In this week's episode, we chat with Beth Nunnington, PR Director at Journey Further about the importance of relevancy with digital PR.
Where to find Beth:
Resources from the episode:
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Website - https://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/
LinkedIn - https://www.linkedin.com/company/screaming-frog/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/screamingfrog
YouTube - https://www.youtube.com/c/ScreamingFrogSEO
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Areej AbuAli: Hey everyone, welcome to a new episode of the Women in Tech SEO podcast. My name is Areej AbuAli and I'm the founder of Women in Tech SEO and I'm your host in today's episode. Today's episode is all about relevancy in digital marketing and joining me is the brilliant Beth Nunnington who is the PR director at Journey Further. Hey, Beth.
Beth Nunnington: Hi, Areej. How are you?
Areej: I'm good. How are you?
Beth: Yes, I'm good, thank you. I'm very excited to be having this conversation, to be having this chat.
Areej: Yes, I'm so excited to have you on board. I love the Journey Further team. I'm part of the book club and I'm a huge fan of everything that you do. I recently joined your conference as well. I think it was a week ago?
Beth: Yes, I saw you were there actually.
Areej: Yes, I have so much stuff for everything you and the team produced. I'm excited to have you here with us.
Beth: Thank you, that's fantastic. I'll have to let the marketing team know because they did put a lot of effort into that event. I'm glad you enjoyed it, I thought it was great as well.
Areej: Yes, awesome. Well, can you let everyone know a little bit about yourself and how you got into the world of SEO?
Beth: Yes, of course. I'm Beth, as she said, I'm the PR director here at a performance marketing agency, Journey Further. I was the first person into the PR team three years ago now, and now we're about to hit 25 people, which is fantastic. I'm very much in charge of the growth of the team, overseeing the running of everything that we're doing here and showing that we're delivering fantastic results for our clients. I my career in SEO over 10 years ago, now which does make me feel a bit old if I'm honest. I started as a new media exec for solicitors in Liverpool, so it's in-house.
I was part of an internal marketing team that helped manage their external SEO agency. I wrote on-site content, I filmed a lot of video content as well and I manage their social media channels as well as dabbling in digital PR at times. That's when I realized I wanted to specialize in it, so I applied for a role at Epiphany, which at the time was one of the biggest search marketing agencies, which are based in Leeds. I got a job in the PR team there and there I worked my way up and I specialized in digital PR and learned a lot about SEO and link building.
Then basically I moved to another agency then in Leeds and then I got offered the opportunity by Robin Skidmore who's our CEO at Journey Further to come and launch the digital PR division,n at Journey further. Yes, that's how I got into it, I didn't start as an agency, I was very much in-house at a solicitors firm, but I still learned quite a bit about SEO there and realized that's where I wanted to specialize in.
Areej: Yes, and how did you find that shift initially from in-house to agency, because it looks like afterwards, you decided to stick to the agency side. How was the shift for you?
Beth: Yes, it was a big shift, if I'm honest. The pace was very different, but I loved agency life, I always have done, because I enjoyed the variety of it and I liked working on different accounts. Whilst I was working just in law, it was really interesting to then come and start working on your home interiors account, or fashion or finance. I just really felt like I was broadening my skills and I became part of a much bigger team as well.
I felt that I was learning so much more, because not only was I sitting within a whole team of PR's and SEO's, but then there was the PPC team and the creative team and I just felt I broadened my skill set and learned a lot more about marketing. Yes, it was a bit of a shock to the system when I first started, but I don't think I'd go back now if I'm honest.
Areej: Yes, do you currently work in a large number of different industries?
Beth: Yes, we're very varied here, so we have anything from travel to finance. We've got B2B, fashion, lots of home interior brands. Yes, I personally really enjoy the variety.
Areej: For women who are starting in the industry, more specifically in the digital PR industry, what advice would you give them?
Beth: I think there's been a lot of conversation recently about this actually, but I would say to do their research about the company they want to work for in advance and make sure that they're coming prepared to interviews with lots of questions. They should be focusing on things like asking about employee retention, why are you hiring for this role? Is it because of growth or is it because of people leaving? and asking questions about the culture in general? I think from my own experience as well, I would encourage people to keep an open mind. If their first job isn't what they'd always dreamed of doing, then try not to worry too much.
