Interview of Greg Jarboe on PR, SEO & Video Optimization

I met Greg Jarboe at my very first SEO conference about 5 years ago and have chatted with him many times over the years. Recently we conducted an interview via email.

You are speaking at Chicago SES next month on a variety of topics from the first timers guide to SES and SEM, to an introduction to SEM, to SEO for video content. What are your favorite topics to talk about?

I'm also speaking about turning PR efforts into SEO results as well as teaching the optimizing for universal search workshop with Amanda Watlington of Searching for Profit. So, I plan to get a pair of roller skates in order to make it to all five sessions in time. It's sort of funny how all this landed on my to-do list, but I think that it's a an example of being lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time. A couple of years back, SEO-PR pioneered press release optimization. It was a niche -- and it got our foot in the door. Then, we branched out -- and started optimizing video for YouTube. At that point, Amanda and I starting teaching workshops entitled "Getting found in all the right places," which covered getting found in Google News, YouTube, and other vertical search engines. Then, on May 16, 2007, Google introduced universal search -- incorporating information from a variety of previously separate sources – including videos, images, news, maps, books, and websites – into a single set of results. So, all of those niches that we had focused on in the early days had suddenly gone mainstream. This also fundamentally changed how you can best optimize content to gain "natural" or "organic" traffic -- because we no longer live in an era of 10 blue links. So, which one of these topics is my favorite? It's video search engine optimization. In fact, I'm writing a book for Sybex entitled: YouTube and Video Marketing: An Hour A Day. It's part of the series that includes Web Analytics: An Hour A Day by Avinash Kaushik. So, I'm pretty focused on video right now.

How has video changed the SEO game? Do you recommend submitting to YouTube and other third party sites, or hosting video content on your own sites?

Hosting video content on your own site was the right thing to do in 2005, when Google Video, Yahoo! Video, Singingfish and other video search engines were the leaders in online video. But, in 2006, YouTube came out of left field -- and totally changed the game. That's why Google paid $1.65 billion to acquire YouTube, a video sharing site. It had beat all the video search engines hands down. According to Hitwise, YouTube accounted for 76% of all U.S. visits to online video websites in October 2008. Google Video had less than 4%. Yahoo! Video changed its focus to Yahoo-hosted video only in February of this year. And Singingfish has ceased to exist as a separate service. So, if you host video content on your own site, you're optimizing it for less than 4% of all U.S. visits. A much smarter strategy is to submit your video to YouTube, which gets about 20 times more visits, and then embed your YouTube videos in your website or blog.

Of the Search Engine Strategy conferences in the US, Chicago has traditionally been one of the smaller conferences. For a person new to SEO how can the smaller size benefit them?

SES Chicago will attract about 2,000 attendees, which SES San Jose got more than 6,000. So, yes, it is a smaller conference. But, it's the only SEM conference in the Midwest, so most of the people you see at SES Chicago aren't ones that you'll already seen at other conferences. In fact, 87% of attendees at last year's SES Chicago were new to SES, just 13% were alumni. And 85% of the SES Chicago attendees approve or recommend purchasing decisions. So, the quality of the audience is very high. I find that means the Q&A sessions are not only lively -- they are lively at all of the SES events -- but people come away feeling that they got "their questions" answered.

When I first got started with SEO, I remember sitting at a table with your partner Jamie and you, as you guys discussed some of your tips. Since then you have become more and more well known in the search marketing space. What were some of your keys to that growth in exposure and awareness?

It takes time for new ideas to catch on. So, part of this is just persistence. But the other part is the willingness of many of our clients to share their case studies with the rest of the industry. When we started in early 2003, press release optimization was an interesting concept. Then, we were able to show that optimized press releases had generated $200 million in qualified leads for Symmetricom’s chip-scale atomic clocks, more than $2.5 million in ticket sales for Southwest Airlines, and almost 1.3 million searches for “florists” on Later, we were also able to explain how combining blog outreach with press release optimization generated a record 450,000 unique visitors to The Christian Science Monitor, more than 85,000 entries into Parents magazine’s cover kid photo contest, and a record 1,100 attendees to the Wharton Economic Summit. So, if there is a tip, I say focus on measuring business outcomes instead of traditional PR outputs, like the number of clippings. Money talks. The other stuff walks.

With universal search and authority based search relevancy algorithms it seems Google keeps placing more and more weight on public relations. Are you surprised at how far this has come over the past few years? How far do you see these fields merging?

Actually, David Dalka posted an item to his blog about a year-and-a-half ago that said, "One can’t help but notice that if Greg Jarboe had gone to Google and designed Universal Search himself he likely couldn’t have designed it (better) to play into his strength areas in news and pr related issues." But, I didn't go to Google and I didn't design Universal Search. Nevertheless, it does play to our strength in public relations. We were among the first to recognize the getting links from blogs with a lot of authority wasn't a technical skill. It required public relations skills.

