Communicators frequently toss around the terms Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM). But what does it actually mean to implement SEO and SEM into an integrated digital campaign? At a recent PRSA-NCC workshop, Aaron Guiterman, senior vice president of digital strategy at Edelman PR, applied his more than 20 years’ experience in digital campaign design to outline strategies for using search to your advantage.

Online content consumption is at an all-time high. You may have a fantastic educational video or snazzy new website, but your viewers are spread a mile wide and an inch deep. When it comes to promoting your content, you don’t want to fill your store (read: website) with a lot of people who buy nothing. Targeted, quality viewers who care about your content provide the highest value. One of the best ways to attract a quality audience is through search.

Guiterman, shown above, described SEO as the way communicators send signals to their audience by optimizing content to maximize the number of visitors reaching your content through organic search. “Relevance is the fastest-growing metric with search engines,” he said. “Google favors unique, quality content.”

SEM, on the other hand, are the signals your target audiences send back to you through search, which helps you effectively place cost-per-click ads on search engine results pages with the goal of driving traffic to your content and gaining visibility.

The key to SEO is creating a symphony of unique content that reads from the same sheet music. Search optimization is suppressed by duplicate content and the website is only one component of your full content strategy. Integrate your campaign to incorporate desktop/mobile content and an ad campaign that complement one other, and layer SEO into all aspects of your campaign.

Implementing SEO into Your Digital Strategy

Create relevant content that resonates with your audience. People don’t care about the company they’re advocating for, they care about how that issue relates to them. Frame your content according to values, beliefs and behaviors that motivate your audience.

Abandonment rates are key to SEO, as sites that lose audiences quickly result in declining organic search rates. Regularly review your site’s performance to optimize your campaign. What draws people to your content? What content is not succeeding?

Use Google AdWords to calculate the value of words and quantify the value of words according to those that are most receptive by your audience.
Conduct a website audit with an online tool such as Raven to find duplicate content and broken links. This is low-hanging fruit that will help increase organic search. You don’t want to build a great website that no one visits. Build it for search and social.

When working with your web team, develop copy in Word and include a brief description of each page (under 177 characters) for your coders to tag in the site. Provide captions (alt text) for images, so they’re easy to find via search. Google content analysis won’t read your entire page, it focuses on the tags.

Driving Traffic to Your Content with SEM

Find all possible keywords by identifying existing conversations and select the best performing keywords to implement in your online ads.
Invest time to secure your Google Analytics Certification. This can take anywhere from one month to six months. Google offers free resources to show you how to use their tools.

Developing a digital campaign is not like Field of Dreams. “If you build it, they will not come [on their own accord].” Instead, SEO and SEM offer proven ways to increase visibility, measure results and drive traffic to the content you worked hard (and spent a lot of money) to create.

For more information about SEO and SEM, check out Google’s Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide and AdWords Step by Step Starter Guide.

This post is based on a post by Carolyn Sobczyk, JPA Health Communications in Washington, D.C.,

for PRSA-NCC. To see the original post, click here.

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