agency campaign from A to Z in 10 pages.  Itʼs now my turn to Shut Up, Listen and Learn.  What do you think….? Send me a comment or five over on the Blog channel…


QuickStart Guide to Content Optimization: Better SEO Content & Keywords
This best practice paper doesnʼt beat about the bush.  Nope.  Itʼs our QuickStart guide to Content Optimization and how to radically improve your Search Engine ʻIndexibilityʼ (…and hence your SEO) by creating better, more search engine friendly web site content.
Without further ado….

Why Keywords & Content Optimization are so Important to SEO
The New York Times published a great article a couple of years ago that totally nailed the question of why Keywords and Content Optimization are so important to search engines. The piece was written by a reporter who was coming to grips with the fact that he was no longer writing just for his editor and his readership ….but also for a new, third reader called Google. Hereʼs his leader: “Journalists over the years have assumed they were writing their headlines and articles for two audiences — fickle readers and nitpicking editors. Today, there is a third important arbiter of their work: the software programs that scour the Web, analyzing and ranking online news articles on behalf of Internet search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN.” Itʼs a great introduction to how and why we need to rethink our web site content in order to make it perform better for SEO.  In short, creating SEO-friendly content requires two changes to everyoneʼs writing habits…


1: New Types of Keyword Research
In order to understand and address an audience via search, itʼs critical to understand the language that theyʼre using everyday on Google. In other words, instead of just crafting witty headlines, a large part of the creative work becomes a matter of aligning what you want to say with the langauge that you know your audience is using. Tools like Google Suggest help us do this Content Optimisation research with pinpoint accuracy.

2: New Types of SEO Content Skills (Content Optimization)
Google (and others) ʻreadʼ web content in certain ways. For example, page titles, the things that sit in the top (grey) bar of your browser window – are extremely important. Google takes them as an important indication of what your content is all about. From a technical perspective, most good CMSʼs will take this title from the headline that you give to your page. At the same time, Google prefers to read blocks of title text that are 70 characters or less. As such, the scope for creativity in headlines is somewhat changed…. And this is just one Google ʻreading quirkʼ amongst many. (Donʼt worry, weʼll explore some more of them below…) As such, if we want our content to be more attractive to search engines then these two thoughts – keywords and good content optimization – should inform every single piece of content that we generate for the web. Thatʼs it for the theory – letʼs take a look at how itʼs all done.

Keyword Research:  How to Do It
Your aim is to structure your content using the words that your audience is using to search the web – so that you improve your chances of featuring on the first couple of pages of Google in relation to a given search query. For example, if youʼre in the business of IPTV and your audience is searching around your backyard using phrases like ʻIPTV content management software,ʼ then you need to align the language you use to describe yourself with these terms. At the same time, you need to be aligning yourself with a set of keywords in a ʻwin-ableʼ arena amongst competitors: some keywords will have no competition, others will be red hot. 32

In simple terms, this last point creates a ʻkeyword index.ʼ You need to place a calculated bet on where you want to play. Your choice should be calibrated by the following formula: Volume of daily searchers on any given key word (…divided by) Volume of other web pages that are optimised around those keywords You want to engage with as many people as possible that are using search terms related to your products / services. At the same time, you want to position yourself where you can compete, given the resources you have to hand. The challenge is best illustrated by a quick experiment…. If youʼre in the business of software apps for sales support, you might choose to optimise around the term ʻCRM.ʼ This would currently give you an audience of 563 searchers per day on Google. Unfortunately, it would also put you in direct competition with 129 million other web pages that are optimised on that term. Alternatively, if you were to focus your keywords around the concept of ʼsales management softwareʼ youʼd have a total audience of around 50 searchers a day; and using this route, youʼd be up against approximately 150,000 other pages. Clearly the chances of capturing the attention of a ʻsales management softwareʼ searcher are far more likely than for a ʼCRMʼ searcher… But choosing keywords is not just a question of running the numbers. Other branding considerations are also essential to a successful keyword strategy. For example, you need to consider the following things… You brand equity – whatʼs does your overall investment in non-web language mean to this work? What about your sales patter and your product naming conventions? Do these things fit with your keyword findings? Market maturity – does your current searching public really reflect where the market is at? Are you leading them or following them? What stage is your market in terms of possessing a common body of language to describe its problems and 33

requirements? Influential people – are industry analysts setting the market terms? Or are they just spinning far-fetched yarns? Do you need to follow or ignore them? What influence do they have on your customers? Will this influence matter tomorrow? Has it already had an impact? Your resources – can you afford to compete in hotly competed areas? If you have a mega-budget, why not just nuke it out? If your resources are small, can you find smarter keyword arenas to play in? The quality of the data sample – if youʼre playing in niche territories, are you willing to bet a keyword / naming convention on a sample of 10 searchers per day? Once your product category matures, how are the trends going to change?

The state of the nation – can you afford not to play in competitive fields? The above questions should create an interesting debate where branding ideas meet public perceptions of you and your products and services. But ultimately, your keyword choices should be determined by your gut feel and your resources.

Content Optimization: Writing Good SEO Content
Once youʼve established your keywords, you then need to integrate them within your web site content. Hereʼs our QuickStart guide for good keyword implementation.

