Writing for the Web in 2010—New Search Strategies
Takeaway notes from a Search Engine Strategies webinar. By Aliza Bornstein, copywriter, Melissa Data
Publishing content on the Web is more than just
distribution. A lot of benefits and business
objectives can be achieved when you optimize your
content for search engines. One of the biggest
benefits is being visible for things your audience
is looking for when conducting searches. Visibility
increases credibility, which results in greater
exposure for the products and services you’re
selling on major search engines like Google, Yahoo!,
and Bing. Being visible helps attract both customers
and journalists looking for new topics to write
stories about. Optimizing your content for search
engines also helps give you search visibility for
candidates that might want to work for you, or
customers that are looking for support information.
Fundamentally, if something can be searched on, it
can be optimized.
Let’s start with the definition of SEO (Search
Engine Optimization): “A set of methodologies that
make it easier for search engines to find, index,
categorize, and rank Web content.” The definition
has changed quite bit over time, but it really comes
down to content and links. With updates like
Caffeine, we see the bubbles where the importance
can really vary. No one will have anything to link
to unless you’re publishing content. No one will
have anything to find in the search results unless
you’re publishing content. Links act as the
electricity for the content, and these are the core
Google ranking basics
You’ve got to fish where the fish are, and the fish
are at Google. Google is #1, with 65.7 percent of
the market share (per comScore 2009). Yahoo! trails
a distant second place with 17.3 percent market
A lot of people who are new to SEO don’t understand
the basics of how Google does what it does. When you
search Google.com (or any other search engine)
you’re not searching the live Web for the most part,
you’re searching a copy. So Google sends out
software programs (called “spiders” or “bots”) that
operate like a browser. These bots follow links that
they know about to find fresh content. They make
copies of the text and content, and if they find any
new links, they follow them and they make copies of
that content as well. Then they bring it all back
and organize it into an index. They continue to
revisit those links to find if anything has changed,
and to discover new links that will lead it to new
All of these “copies” which include different types
of documents from Web pages, images, video, tweets,
etc., are collected into a big repository to serve
up the most relevant matches Google will use: user
searches; user location/login ID; words matched in
the index; etc., to present you with a long list of
customizable content with the most relevant links at
the top of the page.
The following are Lee Odden’s top 10 SEO tips for
Tip #1: SEO tactics—only do one thing…
A lot of people ask “If I could do only one thing to
further my SEO tactics, what should it be?” The
technical answer is: It depends on the problem. The
real answer is “make sure the site is crawlable.”
That means remove any technical barriers for the
search engine bots from finding, crawling, and
interacting with the content of your site. It means
having navigation that’s crawlable. Also, make sure
your URL’s aren’t creating any difficulties and that
there’s no infinite loop traps. If you’re not an SEO
specialist, you need to talk to IT or your Webmaster
about making sure your site is being included.
Tip #2: PR tactics that affect SEO
There are four main PR tactics that affect SEO.
1. Press releases. Press releases are something that
a lot of companies publish and you can optimize them
like any other Web document.
Tip #3: How to choose the best keywords
2. Letters to the Editor. If there’s a publication
in your industry that publishes letters to the
editor online, you can find a topic you can optimize
with your keywords and write in a compelling opinion
piece. This is something that can rank in search
results—just be sure to include links!
3. Online newsrooms. There are repositories of
newsworthy information about a company: press
announcements; media coverage; archived webinars;
white papers; case studies; etc. They’re all content
and they include different media types that can be
optimized for search.
4. Media kits. Corporate blogs and individual
documents (whether they’re Web pages or not); and
white papers (whether they’re html or .pdf) can be
optimized for keywords.
How do we choose the best keywords? Through a four
step keyword search. Start by brainstorming phrases
and then move onto importing a keyword search tool.
Google provides six keyword research tools: Google
Google insights and trends; Google trends;
WordTracker; Keyword discovery; SEMRush.com. After
you import the tool of your choosing, find which one
is the most popular and provides the most variation.
Finally, create a keyword glossary.
Who is your target audience and how do they think of
You want to associate keywords with categories,
primary phrases, derivatives, permutations,
popularity, relevance, competitiveness, etc. If you
use a keyword research tool it will give you a
metric that’s relative so you can compare your own
keywords to each other, and how often people are
searching on those phrases. Then do other types of
research that will tell you how competitive and
relevant they are to your existing content so you
can uncover what areas of optimization you need to
execute on. A keyword glossary will help you manage
the execution of content optimization for what
you’ve already published, and will guide you with
your content strategy in deciding what type of
content you’re going to publish going forward.
Tip #4: Basics of on-page SEO. What do you do with
the keywords? You can use title tags, keyword
placement, on-page titles, navigation links, body
copy, keyword text links, image alt texts, or URLs.
