By Annie-Mei Forster (Digital PR & SEO Outreach Coordinator at Digital Treasury)
If you’d told me a year ago that I’d be doing PR & Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) work, I probably wouldn’t have believed you. This time last year I was halfway through a postgraduate diploma in journalism. Doing SEO work doesn’t seem the natural progression from a journalism degree but the content writing and research actually translates well to working on SEO campaigns.
I knew a little bit about SEO before I started but what the last six months have taught me, is how much more there is to learn. My biggest surprise about working on SEO campaigns is the importance of good content (which is great for me and all writers!).
Here are a few things that I’ve learnt
1. Writing SEO content is different to other content
As I quickly discovered, writing content that ranks well in search engine results isn’t simply publishing a good piece of content. A lot of thought not only has to go into writing it but also whether it’s information that people are searching for online. I was used to writing news articles in the inverted pyramid structure (most important at the top to least important) with no subheadings, just broken up paragraphs.
In SEO, you need to write catchy content that also targets keywords that you want the article to rank for in search engines. Subheadings are great not only for readers to quickly find the information that they’re looking for but search engines scan titles and headings to evaluate and rank your page. Headings are one way of improving on-page SEO, in essence the readability of the page. This section is an example of that – if someone wanted to know what sets SEO content writing apart, they could quickly find it in this article.
Digital Treasury has a guide to SEO in Australia. The main keyword for our SEO guide to rank for SEO in Australia is in heading one (H1):
The SEO keyword is repeated in H2, giving Google a good indication that this about SEO:
Writers often add hyperlinks within content for references. In SEO the hyperlink must be relevant to the keywords that you are trying to rank for but without looking deliberate. For example, if your client owned a pet store in Melbourne called [Name] you wouldn’t hyperlink the name of the store but you could hyperlink (in a natural way) Melbourne pet store.
Key Learning: Optimise SEO content
- Content should focus around the keyword(s)
- Title should always be H1
- Include good subheadings (H2, H3, H4, etc.)
- Hyperlink keywords not business names
2. Google My Business is important for small businesses
As a millennial, I thought I had a good grasp of Google and what it was capable of doing. I knew about Google Trends and how to do reverse image searches but I didn’t know anything about Google Analytics or what Google My Business (GMB) was. Since working in SEO I’ve realised if small businesses harness the full potential of the world’s biggest search engine, they can gain more customers.
Registering a business on GMB can make an enormous impact for location searches. I always thought that businesses had to invest a lot of money in advertising to boost their business, but SEO has made me realise there are plenty of natural ways to get ranked higher in search engine results.
Registering on GMB is free and by creating an account, small businesses can both find new customers and tell them their story. To improve a business’ online visibility, the business’ content description needs to be optimised with local keywords that will ensure people will find it when conducting a search for a service or product in close proximity.
If we have a look at Digital Treasury’s GMB business description, the first few sentences tells you:
- Where the business is located
- What the business does
- What services the business provides
Underlined are the keywords that Digital Treasury is trying to rank for. It’s important that keywords are included using natural language as Google can pick up on that too. Every small business should link their GMB to the website so that the business shows up in search results and on Google Maps.
Key Learning: GMB needs to be optimised too
- Register a GMB account
- Optimise the business description content with keywords
- Link GMB to the business website
3. Simple tweaks to your website can improve ranking and more online traffic
Having a good product or service is essential to running a successful business, but that won’t automatically get people flocking to your website. Word of mouth, reviews, awards and good employees are all important, but I’ve realised that so many businesses could be getting heaps more clients or users if they made simple tweaks to their website.
While I don’t do web design myself, through this job I’ve learned many tricks that business owners can easily implement to make their website more search engine friendly. For example:
- linking their business address to Google Maps;
- providing detailed information on each product or service; and
- starting a blog with in-depth insights.
I always used to wonder why so many websites had blogs pages and who was reading them apart from the people who worked there, but now I know and it makes complete sense. When I search things now in my day-to-day life, I realise that a lot of the information I’m reading is coming from a website’s blog page which is answering the exact question I am searching for.