Technical Page Content Optimization Tips
Here at C&M, we always use a CMS for our client sites. We choose these apps carefully, and always ensure that they let us do some essential Content Optimization and SEOrelated things from a technical and functional page perspective… Because, for good SEO content, there are a bunch of things you really have to do at a technical page level:


Edit each of your page titles independently. Your page title is the thing that will be printed at the top of a browser window (in the centre of the grey horizontal bar, next to your minimise/maximise buttons). You should try and make this title brief – around 70 characters or so, relevant to the page and peppered with a few important keywords or phrases. This is because, like us humans, crawlers tend to use ʻtitlesʼ as a good indication of what the page is about. (NB: donʼt go crazy on the keywords! The page title MUST be readable and easy on the eye to humankind as well!) Edit each pageʼs metadata descriptions. This is the stuff that Google uses to describe you when it displays its results (ie, it gets used as the blurb that sits underneath the page title link in Googleʼs listing for you). As such, this field should describe the page, include a few keywords, and also a call to action like ʻread moreʼ, or ʻfind out moreʼ or ʻget your free offer here…ʼ etc. (Think about it – this globbet of content is really, really important – this is your ʼsales pitchʼ on a Google results page…. so a call to action is a good thing to draw people into the click.) This text should be around 160 characters or less. Anything more will get cut off at the knees. Edit each pageʼs metadata keywords/tags. Whilst this used to be important, itʼs not any more…. but you ought to do it as a matter of good practice. Here you should list all your relevant key phrases, separated by a comma. This could be a big list, or it could be small…. whatever you think appropriate. You should note however, that this metadata field isnʼt really used by search engines as a measure of importance or relevancy any more. It does, however, give them a clue about who you are and what youʼre about. Use keywords in your navigation schemes wherever possible. Also use them (sensibly) in important on-page functional items like buttons, pull quotes, maps, and other such eye candy.

On-Page Content Optimization Tips
So much for the functional and technical stuff. What about the writing? Hereʼs my ultracondensed guide to producing good, SEO-friendly page content….


Make your content chunky – use header tags to split it into bite-sized paragraphs that are easy for crawlers and humans alike to read and understand. (ie, header, para, space; header, para, space, etc.)

Use keywords in them there headers wherever possible, and wherever it adds value to the process of scanning or skimming the page. Create as many internal links in the page as possible, whilst still retaining a (human) readerʼs focus. Use keywords in the descriptive link anchor text (if youʼre using a half decent CMS, then you ought to get prompted for this). This anchor text is basically a descriptive label. It tells a crawler what your link is about. Hence, if youʼre in the business of CRM systems, then your internal link from your home page to your products page ought to include an anchor text that goes something like this: ʻXYZ Corpʼs CRM Software helps mere mortals sell ice to eskimos.ʼ In other words, use a bunch of sensible internal links to help a crawler find its way around your site and learn about what you do in the process. Create as many external links as possible. Use the same approach to anchor text as described above. Whilst internal links are important to help a crawler scoot around your site, external links will help them understand what kind of other web sites you associate yourself with. So, if youʼre in the business of selling small handheld computing devices, make sure you link out to popular media sites that cover this topic and also other vendor sites that compliment you (and even compete with you). The more popular these sites the better – your goal is the bask in their sunlight. If youʼre blogging, or using a CMS that uses blog-style principles (and of your front end design houses them) then use categories and tags for your posts/pages wherever possible, and try to infuse some keywords in there whenever you can. As per the points above, these navigational elements help crawlers to understand how to navigate your site and understand who you are in equal measure…. just like they help us humans. Put your most important content at the top of the page. By important I mean the stuff thatʼs full of useful keywords, headings, and links. Save the waffle for later in the page. (Like us, crawlers get bored easily.) 36

Think of your page as a hierarchy of content. In fact, think like a robot in a hurry. Big, important words go at the top in big important heading styles. Weave linkage into this important stuff wherever you can, and try to ensure that this linkage reinforces the big keywords in its anchor text. In other words, keywords get kind of scored in order of descending importance, depending on where they feature in your content: from page titles down through primary navigation, headers, body text links, bold text and boring old plain text.

All You Really Need to Remember About Keywords and Content for SEO…
In sum, all of the above illustrates that crawlers basically read the way that we humans do – they scan the page and pick out key phrases and content elements to get a sense of meaning. As such, good SEO content should also be good to read…. and to be able to write it is to have a good level of empathy with readers and crawlers alike. If youʼd like to know more about all this new-fangled SEO Content Optimization stuff, then just call us.  Weʼre an Online PR agency that specialises in just this sort of thing :  ) Meantime, if youʼd like to just dive on in and get going on some Content Optimization work, then we recommend you check out our recent paper on Online PR and Content Optimization tools for the masses…


Content Optimisation & Online PR Agency Tools (Whatʼs in Your Handbag?)
As I sashay around London Town on important Online PR and Content Optimisation work, people often stop me in the street and ask: “Hey, how does C&M get such great web marketing results for its clients?”
Frankly, itʼs becoming a drag. Having a bunch of earnest questions flung in your face when youʼre just about to hop into a brainstorm isnʼt wholly conducive to blue-scaping or creamagining, or whatever other super-urgent, creative things weʼve been contracted to do. Besides, we need at least 30 minutes in make up before entering a client meeting. So I thought Iʼd jot down a few of our secrets to help these folks out. This way, the next time we get accosted we can just point people to a web page using a well optimised URL. As such, hereʼs the essential Online PR & Content Optimisation tools which C&M carries in its handbag and uses day in, day out….

