Using Paid Search to Shape HARO’s SEO Strategy

Guest Post by Scott Benson, SEO manager, Vocus

There are tons of blog posts out there that talk about using paid search data as a test run for SEO strategy. However, few companies can actually afford to sit idle without making SEO improvements as PPC data builds.

At Vocus we’ve been presented with a unique opportunity. We’ve been able to take the HARO website and analyze its traffic while starting paid search campaigns to test how users interact on the site based on their search intent. Our paid search marketing team recently launched the account and the data has been building… but first a little background information.

Help A Reporter Out has a long history of word-of-mouth marketing – it’s incredible to think about how this service has grown. Without going into specifics, the organic search traffic (non-paid) that arrives at HARO consists 99% of ‘branded’ terms. These are people who know about HARO or Peter Shankman already. They arrive at the site through keyword searches containing phrases like “HARO” or “help a reporter”.

The site today isn’t optimized to capture searchers looking for many of the services offered by HARO, providing a great opportunity for improvement. We see very little organic traffic for keywords like “journalist sources” or “publicity” or even great long-tail phrases like “journalists looking for stories” or “reporters looking for stories”. These are all terms that we do see in analytics in our non-branded segment; however the volume is extremely low. Here’s a sample screen shot:

HARO Organic Keywords

For a few months now, we’ve been running paid search tests, which are completely new to HARO. In the screenshot below, you can see some of the keywords that are generating traffic, and how some of that traffic is signing up for the Free HARO subscription. This is great data even though the volume is still low. You probably could have guessed at a similar list of keywords that would attract people to HARO, but being able to back up those theories with solid data is critical.

As we optimize the HARO website, we now know what people are looking for and which of these terms convert to sign-ups. You can see that “free public relations” converts to sign-up at about 19.5% vs. 11% for the head term “publicity”. This data will help us determine if we should target content for “publicity” or “free public relations”, based on how difficult it would be to earn a high ranking for these terms organically.

I also see a great opportunity in this data for a blog post titled “How to get free publicity” (watch this space). I can’t wait for this data to build over time so we can start making these decisions and move away from hypothetical situations into real targeting strategies.

Use Paid Search for SEO Strategy

You might be wondering: “Isn’t it odd that he’s pointing out how they could do better with HARO SEO?”, and you might be right. So, rather than leaving the discussion hanging there, I’ll also use this post to give you a sneak peek at the newly redesigned HARO website – coming very soon! Over the next quarter and year, we’ll be rolling out several different phases of the new site, so keep an eye out for a new, improved, and SEO-focused HARO website. We hope you like it.

Click for a sneak peek at the new HARO Website:

New HARO Website

For more SEO advice from Scott, check out his new Washington Post article here.

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