When should a new site consider using public relations as an SEO strategy? What are the keys to effectively using public relations as an SEO strategy?

Before it is launched. As it is being launched. And after it is launched. As for the keys, here is what the Google Webmaster Help Center says, "It is not only the number of links you have pointing to your site that matters, but also the quality and relevance of those links. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the buzzing blogger community can be an excellent place to generate interest."

When should people consider outsourcing PR, and how much of it should be driven by internal resources?

We've trained PR departments as well as PR agencies. So, it isn't that important whether this is outsources or handled internally. It is important to start -- and then to continue updating your skills -- because learning SEO isn't like learning the multiplication tables. The search engines are constantly changing -- and Universal Search is just an example of one of the bigger changes we've since in the past five years. So, learn how to optimize press releases, then learn how to optimize blogs and RSS feeds, then learn how to optimize video for YouTube, then keep learning.

While in Chicago what dish should everyone make sure they eat?

If you don't eat some Chicago-style deep dish pizza, then you haven't been to Chicago. You were just visiting some big city in the Midwest.


Thanks Greg.

Check out SEO-PR to learn more about Greg and the intersection of public relations and search.

Published: November 21, 2008 by Aaron Wall in interviews


November 22, 2008 - 5:41am

My blood boils every time I see blog post about video optimization and universal search. I've spent a lot of time on this... testing and trying different things.

I must be doing something seriously wrong in my video strategy.

I'm confident in my ability to get videos ranking on Youtube for key search phrases and I have no problem getting plenty of views.

My problem is getting users to actually leave Youtube and visit the site I'm promoting. And if they do visit the site, good luck with getting them to sign-up for a mailing list, download a free report, click on an ad, etc. This is for instructional videos that are related to this site's content. (not like a hot-chick video asking you to click a link for a mortgage calculator.)

And yes, I have done video annotations, listed URL in first part of description, watermarks on videos, intro and outro pitch in video. They are decent quality videos also.

I'm talking about sites and landing pages that do well with traffic from the Search Engines. But with YouTube referral traffic, the conversion rate is a joke.

I would like to see someone post their results base on conversions. I don't give a damn about how many views your video gets. How many of those youtube users subscribe to your RSS feed, signup for your mailing list, buy something, click an ad, etc?

lol... sorry for the rant... but Greg did say he is writing a book on Video Marketing. Let's hope he focuses on measuring the success of your video marketing campaign based on conversions... not page views.

At this point, I'm done with youtube. I can get better results with referrals from Myspace (and we all know that traffic blows).

November 22, 2008 - 9:11am

Well made point there Dorian. I've recently been doing some video marketing and looking over the conversion rate for leads is exactly what I'm researching and experimenting with.

I'm trying to find out if it's really worth it to do video marketing for some of my clients. And I'm sure that really depends on the subject or business your marketing.

November 22, 2008 - 9:44am

Video Optimizing!

Aaron I wonder how the search engines understand the content of the Video and decide to rank?

Also, there is a discussion going on webmasterworld that in the near future, sites that don't have video may find themselves losing ranking pretty fast to sites that do.

To some extend the interview too supports the same!

Please throw some light!

Dilip Shaw

November 22, 2008 - 11:14am

Video is a distribution channel...just as AdWords is...just as blogging is...etc etc etc. You don't need to do everything to compete or do well, but it doesn't hurt to try a number of ideas and then put more effort into whatever you find works well for you.

November 23, 2008 - 10:57am

Greg is a thought leader in many ways and I have followed his excellent contributions for some time. However, Search - Drove 29% of all video discovery online in April of this year and that is increasing. I know that many of the videos found - must be on youtube. But there are so many other considerations as to what the video content is about, whether the strategy is to get video views, drive offline sales, online traffic, etc....

Clearly if your video is a magic trick or a funny celebrity gag (other categories as well), Youtube is key... And, Youtube can be used to drive traffic back to your site, etc...

Youtube, and any other "posted video SEO" strategies are incredibly effective and useful. But, it is also important for search marketers to learn about hosted, or website video SEO. Here's a good article on the case for video SEO

Gregory M Jarboe
November 23, 2008 - 10:29pm

One of the people that I'm planning to interview for my book is George Wright, the VP of Marketing and Sales for Blendtec. He was one of the keynote speakers at PubCon about 10 days ago. Yes, yes, his "Will it Blend?" campaign has been seen by more than 100 million people and reported on by the Today Show, the Tonight Show, and the History Channel. But what I plan to focus on is that this new form of video marketing has delivered a 700% increase in sales for Blendtec, a small Utah based blender manufacturer, with an initial investment of $50. That's should help all of us figure out what we need to be doing differently.

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