Online PR & Content Optimisation Research Tools
Things to help you understand which SEO/keyword markets to attack…

I nearly flipped my lid when I first used this plugin for Firefox. Itʼs a sidebar that – at the push of a button – scans whatever page youʼre on and gives you a read on its keyword volumes and keyword density. It also provides this information as a natty, visual tag cloud for those with autistic tendencies like myself. You should use it for snooping on competitors. If theyʼre good at their game, youʼll learn heaps about why. I promise itʼll blow you away.


Google Adwords Suggest
Just type in whatever keywords and/or phrases youʼre investigating, hit a button and this tool will tell you how many people have used the same verbage to search Google in an average month, and also how many competitors are out there bidding on the same terms as part of their PPC ad campaigns. When it comes to content planning, Iʼd be lost without this one. It tells me whether or not I have an audience for my keywords, and whether thereʼs any competition out there. As such, it helps me know what content to write, how to do it and how to promote it.

Like Google Suggest, but provides (independent) data on keywords from a wider variety of search engines. Basically, it keeps a three month store of activity on Google, MSN and Yahoo, and tells you how many times a day your keywords have been used by the world at large. In addition, it gives you a superb competitive index that tells you how many other interweb pages are optimised for your terms. This is gold dust as it enables you to get a true measure of whether a Content Optimisation strategy is worth pursuing or not. (What looks interesting from a search volume perspective may often turn out to be a monster when it comes to competition!) Costs a couple of hundred bucks a year.

Competitive Online PR & Content Optimisation Tools
Things to help you understand what black magic your competitors are practising…

Keyword Spy
A very smart widget that shows you which other companies and/or sites are using your keywords for their PPC campaigns. Really useful for getting a quick view on who you may be up against on your new Adwords campaign (and for realising which keyword markets to avoid!).

Keyword Page Comparison Tool
From Aaron Wallʼs wonderful This rinky dink tool enables you to grab a quick read on the technical composition of a web page by scraping its title, meta description, meta keywords, page copy, and top keyword phrases and presenting it all back to you in one place. In addition, it allows you to do this stuff on a comparative basis, 39

so that you can do a competitive bake-off between sites. And, even better, it lets you download this data as an Excel file, so you can get jiggy with it when youʼre offline.

Keyword Density Tool
Again, via SEObook, this is a variant on the Keyword Page comparison tool, but gives you a bit more flexibility to include and exclude certain paratmeters. Great to use to get a rapid view on how well your competitors are thinking about keywords and SEO. (I use it to see if competitor pages spit out a range of meaningful words, or just a bunch of crap. If itʼs the former, then I know I need to really get with the program; if itʼs the latter, then I know I can make serious a difference to relative performance with some simple Online PR and Content Optimisation work.)

Online PR & Content Optimisation Dreaming Tools
Things to help you get creative when youʼre in a tight spot…

Google Trends
Very neat service which plots you a volume graph over time for ʻbig fishʼ keywords (phrases that are being used by lots of searchers). Also tells you which geographies this traffic is drawn from, and gives you pointers as to the key news pieces that may have driven keyword interest. Wonʼt give you any data on smaller keyword markets, but certainly provides you with a firm handle on the keyword zeitgeist via its read of daily trends.
Because we all need a little help with our dreamscaping.
Because we also need to spell words correctly, innit?


SEO, Online PR and Content Optimisation Analysis Tools
Things to help you understand your performance and your competitors (and keep you amused deep into the night when you really should have gone to bed a long time ago)…

SEO Quake
The daddy of SEO analysis tools. A plugin for Firefox that sits as an additional toolbar at the top of your browser window. When youʼre on a page, itʼll tell you (immediately) key things like Google PageRank, page index volume, volume of inbound links, volume of external links, and other essential data. DONʼT LEAVE HOME WITHOUT IT!

This is an awesome little service that gives you an instant read on a siteʼs SEO performance across a wide range of metrics. At the press of a button youʼll see key indicators like social media footprint (how often a siteʼs been bookmarked), volume of backlinks (and their source), and number of pages indexed in key search engines.

Google Analytics
If youʼre not using Google Analytics to understand your traffic sources, your top performing content and your keyword performance, then you need your head examined. Also gives good readings on important stuff like bounce rates, time on page, average page views and the like.

Much like Google Analytics, but has a cool feature that shows you which companies are browsing your site IN REAL TIME! (So that you can pick up the phone and harass them.) It does this by checking a visitorʼs IP address against the Whois database. Costs peanuts a year and worth subscribing for this feature alone.


Google Webmaster
Lots of Jedi insider sprockets here to help you understand how often your sites are being indexed and which pages are being accessed. Also shows you what Google actually sees when it gets to your site. Invaluable!

Blog Content Research Tools
Things to keep you in the know and amongst the buzz and gossip…

Kind of like a Google for blogs. Also free. Just type in a search term and itʼll give you back a ream of related (recent) blog posts. You can also do some neat ʻtrendingʼ vs other keywords to get an idea of whatʼs hot and whatʼs not (an essential skill for any Blogsphere Gal-About-Town).

