Are SEO releases just another form of pay-for-play?
This is a question from a Tartan Group client who is not happy about having to pay online services to have his releases put into rich media format. Fair enough.
Are Search Engine Optimized (SEO) releases (a.k.a. now known as social media releases) just another pay for play scheme? Yes, they are.
But, here is what you really need to know. The world of tourism marketing has changed and marketers who do not understand these shifts, and embrace the change, will be run over by their competition.
Search engine optimization and the role of the web has changed everything. And, that means tourism marketers have to change, too.
Let’s review the most recent travel marketing statistics for background:
§ A massive 60% of travel industry marketing gurus still rank search as the number 1 way to drive traffic, according to stats from EyeForTravel's "Travel Distribution & Marketing Barometer" report.
§ Four out of ten international visitors (38%) choose their destination based on friends & relatives' recommendation in 2011. The viral channel remains the first driver in travellers' decision making, according to global benchmarking survey TRAVELSAT©.
Compare that with: TRAVELSAT© Competitive Index
Path used to get to hospitality / tourism sites by site visitors worldwide, Q4 2011 (% of total):
§ Typed in URL: 28%
§ Search engine: 27%
§ Bookmark / favourite: 17%
§ Clicked on ad: 3%
§ Email link: 1%
§ Other site link: 1%
§ Other: 22%
Regardless of whose stats you use, the message is consistent. Travel marketers have to understand that building a web presence is important and SEO matters.
So what should you do?
1. Optimize your website. If you are a marketer and don’t know an H1 header from a page name and why images, content and blogging matter, start by doing some web research. Take a course, do some online research and then, if you need to, hire someone. If your site is not optimized, all the SEO releases in the world won’t help you. A great starting point is the Google key word tool and SEO MOZ. I always recommend educating yourself first. You can’t manage it if you don’t know what you don’t know.
2. Build your back links. You want relevant, contextual links back to your site from large, well trafficked sites. Where should you start? By ensuring you have a presence with the hotel and travel and tourism on line travel agencies. Some of these will be paid listings that you have to maintain.
3. Get listed: Make sure you are on major travel review sites, hotel or tourism directories and on-line travel guides.
4. Push out your content onto on line channels and social media channels.
The bottom line is: anyone building an on line presence will need to have done the basics of SEO work on their sites first and have some knowledge of the changing world of SEO. Without this, regardless of claims of the services, SEO releases will have little to no impact if that work is not nailed down first. This is why we always ask our clients about keywords, anchor text and images. We have found that it is never going to be one SEO release that will give results; it is a combination of them, combined with other SEO work.
ROI on the cost of the SEO service will be different for everyone depending on what point of online marketing they are starting from. Regardless of what the sales white papers from the big services say, your ROI will depend on what other SEO and web push work is being done overall as it is never one thing – it is a combination of keywords, anchor text, quality content and back link work plus listings on review sites, on line travel agencies, on line directories – all of which are paid listings for the quality backlinks. It is all part of building an on line presence.
And please note that an SEO release is written differently than a traditional release. They are not the same offering or audience. This is very important.
I have found that headlines are critical. For example, two years ago I put out a RFID release on a traditional wire release written as a traditional release. It got picked up in one trade. Good work, yes?
Then I put out the same content on an SEO wire service with a snappy headline: Canadian RFID company tracking babies. And bam: I got the attention of the premier RFID journal plus about ten bloggers…and all those links are still there so people can find the info, it helps the company’s SEO and people are still talking about it and referring back to that on line release; unlike the trade journal, which was just one on line in print. Check it out: http://www.rfidjournal.com/expert/entry/8350
Here are three examples that we as a tourism public relations company have placed for our clients:
Is it pay-for-play? Yes. But, now armed with a bit more information, you can decide for yourself whether you should use them in an integrated marketing program.
Terry Rachwalski is a management consultant in Victoria, BC who specializes in technology product launches and consults with the Tartan Group, a top international tourism PR company
Here are resources from the big players in the SEO release market:
For more information from the big players, you can go to their sites:
PR Web: http://service.prweb.com/how-it-works/
Market Wire: http://www.marketwire.com/products/press-release-distribution/seo-smm/