Emma Davey
Aug 21, 2019

You don’t always need to pay to play

Don't discount the importance of SEO in communications plans for building reputation, argues Edelman's digital director.

(Shutterstock)
(Shutterstock)

As consumers become increasingly savvy, which is more important: earning their attention or buying it? At the end of the day it could be a combination of both, but when talking digital, it seems that consultants often lean toward paid over organic.

I recently hosted a ‘Digital 101’ training and was surprised by how little people knew about organic strategies for building reputation online. It seems that as an industry we have been so focused on the glitz and glamour of paid that sometimes we forget grassroots methods for building an online profile. It’s either that, or we are becoming too impatient to wait for results, so we opt for the quick paid win. 

This is a huge missed opportunity. Factoring in SEO to your communications plan is extremely important for the long-term success of your brand. 

Don’t miss opportunities

When planning for a media campaign, we already have our key targets. We know they have authority, and landing a piece of coverage or a shoutout is excellent. But we can do more. What we aren’t thinking about is the power of a link to the client’s website. Asking the journalist to add a hyperlink in the text, or after the article, increases your chances of ranking higher in search results. Not all journalists will say yes, but what’s the harm in asking?

Earn trust, don’t buy it

Consumers are starting to see through advertising and are now more skeptical than ever. In fact, despite the rising concerns of fake news, trust in search engines is lower than traditional media in Australia, Hong Kong and Singapore, according to the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer. If you’re anything like me, you’ll likely scroll straight past the ads and look directly at the organic search-engine results. If you’re not there, you miss out.

You can’t always buy trust—or clicks. Instead we need to focus on creating content strategies based on keywords, highest searched queries and competitor insights to allow your website to rank higher, and ultimately, earn the click. Long-term success requires long-term thinking.

Make your content work harder for you

Executive thought leadership is currently one of the key focus areas for brands in Asia. We are constantly creating content for bylines, talking points, LinkedIn posts and so on. We do great work, but we often overlook further ways the content can be repurposed across multiple channels or formats.

There’s more to SEO than content, but it does play an extremely important role. To accelerate our communications plan, we need to explore how each piece of content increases our relevance online. Let’s say you get a great byline placed in a tier-one publication. What is stopping you from turning that into a blog post, or even updating an existing post so that the search bots crawl your site again? There are so many options, yet we often celebrate the win, and move on to the next pitch.

SEO is one of the most undervalued tactics in our industry today. I can’t count the number of debates I have had on this, but at the end of the day people are quick to jump to a paid approach. Sometimes paid is a great option if you have a promotion, if want to test audiences or if your client is new to the market and has little presence. But it’s also not the only way to build your brand reputation, build trust, or generate leads. Next time you’re thinking of building your client’s reputation, think about how SEO can help you achieve your goals.


Emma Davey is assistant director of digital at Edelman in Hong Kong.

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