Twitter Search
A Google for Twitter. See whoʼs talking about you and your keywords. Then go and hide if itʼs something you really didnʼt want to hear. A fab time-sink for brands – as you can now see what the worldʼs saying about you in near-real-interweb-time. (Or at least listen to the Twitter crowd to check whoʼs bitching about you.)

Run of the Mill Online PR Tools
Things to help you spread the word and generate some backlinks at very little cost… Iʼll make it a list. They basically do the same thing: distribute your press releases around the interweb at next to no cost. Very handy! (They also tend to use clunky spliced verbs in their brand names. Go CheckWatch them out!) PitchEngine FastPitch ClickPress Sane PR PR Log Thatʼs it. Need more? Get in touch! 42

A Practical Guide to Google & SEO in 30 Mins
Letʼs face it, effective search engine optimisation (SEO) counts for a lot. Just about every purchase involves a Google search at some point, oftentimes at the very beginning. If youʼre website doesnʼt come out high in the Google rankings, itʼs time to get to work. You can hire expensive consultants, spend a lot with the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) agencies… or you could read this paper and do it yourself. It will give you a simple set of non-technical guidelines for improving your web siteʼs performance in all major search engines. Regardless of your level of familiarity with the subject, it will arm you with new thinking on how to tackle the your SEO challenges more cost-effectively. In short, this paper will help you to ʻSEO like a Proʼ – without major investments in external consultancy services… because SEO is not a black art. Itʼs simple. There, weʼve said it. Now weʼll show you how to do it.

Framing SEO: What it is and How to Approach it
For the sake of this paper, weʼll refer to Google as our target search engine. Google enjoys an overwhelming market share as the most popular search engine, and the principles that drive it are largely employed by other search engines – eg, Yahoo, MSN, etc. Weʼll work to the premise that whatʼs good for Google is good for the rest. We also need to make a distinction between ʻnaturalʼ search and ʻpaid forʼ search. Natural search results are those returned by Google in the main (white) content area of your browser. ʻPaid forʼ search results are those returned in the highlighted content cell at the top of the page and the sidebar to the right. Theyʼre referred to as ʻSponsored Linksʼ by Google and are generated, as youʼd expect, on a paid for basis – ie, the more money I pay Google, the higher my ʻSponsored Linkʼ will appear in a listing. 43

This paper is all about enhancing your natural search performance. Obviously, this is the more strategically important of the two as these results are perceived by users to be ʻunbiased.ʼ

Why Search Matters
Before we describe the core principles of SEO, itʼs worth considering why it should be so important to us. Regardless of what type of business youʼre in, your web site is now your primary point of contact with customers old and new — and the majority of these interactions will be mediated by a search engine, because ʻsearchʼ is how we happen to navigate the web. Your goals ought to be to exploit the way Google is used to: Drive relevant and qualified traffic to your web site; and…. Learn more about how people perceive your products and services via their search behaviour Note: the primary emphasis here is on understanding people, not technology. You first need to grasp how people are using Google – the technology stuff comes later, and relates to how youʼre able to align your web site with these usage patterns. In short, weʼre talking about understanding the language that people use to search for you, and the psychology behind this. As such, SEO is first and foremost a marketing activity, not a technical activity. It works on the basis of helping search engines find you via the provision of superior web site content and adherence to solid web principles. Over time, this practice should also help you to better understand how and what youʼre selling, as your SEO tactics will need to be guided by the language and behaviour of the people who are searching for you. Everything else is of secondary importance when it comes to enhancing your Google rankings. Importantly, this means that ugly web sites may perform better than good looking sites. From a design perspective, your challenge is to ensure that the look and feel of your site is compelling enough to retain interest, whilst at the same time adhering to the implementation practices that weʼll describe below.


Another important point to note is that SEO for SEOʼs sake is a bad idea. Your goal should be to attract qualified users to your site, not just any old rabble. This is because the flipside of increasing traffic is that it carries specific costs – such as rising bandwidth and the amount of resources that you apply to the effort in the first place. For example, a mobile network infrastructure company that Velocity works with needs to attract prospects that are interested in their specific technology – people who are interested in ʻfemtocellsʼ as opposed to ʻmobile phones.ʼ If we were to optimise the site on the latter search term, we may well increase overall site traffic, but we would be unlikely to increase the companyʼs revenues. So, to ensure that your SEO work is cost-effective, your primary aim is ʻconversion.ʼ Youʼre really only interested in generating the traffic that generates a sales lead, downloads a white paper, signs up for an event or registers some other form of interest in you. For this reason, your SEO efforts ought to be focused on the web pages that ask people to register, buy, download and subscribe….as opposed to your homepage. (Directing users to your homepage will result in unnecessary wastage (or drop out) as they will undoubtedly find something else to do other than click through to the pages that really matter…..although, of course, you may also want to encourage general browsing). In sum, our advice is to treat SEO as follows: SEO is a marketing exercise, not a technology exercise, and should be done by marketing people. Understanding and practising good SEO is first and foremost about understanding how your users behave when searching, and then applying this logic to how your web site is constructed. Your approach to SEO should be governed by conversions – to purchasing, etc. Therefore your home page is NOT your most important web page, your conversion page is.

