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Branding, PR, and SEO: Send the Right Signals

enge-eric
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I often get asked questions about what to expect for traffic increases once a new website promotional effort is launched. This is a challenging question to answer.

The biggest problem a new website faces is that search engines look for signals that the site provides a high quality response to a user's search query. Branding can play a huge role in this picture.

Certainly, the technical on-page mechanics still matter quite a bit – these help establish the topic of a web page. However, this only gets you started. How do we drive traffic growth?

Establishing Why Your Website Provides the Best Answer

There are many types of signals that search engines can look at to determine that your site might be a good response to a search query. Some of the most important ones are:

  1. Inbound Links: Yes, these still matter. A positive indicator is when people from highly authoritative (trusted) locations link to your site. However, beware the dangers of a one dimensional link building plan. These raise the specter of manipulation in the eyes of the search engines.
     
  2. Social Media: This is the other major area we all talk about as a source of endorsement. Social media mentions, social media links, likes, shares, tweets, +1s, all can be a part of the equation.
     
  3. Brand Name Searches: Do people search on your company name or product name? If they do, this can be a really interesting indicator.

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  4. User Engagement: Search engines can measure actual engagement with the content. If all else fails, they can simply test the result out, and see how it does. Even if the other signals aren't there, they can try it and let user behavior decide.
     
  5. Cross Referencing of Signals: Beware the strategy of trying to generate one or two of these signals artificially. Search engines will cross reference these signals with other signals. The first four points in this list are only a partial list, and abnormal distributions, such as a huge pop in links without the other signals growing in tandem, aren't going to get you the gains you're hoping for.

How to Grow Fast?

That's the million dollar question. In my mind there are three major components to making this happen:

  1. Effective Promotion: Consider a major promotional campaign working across multiple forms of media. PR events, new coverage, social media campaigns, interviews, etc. All that old fashioned marketing stuff, appropriately tuned to support your SEO goals, can really play a huge role in causing rapid growth.

    The reason is that this type of approach causes all the signals to move together. Instead of manually trying to drive the signals in isolation, you are creating the visibility for your business and getting people interested in your product or services. This may sound like I am trying to send you to your local PR agency, and they may be able to help you, but make sure that major SEO considerations are taken into account in the formation of the campaign. This is where the right SEO services organization may play a critical role for you.
     
  2. Great Website Experiences: Make sure you have the goods. One way to challenge your organization is by comparing the experience that users have with your site as compared to that of your competitors. What you're selling matters a lot. Is it one of the best solutions available?

    On top of that, the experience of the website is something you need to measure and tune. Are users finding what they want very quickly? Or do they have to work for it? If you have an advertising supported website based on a CPM model, are you too focused on forcing lots of page views? Your competitor who provides the answer the user wants on the first page, when you require the user to touch multiple pages, is going to kick your butt.
     
  3. Search Engine Readability: Making the site parseable for the search engine, and allowing them to understand what questions each page is meant to answer for users is still critical.

Summary

When you step back and think about your promotional campaign, it is no longer sufficient to simply go build links. You need to look at a bigger picture and consider the interaction of multiple signals acting in concert with one another. If you do a better job of looking at the whole picture than your competitor, you website might just rock the house.


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