Category Archives: Search Engine Optimization

Writing for SEO Part One: Basic Optimization Tips and the Logic Behind Them

In a lot of ways, writing for SEO, or search engine optimization, has come full circle. Search engines first appeared in the early 90’s and have been evolving ever since. And while the early ones were not very efficient, it was common knowledge that the best way for writers to get people to seek out and read content on the Web…was to make sure it was good.

It’s just common sense to write informative and readable content, right?

Sure, but when Google introduced PageRank, an algorithm that ranked individual Search Engine Optimization - Magnifying GlassWebpages in search engine results based on specific content criteria, out came the optimizers.

New tactics and techniques emerged that were meant to ‘game the system.’ These optimizers realized that by packing pages full of keywords, hiding text and links, hatching elaborate link schemes, duplicating content in subdomains, and a laundry list of other tricks, they could manipulate search engine results, regardless of the quality of the content.

Not only was this sneaky, it was very frustrating for good writers. Simple, succinct, and high-quality writing was losing ‘rank’ to crummy, jumbled, repetitive, and often irrelevant pages.

Thankfully, in 2013 these practices were put on notice. Google led the charge by introducing new algorithms that promote higher quality content and penalize low quality shadily optimized content.

Google also decided not to ANNOUNCE when it was updating and changing algorithms. Suddenly, as Jim Yu put it in SEO Changed Forever in 2013, “Low quality content is no longer worth the trouble, even for short-term gain.”

Now we are back where we started…being encouraged to write good, compelling content that is easy to find and that is helpful to users and to readers.

Google has stated on multiple occasions that its primary function is to present information—based on search input—that is relevant, accurate, and useful. (This concept, along with some basic optimization ideas, appear in Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide.)

Even though ‘optimization’ may not necessarily be the primary goal for writers, there are still basic things we can do to improve search performance and legitimately serve users by helping Google get them the information they seek.

Today we’ll look a few tips regarding keywords and headlines to help improve performance for multiple types of content on SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages).  In my next post, we’ll discuss optimizing lead and body copy, using links to stimulate SEO, and understanding how images can improve and enhance search results.


It’s no longer a strong SEO practice to stuff a ton of keywords into a page. Too many keywords in copy and tagging dilute relevance for Google. The best practice is to write to the keyword that is most relevant to the topic.

Quick Tips for Keywords:

  • Select one main keyword that describes or matches the primary theme
  • Avoid repeating keywords all over the place (Synonyms are okay; Google algorithms understand them these days and respond positively)
  • Include keywords in headlines
  • Include keywords (or variations) in the lead sentence
  • Include keywords in the URL (this is mainly for blogs and Website page copy)
  • Include keywords in the image description (this too, is mainly for blogs and Website page copy)


A good headline is important regardless of the medium, but when writing for an online audience—one that will most likely use a search engine—it’s important to note that most search engines “cut off” headlines that are too long or too heavy on keywords.  As a result, the description that appears on SERPs can seem incomplete, or worse, irrelevant to the search terms.

In the HTML of a Web page, it’s possible to include a separate title and description that search engines will automatically display.  Legitimately ‘hidden’ in the code, and not visible in the text displayed on the page, this information is called ‘metadata’ and is meant to provide a little more information to a potential searcher who is looking for something specific.  In the absence of defined metadata, search engines often pull a set length of the headline for the meta title. To counteract this uncertainty, here are some quick tips for writing a headline:

  • Include the selected keyword in the headline
  • Make sure headlines are accurate, informative, and succinct
  • Limit headlines to 70 characters or less

Visit our blog again soon to learn about optimizing lead and body copy, embedding links and using images to stimulate search results.

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Capturing the Attention of a Visual Society with Infographics

Every day, the internet is filled with 1.5 billion pieces of content, 140 million tweets and two million videos. We consume, on average, 11 hours of information each day, whether it’s from social media such as Facebook or Twitter, the news, or another medium. How can we retain all that information? Put simply, we can’t. We are a visual society; images capture our attention, which is why infographics provide for a perfect way to reach your audience to get your message across.

Infographics are visually compelling, combining the best text, images and design to capture and communicate complex data in a visual format with potential to go viral. Over the past year or so companies and online news sources have been experimenting with infographics and monitoring results. PR newswire found that including an infographic in a press release significantly increased results. They found that SEO was boosted, attention was kept for longer periods of time and the release was more widely-shared throughout a variety of social media platforms. By transforming a traditional release into a multimedia release, you are attracting a much broader audience.

