If you build it, they will come

I have just been in Denver, Colorado for work and had the chance to catch a baseball game between the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks (for those of you interested my Rockies won by a not too shabby margin!). I must have had baseball on my mind when I started reading about creating website traffic, because that famous line from Field of Dreams kept running through my head – “If you build it, they will come” (it is actaully “he will come”, but I am somewhat of a feminist, so prefer keep language gender neutral!). It got me thinking, if only building website traffic was as easy as  ‘the voice’ in a Field of Dreams made building a baseball stadium sound!

Unfortunately it take more than just building a website to get people reading it. As Deirdre Quinn-Allan points out, “One of the most important tasks in developing a successful online public relations strategy is developing plan for getting the strategy noticed.” When it comes to getting your website noticed, one such strategy is to focus on search engine optimisation (SEO). Search engines facilitate traffic to your website though keywords entered by publics.  The idea behind SEO is to fine tune your website, so that when a public searches for something related to your company you are the most relevant page displayed through the search engine’s general listing, known as organic search. The concept sounds relatively simple, right? Tweak your page to receives higher listings in search engines like Google. However, as Brooke points out, in his paper “Is it worth getting in a bidding war?”, it can get a little complicated because, “… As the number of sites grows, so does the challenge of making sure this happens.”

It is this difficulty that has led to a plethora of search engine strategy companies springing up over the last decade. These companies offer their expertise in how best to optimise your website and they monitor the results for you, making additional tweaks along the way. SEO is a long-term investment, so hiring an external company for a significant period of time can become costly. To keep long-term costs down Brooke highlights Andrew Hood’s suggestion to, “Start with an agency and work on a knowledge-transfer basis to bring some of the expertise in-house.” For those of you who can’t afford to outsource to an external company, there are a few simple things that you can start doing on your own that will at least get you in the game. In keeping with my love of top ten lists here are Business Insiders’ “Ten Basic Tips to get you Started” with SEO.

It is good to remember thought that there can be time when having your businesses name ranking high in organic search results can be a negative rather than a positive. Take for example the blog of a disgruntled ex-employee or news articles about an embarrassing legal matter. You don’t want these searches to be the first thing that publics find when searching for your company or its related product/service. SEO is again a good strategy to combat such an issue, as it can allow your site to bump the problematic references to your company down the search rankings.

Top Ten Reasons for PR Practitioners to Blog

Hi my name’s Jess and I’m a top-ten-aholic!

I’m not sure why I love a good top ten list, but I think I have David Letterman to blame for it! As a teenager I worked at an outdoor cinema during the summer and to wind down when I got home I would watch mind numbing TV as I fell asleep. This always seemed to coincided with Letterman and it was love at first sight with his top ten segment. I mean what’s not to love? Even Barack Obama digs a top ten list!

Lame, but makes me laugh everytime!

…but back to the topic at hand! During my research of the benefits of blogging for pr professionals, I came across David Erickson’s blog post ‘The Importance of Blogging – 10 Reasons PR People Should Blog‘ and thought would share them with you.

Blogging for PR Professionals

Since their emergence in the mid-nineties the number of blogs on the internet have continued to grow at a rapid pace. From their humble beginning as personal diaries, blogs have found their way into the education, business, political, journalism and public relations sphere, as highlighted by Xifra and Huertas in “Blogging PR: An exploratory analysis of public relations weblogs“.  A number of public relations professionals have realised the benefits of blogging and have jumping on this user-generated bandwagon. However there has been more hesitation from the pr profession to embrace blogging then one might think. I mean why wouldn’t pr professionals flock in droves to use a two-way communication tool that, as Deirdre Quinn-Allan points, “… enables public relations people to develop a more authentic form of communication with relevant target public.” As long they are not blatantly impersonal corporate blogs, publics see them as a much more genuine form of interact rather than sleazy manipulated spin that they have become so weary of.

Even with recognised benefits there’s a large percentage of public relations professional not taking up the opportunity to blog in a personal or professional capacity. Kent alludes to the fact that both pr “practitioners and academics are struggling to understand the value and consequences of blogs” in his paper “Critical analysis of blogging in public relations“.

Philippe Borremans’ post on his blog “Conversationblog: Talks Cheap, Free Speech Isn’t” makes reference to the second European survey of pr professionals conducted at the end of 2006. This survey found that although 89% of pr professionals surveyed thought that blogs and social media will be as integral a part of communication planning as websites currently are, 69% said that they don’t have staff with the skills to handle blogging. 42% reported that they also couldn’t easily quantify the return on investment (ROI) of blogging.

Not being able to quantify ROI is a worrying thing for pr professionals, especially these days when executives expect to see statistical data to back up success claims. However factually demonstrating ROI should not be a concern for pr professionals, as there have been frameworks developed for their use. In 2007 the Forrester Research group released two papers regarding the ROI of blogging. The second of which included a framework to demonstrate the ROI of blogs. The following diagram demonstrates how this framework can be applied.

More information about these two papers can be found on Josh Bernoff’s blog post ‘New ROI of blogging report from Forrester’.