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