Not only should a website provide information about the business’ products and/or services but it should provide information about the industry.
For example, if you have a look at the other blogs posts on the Digital Treasury website, there are articles about web design, SEO tools and how businesses can create a digital marketing strategy. Below you can see a few of those blog posts:
This might seem counterintuitive as you want people to buy your service, but it’s actually a way to provide relevant information to potential customers by answering the questions they have about the products or services you sell, while simultaneously telling Google that you are a credible source on that topic.
Key Learning: Optimise your website
- Write regular blog posts
- Write detailed information about products or services
- Make it easy for users to find the different sections of information on your website
4. Sending cold email pitches to get backlinks actually works
I had never heard of ‘backlinking’ before I started this job. If you’re not familiar with it, essentially it involves obtaining a link from a high domain authority website that links back to your website. The purpose of activity is to increase your website’s authority and improve your website ranking in search engines like Google. One way to obtain those links, is to write an email pitch to the website owner offering them a FREE piece of content to go on their site, including a backlink to your website.
The hardest part is sending out the emails because it’s a tedious task of targeting the email to a specific person or organisation. If you’re unsure of how to make your email more personalised, looking for press coverage of that organisation or finding that person through social media is a good starting point. As I discovered during the COVID-19 pandemic, however, sometimes it doesn’t matter how well you pitch your story idea – it’s just not the right time and isn’t appropriate.
The most important thing to remember when pitching a story idea (even for journalists) is why is this story important and who is it important to? In journalism class, you learn a lot about the different types of news stories there are and which stories people like (spoiler: cute animal stories get a lot of hits and so do disasters). It’s the same when sending out a PR pitch. If your story isn’t interesting to that website’s audience – why should they publish it?
Even though it’s quicker, sending out the same pitch to 20 different websites won’t get you as many links. People who are receiving your email, probably receive hundreds a day so find a way to personalise the email and write a subject line that will catch their eye. If you’re having difficulty finding out what their interests are, open with a statistic that you’ve read in the news or in an article. If you open with a fact that could harm or benefit their target audience, this shows you’ve done your research.
Below is an example of a cold email you could write:
Here are the steps that I’ve taken:
- Catchy subject line (questions are good)
- Salutation (include the name if known)
- Open with a sentence that will grab the reader
- Introduce yourself and who you work for
- Pitch your story idea
- If the website has writing guidelines, mention that you’ve read them
It’s been interesting for me to see how many websites are looking for free content. Even larger organisations who have their own writing team sometimes accept a proposal. Another thing that’s surprised me is how open people are to receiving follow up emails, which I previously thought was a bit rude. Of course, some people never respond but other people actually apologise for not replying sooner.
Key Learning: cold emails work
- Take the time to find the right person at a company to email your pitch
- Personalise your pitch to show that you’ve read the website and you understand something about them
- Come up with ideas that are interesting and relevant to the website and its audience
- Send 2-3 polite follow ups on your cold emails
5. SEO is more complicated than you think
There are so many reasons why SEO is complicated. I remember when I first started and I just didn’t understand why certain things had to be done in a certain way (why does it matter that it’s a heading 2 and not a heading 3?). After six months though, and especially seeing the results of increased web traffic, I’m beginning to understand why.
Just to throw another spanner in the works, Google regularly changes its search result algorithm so the way it ranks and crawls websites is constantly being updated. This means SEO consultants need to stay up-to-date so that they can help their clients get better web traffic.
In closing, SEO is a valuable tool and after working at Digital Treasury for the last six months, I’ve realised how useful it can be for business owners. I’ve worked on SEO campaigns where businesses have jumped from page 20 in a Google search to rank number one for all their target keywords. While six months isn’t a long time in the grand scheme of things, I’ve certainly learnt a lot in that period.
Are you looking to improve your website’s visibility in the search engine rankings? Let Digital Treasury run a SEO campaign for your business using our proven techniques by calling (03) 8510 8202