Infographics are paving the way for clutter breakthrough, which is extremely important in today’s society if you want your content to be recognized. They’re allowing people to “color outside the lines,” and engage their audience in a different way. They get straight to the point, not wasting reader’s time with the fluff surrounding statistics, perfect for displaying statistical data, survey results and comparing research.

Still aren’t sold? Benefits to using infographics:

  • They’re visually compelling and attractive
  • Helps to boost brand awareness
  • Increases your web traffic
  • Potential to go viral
  • Portable (Embeddable)
  • Shows you have an expert understanding on the subject
  • Increases your SEO

Have you had success with using infographics? If so, how did you measure your success?

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All I Need to Know About SEO I Learned From an Urban Adventure Race

Last weekend I participated in a 30 mile urban adventure race in downtown Nashville.

The concept is simple: teams of three to six people are sent on a mystery course around the city to find clues, solve puzzles, and complete challenges. Each teammate is designated as a runner or a biker, and three teammates are required to be on the course at any given time. I’m a fairly new runner and not a biker by any means, but the team said I wouldn’t run more than eight miles, and would definitely not have to bike. Sign me up!

After one of our runners and two bikers returned from a particularly grueling challenge, we solved our last puzzle and discovered that our final task called for three riders to race from downtown Nashville to a studio we were not familiar with to complete a “boot camp” class. We searched for the address online (smart phones were legal in this particular race) and found that the independent studio was located just five miles away, according to listings on Google, Yelp, Bing and Yahoo.

Our riders were cold, wet, and exhausted, so we runners offered to take their place.

You can imagine our surprise when we rode out to the location only to discover that the studio was not there. We ran into a couple other riders, hunched over their smart phones, who informed us that the studio was actually six miles south of where we currently were – resulting in more than a 20 mile ride roundtrip.

Where was this address change listed? Not on any of the major search engines. In fact, the location was updated only in tiny print on the studio’s website. As we began the trek to our new destination, I found myself thinking about how all this could have been avoided with proper search engine optimization.

At the end of the day, we found the studio and completed our challenge. But what can be learned from this experience? If I can’t find your business’ location from a quick Google search, you have lost me as a customer. On a non-race day, don’t expect me to spend fifteen minutes digging through search engines to find you. Make sure you have taken the steps to optimize your business correctly to avoid losing potential customers. To learn more about SEO, visit


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How Simple Changes to Website Images Can Increase Search Engine Discovery

“A picture is worth a thousand words” – or maybe more, if it’s on your website.

Most websites contain images because they are a powerful way to keep visitors on your website longer. Images keep people’s attention and can range from an infographic containing important statistics to an intriguing picture related to your business message. Did you know that images can also help people discover your website through search engines?

Images can be optimized to provide more opportunity to place keywords throughout your site, which can help target more of your relevant keyword phrases. Optimizing your images with target keywords can also increase the chances an image from your site will be displayed as an image result in the major search engines. Although search engines can’t actually see an image (yet), they can determine what an image is all about by reading 1) image file names, 2) title attributes and 3) alternative attributes within the website code. And in those three attributes lies your opportunity.

File names are the actual names of the images that you are using. So when adding an image to your website or a blog post, try to add some relevant keywords (describing your business) as the image file name as opposed to something along the lines of, “pic24464.” This is especially important in the age of image heavy social media sites such as Pinterest, since photo file names travel with a photo (by default) when pinned to a board.

Alternate (ALT) attributes are the words that are displayed in place of an image when the image doesn’t display properly. So it’s an “alternative” way to understand the image. Images that don’t display may typically look like a box with a colorful little icon. These the no image icon from nashville pr firmimages appear less often as more websites and browsers continue to improve how they display images. Search engines, however, continue to use ALT attributes as a way to discover what an image is all about. So if you use an image of a hospital on your healthcare marketing blog, consider describing the image with an ALT attribute such as, “Healthcare Marketing Blog Image of Hospital.”

The same goes for a title attribute when adding relevant keywords. The title attribute is displayed as text when you hover the mouse over a website image. It can be read by the search engines in your website code and should describe the image as well as contain your target keywords (where possible). Be careful not to use the same phrase for the file name, title and ALT attribute as search engines like to see some keyword variety. When in doubt on whether to use keywords versus a more realistic image description, use the better image description. Websites that are more user friendly as opposed to more keyword stuffed will do better in the search engine results.