SEO Principles: the Complex Bit
When someone conducts a search, Google presents them with a series of links based on relevancy to the search term. Obviously, itʼs your aim to feature at the top that list so as to incrase the chances of having people click through to your site. 45

This much is clear. But to promote this likelihood, itʼs necessary to understand how Google actually works. Google uses its ʻPageRankʼ algorithm to evaluate and sort its search results. Much like Coca-Cola, the inner workings of this algorithm are a closely guarded secret. However, its general working principles are well documented (see and Google describes PageRank as something that “relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual pageʼs value.” In practice this means that Google “interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B.” In addition, PageRank also analyses the page that “casts the vote,” and assumes that “votes cast by pages that are themselves ʻimportantʼ weigh more heavily and help to make other pages ʻimportant.ʼ” In essence, Google practices a form of web-based karma, whereby it values your page more if itʼs well respected – ie, linked to – by other web pages. So, the number one factor that determines your position in a Google search is the number of external web pages that link to you. Now, if this were to be the sole determining factor, then we could all pack up and go home right now. Your job would simply be to propagate the number of linking pages out there on the web, whilst focusing on gaining links from the more important web sites (ie, from CNET, as opposed to the Kennel Club of Bow). But Google is smarter than that because it “combines PageRank with sophisticated textmatching techniques to find pages that are both important and relevant to a search.” What this means is that Google looks at how pages are linking to you and how relevant to the search term your page content is. In other words, there are good ways and not so good ways for pages to link to you, and – critically – the way in which your web pages are composed will have an enormous effect on whether or not Google thinks they are relevant or not. This, then, is the technical bit. In order to influence Google and encourage it to view your pages as relevant, you need to know how it thinks….and, armed with this knowledge, you also need to tell people how to construct their links. Weʼll deal with this shortly. 46

In the meantime, you should also note that your site must first be discovered, or ʻindexedʼ, by Google, and that Google does this via the use of software that crawls the web looking for, reacting to, and evaluating links (according to the PageRank algorithm). This software is called a crawler, a spider or a search bot – but most commonly ʻbotʼ for short. When a bot discovers your pages it ʻindexesʼ them by storing a copy of them on Googleʼs servers. In turn, when someone conducts a search, it is these copies of your pages that Google presents to users as a series of links, ranked by relevance to the search term. OK, so thatʼs all the science we need to know for now. Itʼs really not that complex. As mentioned before, the key to better SEO lies primarily in understanding how your users are searching for you, and applying this logic to the way that your site is built. You see itʼs all about keywords!

Think Like Your Customers (Key Words Part 1)
The point of ʻkeywordsʼ is to convince Google that you are what you say you are, and that youʼre therefore relevant to a userʼs search query. And itʼs at this point that traditional marketeers tend to run for the hills or hastily organise a focus group…..because the only way to convince Google that youʼre relevant is to use the exact same language as your customers and prospects. Now, itʼs worth reflecting for a moment on what this really means. Remember your last marketing summit, where senior management assembled with sharpened pencils and powerpoints to streamline your corporate messages? Well, skip that stuff, because Google doesnʼt care for it – in reality, one companyʼs ʻpersonal messaging and productivity optimising platformʼ is really just an average users ʻemail software.ʼ You get the point…. The skill in identifying key words lies mainly in being brave enough to describe your products and services in the real, everyday language that people actually use. Hereʼs a general formula to keep you honest: if the answer is X, then what was the question? Or, if I sell email software, what kind of questions might users be asking in order to discover me? Perhaps something radical like ʻemail software for Windowsʼ??!! Naturally this is heresy for traditional marketing thinkers…..For whereʼs the differentiation? Whereʼs the USP? And hereʼs the rub – successful SEO depends on not being different, 47

but on being the same. Or just samey enough if you practice it well enough. Because however unique you may wish to treat each individual customer, your customers donʼt really want to treat you in a unique way. Thatʼs just asking them to work too hard – to remember a different message or word for every company under the sun. In cognitive terms, we merge concepts into groups and create labels for them – and thatʼs good enough. So, email is email and nothing more. There are exceptions to this rule of course. If you are Pepsi or Budweiser then you have the marketing budget to bend minds and make people think just like you want them to. But, for the rest of us, we have to move with the crowd and identify ourselves in ways that are already part of your target audienceʼs psyche. The trick is to find a sweet spot and go for it. But where to start? Well, focus groups may be an idea, but a more cost-effective approach is to investigate your search logs to see how people have arrived at your site (ie, see which search terms theyʼve been using historically). Or there are a number of freely available tools that can show you the popularity of specific search terms and associated data such as the number of pages on the web that contain those words. Hereʼs another crude equation that can help (we use it here at Velocity): first of all, you need to establish whether or not your keyword is relevant by understanding how many search terms are conducted on it per month (letʼs call this number ʻAʼ); then you need to get a sense of who youʼre competing against, or the number of pages already out there that use that same phrase or word (B). So, in order to establish how hard it will be to attract interest and rank well in Google, itʼs a case of dividing the number of searches (A) by the number of pages that might provide a search result (B)….and perhaps making that number a percentage term to give you a notion of probability. As mentioned, the tools listed at the end of this paper will get you these numbers, but what you need to discover is a place where your chosen key words can co-exist happily amongst the competition – giving you as much chance as possible to be discovered. For example, the phrase ʻOpen Source Content Management Systemʼ is relatively popular as a UK search term (over 74 searches last month). Coupled with this, the phrase ʻOpen 48

