In my first recap of the 2018 Business Communicators Summit for the KC chapter of IABC, I covered the keynote address about demystifying content marketing. So let’s look at this recap of a presentation that demystifies search engine optimization, or SEO. And I’ll be honest, I still find the concept mystifying in a lot of ways, but this breakout session helped me get a better idea of what it means and how to use it.
In her presentation, “How Words Get You Found,” Kelly Stanze, search strategist (and self-proclaimed SEO nerd) for Hallmark shared the basics of SEO and how both the content side and the technical side need to work together to provide the best SEO bang for your buck.
Kelly describes search engine optimization as the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website. She also made sure to point out that SEO has become more than “just marketing.” It’s about content strategy and technical skills for website development/maintenance.
The elements of content strategy involve not only what is on the pages of your website, but how they are formatted on the page and how they appear in Google searches. For example, when you are writing content for your website, you need to write content for the user. It’s important to think about writing for the search engine too, but your main goal should be writing for the user.
Kelly gave a real example from Hallmark. They launched a line of personal care products that were targeted to upscale shoppers. In an effort to market the products that way, they called one of the lotions “hand creme” instead of hand cream. This led to poor SEO for this new product because most people don’t type “hand creme” into Google so the lotion wasn’t coming up in searches. So she and her team started changed the name of the product to hand cream across the entire website. Eventually Hallmark changed the name on the product label too.
It’s also important to code the layout of your website correctly so that Google pulls the correct information for searches. This includes using code correctly to lay out your content (header text vs. paragraph text) so that Google algorithms know what information to pull for the title and for the meta description (sample of text from the web page) that shows up in the search results for Google. She also informed us that Google just recently announced that they’re increasing the length of the meta description and reminded the audience that just when you think you have Google figured out, they will change something.
Next, Kelly did a breakdown of the anatomy of SEO, specifically what content marketers and web designers should focus on. The home page is not where you need to spend time on SEO. The only people who are going to your home page from a search are searching for your brand by name because they already know it. You want your SEO work to focus more on people finding you while searching for a product or service you offer. Category and browse pages tend to capture upper-funnel traffic that is slightly more specific. Title tags, meta descriptions, URL, on-page copy, interlinking and basic keywords matter here. PDP (product detail page) captures the “long tail” of search. Users who enter product pages through search have more specific needs or wants.
Kelly made a point to share with the group the list of items EVERY page should have for enhanced SEO:
- Title tag
- Meta description
- Context-rich on-page copy that is informative to consumers:
– Category/Browse pages – 100-word minimum in the body copy with interlinking
– Product pages – should have robust product info delivered clearly and succinctly
– Content pages – 250-word minimum, whether the main feature is written word, video, image gallery, etc.
– Image alt tags (if applicable)
Next, she covered the technical side of SEO. But since she was speaking to a room of business communicators, she didn’t go into much detail because it would have gone over most of our heads. Instead, she emphasized the fact that content marketers need to have strong relationships with the tech teams and strategists. In fact, she has two different workstations at Hallmark. One is in the marketing department and one is with IT. That is how closely she works with them on a regular basis.
Last but not least, Kelly covered the tools needed to build a strong SEO strategy:
AdWords Keyword Planner Tool
This is Google’s in-house keyword research tool. Kelly commented that it’s clunky and requires muscle memory but can be used as a way to build SEO strategy.
She uses this to remove high outliers. Also, it can show even more detail into seasonal trends.
This is an expensive, enterprise-level tool. Kelly said the Data Cube is the most robust keyword research tool she has ever used.
Google Search Console
Google just launched this new console but it isn’t very content-friendly so it might be helpful to give it some time to be developed.
One of the most important things to remember with SEO and content marketing is that you can’t assume you know what your customers will be looking for when they come upon one of your web pages. Kelly informed us that the top search result for Hallmark is a blog post about what to write in a sympathy card. None of us in the audience guessed that as their top search result. Because she and her team use the tactics and tools listed above and have made SEO a priority, she is providing Hallmark with the ability to make their brand even more relevant to current customers and prospects.