Making the Most of Your Press Release – Part Three

This is the final piece in our three-part series on SEO-friendly press releases. In Making the Most of Your Press Release – Part One we discussed the importance of keyword selection, headlines and keyword usage. Making the Most of Your Press Release – Part Two followed by covering the importance of backlinks and anchor text. Part three of our series focuses on connecting landing pages, rich media additions and following up after distribution of your release.

6. Landing Pages: A landing page is a customized page of your website tailored to a specific niche. Landing pages allow businesses that practice a variety of specialties or sell multiple products or services to focus on each one in detail with a dedicated page. In part two of this series, we created a backlink to use in our press release that targeted the keywords “healthcare marketing” through anchor text. Our next decision is whether we want this link to point to our home page, covering a variety of topics, or a specific landing page dedicated to healthcare marketing. The search engines will give more value to a backlink that links back to a matching page, so we are better off linking to the Industry Areas page that discusses our Healthcare Marketing capabilities rather than our home page.

how to optimize a press release

7. Rich Media Content: Did you know that YouTube is the second largest search engine? That means there are more people searching YouTube than are searching using services such as Bing or Yahoo. That makes it all the more important to upload video to YouTube and add a link in your release. Adding video to a release has been shown to increase views by 20 percent. As people watch your YouTube video from your release, you also increase your YouTube view count which, in turn, increases the chance that YouTube will more readily display your video in its own search results. Don’t forget to optimize the title of the video with your keywords. Adding images can be a less expensive addition to your release and also increase release interaction. But don’t forget to optimize your image file names and titles with your targeted keywords when possible.

8. Follow-Up: Backlinks are an important part of a SEO-friendly press release but may be left out when your release is picked up by various online outlets. The solution can be as simple as asking the editor to include your backlink in a follow-up thank you note. The worst they can say is, “no,” but we’ve had many cases where editors were happy to include the requested link back to our site. It helps to be as specific as possible by providing the term you want linked and the target page to avoid any confusion.

We hope you found this series on making the most of your press releases through search engine optimization helpful. We’d love to hear your ideas and experiences as well! Please feel free to comment below.


Making the Most of Your Press Release – Part Two

Let’s continue with our discussion on making the most of your press releases with an explanation of backlinks and anchor text. This is the second post in our three part series helping you ensure your press releases are properly optimized for better search engine results. (To review the first three tips, please visit: Making the Most of Your Press Release – Part One.) Previously we discussed the importance of researching and choosing three to five keyword targets and using these keywords throughout your press releases, especially in the main headline. Now we turn to the body of your press release where ideally you’ve been able to include your keyword targets without disrupting your readability.

Using your keyword targets throughout your release is important because it tells the search engines to display your release information or your company website (if linked to from the release) in the search results whenever those keywords are searched. But don’t stop there. An SEO-friendly press release should also include backlinks and anchor text.

4. Add Backlinks. Backlinks occur when other websites display links back to your website, thus the name ‘backlink.’ Backlinks are the currency of the web. The number one way to boost your search engine rankings is to increase the number of backlinks pointing to your website from other websites.

When you issue a press release, you have the opportunity to include a few backlinks inside the release. I recommend no more than three backlinks in the body of your release as too many links may cause the search engines (as well as reporters’ email service) to interpret the release as spam. If the story is picked up and placed online, you will have at least three new backlinks pointing back to your website. This is especially relevant when you launch your release on the wire where multiple services such as Yahoo News! and Marketwire tend to automatically run the release online. One thing to note is there is no guarantee a reporter or news source will include the backlinks from your original release when running the story on the web.

5. Use Anchor Text. Anchor text is when you anchor words to your backlinks. Anchor text lets the search engines know the exact keywords that relate to the website being linked to. For example, we specialize in marketing for healthcare organizations so one of our primary keyword targets is healthcare marketing.  If we have an opportunity to mention healthcare marketing in one of our press releases, we may choose to link those words back to our website. By linking those terms to our main website, we are telling the search engines that they should display our website whenever those terms are searched. In the below example, both links go to the same place but the second link is telling the search engines that specializes in healthcare marketing.

Regular backlink:

Anchor text link: Healthcare Marketing

Anchor text links add value to your backlinks and should be utilized whenever possible in your outgoing press releases.

Continue reading part three in our series on how to optimize your press release for the best search engine results. Please let us know in the comments any questions you have or additional items you would like covered.

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Making the Most of Your Press Release – Part One

Traditionally, press releases were the standard for announcing company news. Corporate PR firms (or the company’s in house public relations experts) would review news to be announced and diligently summarize the information in a well written press release. If the news was compelling, the timing right and the announcement correctly formatted and presented, the story might run in a print publication or even via the broadcast media, and the company’s information would be seen by massive audiences.