Source Content Management Systemʼ has a reasonable presence on the web (59 million related pages are indexed in Google). As such, using our formula, the chances of a user stumbling across any given ʻOpen Source Content Management Systemʼ page is 0.0001%. By comparison, the term ʻopen source CMSʼ was searched for 130 times in the same period, and yet there are only around 6.5 million pages indexed with that term….meaning that users have a vastly improved 0.002% chance of finding any given ʻopen source CMSʼ page. Now, donʼt be put off by the decimal points here, because there will always be more web pages than searches (think about it, if there was only one web page per search, then SEO would be so damn easy….and I wouldnʼt be writing this paper!). Just treat this as a simple way of establishing what kind of market youʼre playing in and how hard it might be to grab peoplesʼ attention. The next step, then, is to take this maths and apply a bit of science to it in order to improve your chances of getting spotted – ie, to change that 0.002% number into something more positive (since the previous formula was based on a very even playing field – without taking any ʻoptimisationʼ practices into account). To give us this competitive edge we need to understand why, in the eyes of Google, no two pages are created equal and apply some smarts to the way in which we build our web site. In other words, we have to….

Think Like Google (Key Words Part 2)
Weʼve already stated that itʼs not ʻrocket science,ʼ so weʼll keep the technical stuff to a minimum. In a nutshell, all you need to do to make Google happy is ensure that your content is King (or Queen!). As mentioned, Google is not human. It uses bots, not eyes, and so in general it prefers words to pictures (ie, jpegs, Flash animations and video). It also likes your content to be updated as frequently as possible, to give it an excuse to come visit you more often and ensure that your page ranking is as up to date as it should be. And it likes to be lead very, very clearly through your content, just to make absolute


sense of it and to be sure that you are what you say you are (again, thereʼs no scope for subtleties – youʼre communicating with a bot, not a real human being!). As such, hereʼs some content rules that Google likes: Focus your content efforts on the pages that really matter. Pick a few and stick with them. They should be the ones that you really want people clicking through to as a result of a search. (This is unlikely to be your home page, and more likely to be your key products pages). More is more. Update your content as often as possible. Make it dynamic. Suggestions: write a blog; post press releases for anything remotely interesting (donʼt save all the news for the annual report!); write opinion pieces and white papers (guess where this oneʼs going to appear soon!?); and if you have a ʻback catalogueʼ of content (manuals, user guides, old articles, etc), then use it….anything to add to the volume of your content and the frequency at which itʼs published! Where possible, let your site users take the strain of content production: create discussion forums for them; enable them to post reviews and/or comments to your pages; again, anything that adds to the volume of content on your site and its frequency. Use those keywords and use them well. Optimise your pages around your key terms in a sensible way, ensuring that humans as well as bots can read them. Common sense should prevail here – and you may find that you get penalised by Google if you ʻstuffʼ your pages with too much key word content. As a measure, if your colleague can make sense of your pages then its good for Google. If s/he canʼt then itʼs not.

With this in mind, hereʼs some technical guidelines on how to implement your content: Try to make your site name and/or your index page a keyword. You can see this by the text that appears at the top of your browser – it will always give you the name of the page that youʼre browsing. And if your pages have no name, then shame on you….name them! Ideally, your content management system will enable you to do this as an editable piece of content, and you wonʼt need to re-code anything at all.


Help humans and bots to understand you by structuring your composite page elements consistently and elegantly. For example, your style sheets should have a clear delineation between headers, in terms of font and text size, and your images should all carry alternative text tags so that they can be read by machine readers. In addition, your links should also be labelled with descriptive title tags and scroll bar tags (ie, the text that appears in your scroll bar when you hover over or click on a link). Exploit your page structure in terms of key word usage. Your page is composed of a hierarchy of elements, as described above – page header, header styles, navigational links, images, bold text, etc. Like a human, when a bot scans a page these are the elements that make a first (and lasting) impression. Use keywords within them – embed key words in your navigational scheme, use keywords as page headers, use them as image ʻaltʼ tags, etc…. as a rule, use keywords for as much of your descriptive and/or directional content as possible, and think in hierarchical terms – eg, a keyword as a page title is worth more than one buried in your page content. When thinking about how long your pages should be, again, think human. As a guideline, 300 words is a good length to keep each page – this makes them easy for bots and people to read. Any less text and it becomes difficult to optimise your key words without making the page look stuffed. Any more text and your content will become unwieldy – both to read and in terms of its production (of course, the creation of content is an overhead!) ….and finally, just because youʼre publishing a web site, donʼt be limited in terms of distribution. Get your content out there using RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds, so that users can pick it up in formats other than directly via your site. RSS, for example, allows people to receive your content directly within their RSS ʻreaderʼ application of choice, without having to visit you. Publishing content in this way also allows other web masters to take it and re-purpose it for their own sites – ie, they can plug your RSS feed into their site, and (re)present it to their users….which should be encouraged since this will create more web pages that link back to you. In fact, ʻonline PRʼ also works in a similar way, and weʼll discuss this below…

