As many HitTailers know from watching our demos, HitTail was incubated within Connors Communications, the high profile public relations company that launched Amazon.com, Priceline and others. Connors was there during the birth of the pay-per-click industry as the PR firm for GoTo.com in the beginning. Most recently, we brought Vonage up to the point of going public, and we are always on the lookout for the next breakout technology that needs that special touch. With HitTail, we’re pretty much demonstrating that we’re one of those rare PR firms that “gets it”. Online outreach is not about flogging or splogging. It’s not about social bookmark spamming or Digg kabals. And it’s not about gratuitous comment-spam–even though yours truly has been accused of that on occasion.
Instead, online public relations is precisely about what traditional public relations is about–influencing the influencers through long-established and well nurtured relationships. Journalists and writers need things to write about, and PR professionals are often one of the best sources, especially in the field of technology where product development in and of itself is justifiably newsworthy. Think artificial diamonds, electronic paper, voice recognition, and the like. These things transform our world, are company announcements, and are simultaneously newsworthy in the truest sense of the word. These are the companies that Connors looks for.
But Connors Communications is also a search engine optimization firm that is attempting to mainstream natural search engine optimization (SEO). Unfortunately, due to the ever-shifting and necessarily secret nature of search algorithms, the secrets are no sooner “cracked” than spammed into oblivion, thereby ruining it for everyone. Today’s hot tips are tomorrow’s penalties, and the arms-race continues. Spammers and affiliate marketers can pull out all stops in their SEO endeavors, because when the search engines catch on and ban the sites, they just move on to new throw-away domains on new hosts. When folks adept at these affiliate strategies try to bring their know-how to mainstream business, they are liable to cause more damage than good, because these strategies cannot be safely applied to indispensable domains. I’m not saying all SEO’s are snake oil salesman. Quite to the contrary, those who truly understand SEO and think like Google engineers are worth their weight in gold. But how can you tell the good from the bad?
Connors is often asked how our approach to SEO is different, safe and effective in the long term. In fact, continually explaining it indirectly led to us developing the HitTail product. Recently, I was asked to put a few paragraphs together on this very topic, and thought I would share them as the second half of this blog post:
The desire to be on that first page of search fuels the stellar success of Google’s paid-search product, AdWords, forcing marketers to participate in ever-larger and more competitive pay-per-click campaigns. But of course the real desire is to be on the first page of the free and un-paid results ahead of your competitors, making natural search engine optimization the elephant in the room of any online marketing discussion.
The process goes something like this: an executive or other high level officer goes to Google, performs a search, and upon noticing that their company is nowhere to be found, asks who is responsible, and it automatically falls into the court of Marketing. The marketing person does research, discovers that simply by paying money to Google, you can get onto the first page of results, albeit through the sponsored listings in the margins. But it’s an instant fix, a fair deal, and satisfies the higher ups. And even though the campaign cost begins to get driven up through competition, it still appears worth the cost because the results are uniquely trackable. But the seed of natural search envy has been planted.
As a result, research continues into natural search, and the marketing people discover the shadowy world of search engine optimization (SEO) where conflicting information abounds. Before long, you get the feeling you’re talking to snake oil salesmen. So, how do you get the benefit of natural search engine dominance while steering clear of charlatans?
The answer is to take an approach that combines low-risk and proven methods that are approved by the search engine companies themselves with an aggressive campaign of high-quality content publishing. Publishing this continual flow of high-quality content simultaneously solves any company’s need for both a blogging and natural search strategy. Because the search engines are continually “stimulated” by the new content that adheres to search engine best practices, the content continually gets served up in search results. Over time, this consistent process builds momentum and snowballs the size of the site and visitors resulting from search. Eventually, the site can achieve market dominance, meaning that any prospective customers within your space are actually more likely to encounter you than not in the course of their research.
Taking this approach begins with a website audit, ensuring that your website adheres to the best practices known to hold enormous sway in the search engine algorithms of today. Following that, we establish a low-friction method of pushing out new high-quality content for your website. This can be in the form of a blog, an online newsletter, or even website content proper. Our on-writers, once familiar with your market, product and voice, begin pushing out new content, initiating the habit of frequent, low-friction publishing. Topics are chosen using our patent-pending HitTail technology, and the process continues through the term of the agreement. Once an agreement has expired, the benefits persist, unlike a paid advertising campaign, and the client has the option of stepping in to continue the regimen of persistent search-savvy publishing.