Today, press releases are still a powerful way to get exposure for companies but there is an additional customer to consider when drafting a release – the search engines. Ensuring a press release is search engine friendly can gain additional discovery by consumers using services such as Google while also increasing the search engine optimization of the company’s main website. Below is part one in our three part series covering how to ensure your press release is search engine friendly.

1. Research your target keywords. Take time to research your optimal keywords before just including what words you THINK are the best. There are many free (and paid) tools for keyword researching, but I recommend keeping it simple by using Google’s Keyword Tool. Google will provide you information on the amount of monthly search traffic for specific keyword sets including the amount of competition targeting those keywords. Keywords having a high amount of competition are more difficult to target due to multiple sites competing for high rankings for those terms in the search results.  The numbers Google provides are not exact but will give you a good idea on what the top words are for your market. You’ll want to choose the keywords that potential customers search the most while also considering which words have the lowest search competition. You should be able to narrow down your list to three to five target keyword sets, choosing the best one as your priority target.

2. Headlines are still important. Headlines have always been the most valuable part of a press release to help grab your reader’s attention. The search engines know how important the title is in describing the overall message of the release, so they will give more “value” to keywords used in the headline which will help your press release achieve top rankings in the search engines for any keywords used there. So always try to use your primary keyword target in your headline.

3. Write for people. For the past couple of years I’ve advised clients to ensure their content targets PEOPLE and not search engines. A well written press release that is reader friendly is going to go much further than a keyword-stuffed release that can potentially confuse readers. This is especially true due to Google’s recent algorithm changes. (BTW – Google changes its algorithm an average of 500 times a year.) That said, you should still attempt to include the top three to five target keyword sets you selected from your research in the body of your release;  just don’t compromise on the quality of your writing.

Read part two of our series on how to optimize your press release for the best search engine results here: Making the Most of Your Press Release – Part Two. Please let us know in the comments any questions you have or additional items you would like covered.

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Expanding your LinkedIn Network

Earlier this month on the blog, we wrote about the launch of LinkedIn’s new iPad application. Today, I’d like to offer some tips professionals can use to help expand their LinkedIn networks.  With more than 161 million professionals in 200 countries currently using the site, there is surely room for everyone’s network to grow.

#1 Stay Active and Engaged: Unlike Facebook or Twitter, most people don’t log in to LinkedIn on a daily basis.  Unfortunately, infrequent visits to the page can seriously hurt your visibility on the site.  You’ve probably logged in and noticed that you often see the same couple of connections in your feed.  Chances are that those same people are also showing up in their other connection’s feeds as well.  That is because they are consistently active and engaged on the site.  Think of it as LinkedIn SEO.  Whether it’s updating your status, sharing an article or commenting in a group, regular activity on the site is the key to getting your name in front of your connections.

#2 Join Groups of Interest: Search for groups that are focused on industry topics of interest to you.  By joining and participating in these groups, you are unlocking a door to a whole group of professional connections with likeminded interests.  Once you have a joined the groups, send out personalized invitations to members you have had interactions with within the group.  Hopefully other group members will do the same.

*One thing to remember about joining groups is that only a small percentage of LinkedIn’s million groups are active.  Check on their size and activity before joining. Groups that are the most active and worthwhile, typically have more than 1,000 members.

#3 Keep on Connecting: In March, LinkedIn rolled out an enhanced version of their “People You May Know” search feature.  This will pull potential connections, based on who you are already connected with, as well as the content on your profile (make sure you are always freshening up your profile with updated information!). Another great feature for finding potential connections is through their “Alumni” search feature. This will pull potential connections within your educational networks and allow you to narrow the list by industry, company and location.  Of course, you don’t want to send out invitations without a personal note about your interest in connecting.

Are you active on LinkedIn?  What tips have you used to build up your network?

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Google’s Algorithm Changes – Can You Keep Up?

Did you know it’s estimated that Google changes its search algorithms about 500 times each year? The website generates more than one billion searches per day, and engineers are continually altering Google’s algorithm to achieve faster search speed, more accurate results, and better relevancy.

A few weeks ago, Google released its monthly report of “search quality highlights” for March. According to WebProNews, the report included a total of 50 changes, including modifications to Google’s search engine algorithms, aimed to provide the best search results as fast as possible.

Here are some of Google’s most recent changes:

Better indexing of profile pages.