OK, so much for the content production 101ʼs – all of the above advice is designed to help Google see you more clearly. The next thought is to help Google understand you…. 51

Dress for Google: Some Content Optimization and Site Design Tips
As mentioned above, itʼs a shame, but because Google is geeky by nature, it doesnʼt always appreciate beautiful web sites. Itʼs just not wired that way. Instead, Google prefers to take its time to get to know you via some formal design and implementation principles – and beauty is very much in the eye of the beholder because ugly sites can, and often do, win. When it comes to site design, your aim is to engage Googleʼs search bots for as long as possible in order to help them to get familiar with you. Here are some things to avoid: Overuse of Flash: because Flash doesnʼt subscribe to the ʻsay it with textʼ rule. Now, donʼt get this wrong, because Flash is a wonderful thing – it helps to beautify and communicate – but donʼt do all of your talking with it, because search bots canʼt get at all those precious key words that Flash files contain within. Overuse of image files for key page elements: because, as already explained, Google bots canʼt read images as easily as they can read text. Which is disappointing, because often your navigational labels may look better when rendered in a snazzy font with little icons by their sides….but if you go this route, youʼre not helping Google to ʻreadʼ you. The use of files over web pages: for example, the use of a pdf download page rather than rendering all of that pdf content as html pages. As before, the trick here is to help Google to read you….and what Google likes to read best is html. So, whilst pdfs may be great for downloading, sharing and printing, why not render that content through a ʻprint friendlyʼ design template? Or why not present both html text and the option to download as a pdf? Overuse of password protected zones: because, in the same way that youʼre locking humans out, youʼre also locking Google out. So, think carefully about the balance of content that youʼre putting behind these firewalls. If youʼre a magazine or a publisher you should at least put a snippet of your password-protected content on view to Google and the public. This way a sub set of the key words get indexed and become searchable. (Alternatively, you can always talk to Google about how to enable its bots to get behind your firewalls, without compromising your premier content). 52

In short, when it comes to good, SEO-friendly design, the things to avoid are all the things that are bad for general site accessibility…which means you need to try to present your content in a way that bots and other software programs (eg, text-to-speech apps) can ʻread.ʼ Further guidance on good accessibility design can be found via the W3C consortiumʼs Web Accessibility Initiative (WIA) at: If you follow this advice then Google will love you! Having listed the taboos, there are a number of design and implementation best practices to be encouraged. These are the type of things that encourage bots to spend more time indexing you and getting to know you. For example: Submit your site map to Google, in a Google-accessible (XML-based) way. This way, Google can really get to grips with what you are. For further information, see: For page navigational elements – such as your main navigation scheme and title links for ʻpush boxesʼ (eg, a listing for ʻLatest Press Open Source CMS Newsʼ) – use key words wherever you can. As mentioned above, Google will view this stuff as carrying more ʻmeaningʼ than standard page text. Also, try playing around with your navigation scheme – it may be beneficial to users and bots alike to have some level of repetition going on within the page. See http:// for a great example of this. At the bottom of the page, they have a very subtle ʻquick linkʼ navigation scheme that repeats the main scheme…so that users can jump straight to ʻCRM Newsʼ etc. And now look again at these links. Yup, is a CRM application vendor. These links promote ʻCRM Support, CRM Events, CRM Investor Infoʼ, etc…. all in the name of great SEO. You should always encourage the use of human-readable urls. Once more, this helps both bots and humans to understand whatʼs going on on the page (from a human point of view, just think about how we receive links – often in the body of emails – and so http:// is of much more use than http://$123-7 !!!). An extension of this thought is to build key words into your url schemes. Any decent CMS should enable this.


You should also encourage both users and bots to explore your site in more depth by providing what is known as ʻdeep linksʼ on your key SEO pages. For example, present a listing of your last six blog entries on a key landing page (with headlines that are all optimised). This will prompt search bots and users to go follow them and index/read even more of your site content. Metadata should always, always, always be optimised around key words and this should always be designed into your page layouts to maximise its effects. For example, if you use custom metadata for page descriptions – such as a press releases synopsis – then you ought to ensure that this is rendered as the intro text on the main press release listing page. This way, bots and users are told what the page is about before they go and click on the page link….and this content can be optimised accordingly. The use of internal page linking should be encouraged, particularly when using key words as the link description. Again, as an important piece of page content, a link helps Google to understand what youʼre really about and get to the pages that really matter. OK, so thatʼs some basic design and implementation advice. Letʼs stick with the ʻrelationshipʼ metaphor for a moment, because the next element to consider is how to attract attention to yourself… and the best way to do this is to be promiscuous.

The ʻGive to Getʼ Rule
Now, getting your name known around town and within Google is not as sordid as you might imagine. As mentioned above, the first principle of SEO is to increase the number of web pages that point to your site (or your optimised page). There are a number of ways to do this: Become notorious: spend lots of money on advertising via Pay per Click (PPC – to be covered in a separate, upcoming white paper), banners, offline ads, offline PR, etc…such that you capture the imagination of searchers everywhere through paidfor placement of links and have them search for you – robot-like – in the language that you prescribe.