In a structure of a Web site in terms of on-site SEO,
think of an organizational chart where you have top
level concepts and they’re supported by subordinate
concepts. You want to make sure that they link to
each other in a way that’s meaningful. Everything
needs to be logical and structured to make it easy
for both consumers and search engines to find what
Tip #5: Press release optimization tips
To get more from press releases from a search
perspective, you need to research what keywords are
relevant for that individual press release. Don’t
try to optimize one press release for 10 different
phrases. If you optimize for a large number of
phrases, then each of those phrases is going to
compete with each other. Focus on singularity when
optimizing a single document like a press release.
If a press release can have a call-to-action, it
will inspire click-through. Make sure your press
releases are distributed or available through an RSS
Tip #6: Newsroom optimization tactics
If you don’t currently have a newsroom you should
think about incorporating one. A lot of content
management systems publish newsrooms in such a way
that they archive press releases chronologically—and
that’s it. From a keyword standpoint, that’s not
very useful to people or to search engines. Try
using blog software (Wordpress.org is a free one) as
an easy way to add a search engine- friendly
newsroom to a website. You can customize it,
optimize it, and add plugins.
Make sure you make it easy
Make it easy for consumers of your newsroom content
to save and bookmark or share what they find there.
Include keyword categories so press releases,
announcements, or whatever you’re putting up in your
newsroom, are archived chronologically and according
to keyword category. Make sure you add site search
on the newsroom so people can conduct a search if
they don’t see what they’re looking for. Make it
easy for them to subscribe through an RSS feed and
optimize whatever documents you’re putting in there.
Make sure you’re cross-linking between the
announcements or content you’re publishing on your
newsroom with the corresponding pages on the
corporate Web site.
Tip #7: Link building fundamentals
Creating great content is wonderful, but if no one
knows about it to link to it, then you’re at an
unfortunate disadvantage. It’s important to realize
that when you’re publishing and optimizing news
content you take full advantage of maximum linking
opportunities. Links are like electricity. They can
literally light up your content in the search
results. Content and links have a yin yang type of
relationship. Great content will attract links,
especially if you promote it. Earn links with that
great content and have a content strategy where
you’re intentionally identifying target audiences,
keywords, and what kind of content you’ll need to
publish to meet your readers’ needs.
Promote your content socially by growing social
networks. Make sure you’re distributing and
syndicating your news content to those different
audiences if that’s where your target audiences are
spending their time.
Tip #8: SEO and social media promotions
Social media and search have a reciprocal type of
relationship. If you optimize social media content
for search, it can influence the discovery of new
members to your community. If you’re publishing
content on a social network externally and people
can find that content in standard search results
like Google.com, then you can grow your community.
People who are looking for subject matter experts or
resources on a certain topic will probably join your
online community—if they find answers there that
they seek. As you share contact with that community,
a lot of people could take that content and write
about it, and that can increase links back to you.
Inspiring people to have discussions and making it
easy for them to share are all part of the search
and social media relationship. It can benefit
getting your news out there and best optimize your
news content you found through search. You want to
layer social media tactics with SEO at the point
when content is created. You might do that by
intentionally optimizing video or tweets according
to certain keywords from an infrastructure
Tip #9: Measuring and selling the value of SEO
Communicating the value within your organization can
be done by using advertising in commonly understood
metrics or dollar values with pay-per-click
advertising, and associate that with what you’re
achieving through optimized news search. You can
take a look at your new search ranking versus
another company or competitor, and you can look into
how much it would cost to achieve those types of
rankings through pay per click. Then, see how much
it would be worth to you.
Tip #10: SEO don’ts
• Use keywords that are more important to you than
• Overuse keywords; aka “stuffing.”
• Over-rely on “tricks” to gain advantage.
• Over-rely on Key Performance Indicator (KPI)
measurements like ranking.
• Forget to link using anchor text.
• Rely on text alone—use media: images; video;
• Forget to be really, really nice to your IT dept
or Web developers.
• Ignore measuring all aspects of success:
placements; links; mentions; traffic; page
social impact; inquiries and conversations…short and
It’s about links and content, and it’s very
important that you have a content strategy that
speaks to the audience you’re trying to reach so you
can meet their needs. In many cases, you will also
need a social media strategy to increase your
channels of distribution.
---Source: Search Engine Strategies
webinar on Jan 20, 2010. Lee Odden is the CEO of
TopRank Online Marketing (www.toprankmarketing.com).
website, software or database with
easy-to-integrate data quality programming tools
and web services.
Save money on postage using leading
mail preparation software and other
direct marketing products.
Update & standardize addresses and
find out more about contacts in your
Find new customers perfect for your
business with our online and
specialty mailing lists.
Locate the business information you
need such as ZIP Codes, address
your free copy of the Melissa Data product catalog.