Public profile pages are indexed from more than 200 social sites. Previously, Google+ profile pages were appearing at the top of search results, even if they were not the most relevant. This change has been addressed, and now Facebook, Twitter, and other social profiles are more likely to appear ahead of Google. Speaking of social platforms…

Better handling of password changes.

If you use your Google account to log onto other platforms, such as Blogger or YouTube, you may have noticed that a password change would not automatically log you out. The new change ensures that creating a new password consistently signs you out of any linked accounts for better account security and protection.

More relevant image search results.

In the past, Google tended to show high-quality pages over low-quality, even if the pictures on the page were not the most applicable to the search. The new change tunes signals related to landing pages to make it more likely that the most relevant images will appear in the search results.

Better local results and sources in Google News.

Google is improving upon its search signals to return more pertinent and local Google News results from the best possible sources. The search engine has also improved the systems that are used to classify search terms, in an attempt to keep results more accurate to the original query.

These algorithm changes can greatly influence SEO practices, such as keyword analysis research. This practice helps companies and brands target specific market keywords and surpass competition in order to achieve the top Google rankings. Discovering a company’s best keywords and measuring how well it dominates those keywords involves detailed research and analytics, and there are several SEO tools and software available to help.

While free tools such as Hootsuite and Tweetdeck are certainly useful, we’ve found that paid services such as Raven Tools are much more robust and provide a more efficient analysis of a brand’s “big picture” on social media. Raven Tools was designed as an analytics resource by a SEO agency five years ago but has since integrated vital social media tools such as an email campaign platform; content managers for Facebook, Twitter, and WordPress; website analytics and pay-per-click advertising.

Google stays in a contact state of evolution to ensure that its systems aren’t artificially (or even malignantly) manipulated.  It’s important to stay tuned in to Google’s major algorithm modifications and search engine news, as these changes occur frequently and can impact your site and your business. If all of this seems overwhelming, your best bet may be to hire a search engine optimization and social media management company to help you keep up with these ever changing services.

Photo Credit: Stuart Miles


To Apply or Not to Apply? That is the Question.

There are several “opportunities” on the domain name front that are important for brand managers and trademark owners to consider, particularly for global consumer brands. To understand these opportunities, it’s necessary to unleash an entire new litany of acronyms, so brace yourself and here we go…

First, you have to know that a TLD is a top-level domain, or the suffix to the right of the dot in your URL.  So for, .com is the TLD.

A brand TLD is a new creation, and the application window for a brand TLD or “dot brand” closes on March 29. As the name suggests, this will give brand owners the opportunity to purchase a TLD specific to their brand, such as .coke or .pepsi; and it will probably be only the major players like those examples that apply due to the hefty $185,000 application fee. For those brands that can afford the investment, proponents say brand TLDs will improve SEO (search engine optimization) results, and PC World magazine calls the availability of Brand TLDs one of the top five changes facing the Internet in 2012.

Applications are also currently being accepted for gTLDs, or generic TLDs, such as .bank or .pizza. Along with the equally steep $185,000 application fee plus ongoing registry operation costs, gTLDs come with substantial responsibility. Applying for a gTLD is applying to run the registry business for that name, just as Verisign is currently responsible for .com TLDs.

Also currently up for grabs are names in a new category of sponsored TLDs, known as sTLDs. Familiar examples of sTLDs are .edu, reserved exclusively for U.S. post-secondary education establishments, and .gov, reserved for U.S. government sites at the federal, state and local levels. The new sTLD is .xxx, known as dot triple-X.  As you might expect, a dot triple-X will indicate a pornographic site. Sponsored by the IFFOR (International Foundation for Online Responsibility), registering as a dot triple-X is voluntary for providers of explicit content. Proponents say the dot triple-X sTLD will make it easier for parents and employers to block this entire category of websites. While it’s unclear how many providers of pornography are applying for their new sTLD, many colleges and businesses are busy snatching them up at the cost of $100 per year to proactively prevent others from doing so.

Some registry periods include a sunrise period in which the owner of a trademark can block their trademark from being used by others. The sunrise period for dot triple-X domains has already closed, but trademark owners as well as anyone else can still register. This serves as a good reminder, however, that you must own the trademark registration for a trademark you may seek to protect in future sunrise periods. If you don’t already own your trademark registration, this may certainly be an investment in your brand worth considering.

I’m sure I’ve barely scratched the surface of the TLD morass, but my head hurts from the new acronyms I’ve already absorbed. What’s your take on all this? Share your thoughts or teach me a new acronym!

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