Become even more notorious: monumentally succeed or screw-up…such that everyone writes about what youʼve done online and links to your web site. (Actually, this might be the sordid option! Become charming: encourage lots of other web masters to link their pages to yours. This is otherwise known as a partner or reciprocal linking plan, and is encouraged highly. It takes time and effort, but using the ʻgood web karmaʼ / Google PageRank logic that we previously mentioned, it can be hugely beneficial – in the sense that working hard to make the BBC link to you will have a positive pay off. (Whilst working less hard to persuade the Kennel Club to link to you is of dubious merit.) Whichever route you take, always try to ensure that the reciprocal links are relevant – ie, the BBC should only be a target if you are a in a related industry. And remember what Google described as its ʻsophisticated text-matching techniquesʼ because accepting links from nefarious sources on the web (there are plenty on offer) does not tend to pay – for example, setting up or participating in ʻlink farmsʼ or cloning your sites into ʻringsʼ that all point back to the same source using the same content. Our advice is donʼt do this because Google will find you out. (This is in fact your second sordid option!) Become smart: use some freely available tricks and tools to get your name out there as much as possible and have pages linking back to you.

Weʼll focus on the final option. Here are some low maintenance and cost-effective ways of punching above your weight and generating links back to your web site: Submit your web site to Google, and other major search engines (see the ʻToolsʼ section at the end of this paper for links and guidance on how to do this). Add your site url to the Open Directory Project ( I wonʼt elaborate here – but itʼs important because Google uses it as the basis for some of the ways in which it indexes sites. Submit your url to as many free business directories as you can (eg, Yahoo), and as many paid-for directories as you can afford (eg, the Yahoo Shopping directory). For all of these submissions, your aim is to get listed, and hence create another web page with a link back to your optimised page (reminder – this may not always be your home page, but your action or ʻconversionʼ page).


Encourage your team to maintain their own web properties and have these link back to your site. For example, have people refer to your site via their e-cademy profile page, or via LinkedIn, or SoFlow, or FaceBook. Have them build a Squidoo lens ( that links to you….Encourage them to maintain their own personal blogs and to say complimentary things about your products and services, and have them link to you using appropriately (optimised) language. Issue your press releases via free online distribution hubs such as ClickPress, PRLog and others, and fill your press releases full of links to your key pages. (Note: this is an entirely machine automated process, and, unlike normal PR, its goal is not to generate media coverage but to generate new web pages with links.) See the ʻToolsʼ section below for a list of online PR distribution services.

Further to this, you should note that there are good links and bad links, as already mentioned. Hereʼs an example: Good: Visit Velocity for their magic <a href=” papers“>tech marketing white papers </a>! Bad: Visit Velocity for their magic tech marketing white paper,<a href=”http://“>here</a>! You donʼt need to understand too much about html to tell the difference, other than the fact that example 1 optimised the link around the phrase ʻ tech marketing white paper,ʼ whereas example 2 optimised the link around the phrase ʻhere.ʼ

Now in terms of these linksʼ value to our business, example number one is better because itʼs imparting some level of understanding and association within the code, whereas example two tells us nothing of who and what Velocity is all about. A great example of how this plays out can be seen by Googling the phrase ʻclick here.ʼ Youʼll notice that the Adobe Acrobat download page comes out on top. This is because people have been placing pdfʼs on their page next to a link that tells users to ʻclick hereʼ to get Acrobat Reader if they donʼt have it already. Now, this is a fun example because just about everyone already has the application. But personally, Iʼd be kicking myself if a partner web site decided to link to my product in the same way (by using ʻclick hereʼ as the descriptive element of the html) because I know that 56

when people search for a tech marketing white paper, ʻclick hereʼ is not the term theyʼre going to use! So, itʼs important to ensure that external and internal links are constructed properly, and that where possible you can influence web masters to do it your way, using your keywords. So much for design and implementation and getting your name and links out there. There is one other significant way to help boost your SEO, and thatʼs….

Conclusion: Start Now!
To summarise, most of the things we need to care about in SEO are the same things we should be doing to make our web sites more accessible and more readable (and I would say enjoyable) for everyone. The key here is that good SEO requires an absolute devotion to ensuring your content is kept on track at every possible point – and this means placing key words in page headers, navigation labels and the like, as well as describing your products and services in a language that makes sense to normal human beings. The design and implementation tips that we mention ought also to be common practice to any decent web developer / designer, and the fact that a content management system can help make this stuff second nature ought not be a surprise. So, to conclude. SEO isnʼt a black art. Itʼs not even a grey area. It can be practised effectively by everyone and, to cover the key elements, this neednʼt be an exercise that requires a stack of cash or a bunch of overpaid, under-aged consultants!

Useful Tools
OʼReilly PDF guide to SEO Google Toolbar (to measure a siteʼs PageRank) Alexa Toolbar (to measure a siteʼs comparative performance) Overture Inventory (for investigating key word popularity) Google Analytics (for measuring your siteʼs performance – eg, top pages, search terms, etc) Opentracker (as per above, but with some extra cool tools – eg visitors by company) 57

Useful Web Sites/Online Tools word-density/ word-information/

Useful Publications
SEO Watch SEO Book Search Marketing Gurus SEO Moz

Online PR Distribution Hubs
ClickPress PR Leap PR Log Sane PR


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