A did a broadcast journalism degree. I really wanted my first job to be a radio journalist and I couldn't get an interview anywhere and I almost fell into marketing a bit by chance, but I loved it. As soon as I was in that role, I realized that that's what I wanted to do. I think in any role even it's not like your initial dream job, you're still going to be getting a lot of experience which is valuable and you'll be able to build up transferable skills.
Don’t settle for a job that's not right for you, but at the same time, I just really encourage people to keep an open mind and as well try and make the most of all the available free resources. For example, this podcast is a fantastic resource for people looking to get into from a technical perspective and digital PR perspective, but there's also lots of other resources as well that people can use. It’s not only learning and improving their development but also helping them decide which area they'd like to specialize in.
Areej: Yes. I think speaking of being agency side, my advice for people starting from the industry has always been starting agency side. That was how I started as well and I feel you get to learn so much by working, as you said, with a large number of different teams, and across different clients.
Beth: Yes, 100%. I completely agree with you.
Areej: I've always felt as well in the digital PR specifically, with the teams. A lot of people who get started in it are, you don't need to have prior experience. You get to learn so much on the job as well.
Beth: Yes. I'd also encourage work experience. We do offer paid work experience and I think it's just a great way for people to come in and just get a bit of a flavour of what agency life's about and also to understand not only what they want to do, but also what they really don't want to do. Work experience throughout, if people can do it throughout university or maybe just after university is really helpful. Both it helping people decide, okay, what is it that I'm really enjoying and what is it that I need to avoid and look out for? Yes, I think more and more agencies are now are offering paid work experience, so if you can get that, I'd really recommend doing that as well.
Areej: Yes, I love that. I think that such great advice. We're here today to talk all about relevancy in digital PR. As I mentioned right before we started recording, I saw your brilliant talk recently in brightonSEO on the topic. I think a good way to start off would be talking about what does it actually mean to be relevant in digital PR?
Beth: I think there's several different ways that you can be relevant, I think all of them are important. For me, there are four key areas. When you're coming up with your PR strategy and your idea, is it going to be relevant to the target audience? Is the content you're creating going to engage with them? Is it something that they're going to want to read? Is the idea on brand? Does that brand have the authority to be talking about that topic? Is it something that can be related to their expertise? Also, from a news agenda perspective, is it relevant to what's happening right now in the media?
Is it topical? Is it something that the journalists are going to want to jump on and cover? Then finally, and this is something that I think often gets missed, but is the campaign idea relevant to those keywords that you rank for? That's probably what I'll end up discussing more in a bit more detail, but I think relevancy and relevance in general, has been taught a lot about in the industry, but to me, they're the four key things I think is important.
Areej: Yes, that's a very, very helpful way of summarizing it, because that was one of my thinking as well. I know in general when people work within digital PR, one of the important stages is the ideation stage. Do they need to start prioritizing this idea of relevancy at that point or is it something that can be introduced later on?
Beth: No, 100% I think it needs to be a key part of the strategy from day one because fundamentally if you don't go into a brainstorm knowing the areas that you need to be relevant for related to those four things. Is it on brand? Is it topical? Is it relevant to the news agenda? Is it relevant to the target audience? And is it relevant to the keywords, then you're going to be getting off on the wrong foot? I think actually, it's really important to start the process of the right brief so that you're pulling all that insight together.
If you are hosting a brainstorm or if you're thinking of ideas individually if everyone has a brief that makes all those four areas clear, then that means that when we are coming up with ideas, you can be pulling yourself back to brief, and then it means that when you get to the ideation stage, you get to execution, you've not gone off on a tangent because you've constantly been pulling yourself back, to the relevant points that fundamentally the campaign needs to be completely pinned around.
Areej: Why do you think relevancy should always be a priority in our strategy? What makes it important, and what makes it essential in any SEO strategy?
Beth: Something we talk about a lot here, is that about the fact Google is so much more intelligent now we know that it's using natural language understanding and that it uses machine learning. Fundamentally, it actually wants to understand a website as one online entity, so it can therefore give the best results for its end-user because it wants to read content as if it was a human being.
We also believe that whilst Google tracks links it's also now because it uses this machine learning, is also able to read the content that's around that link and understand the wider context of that article. John Mueller who's obviously a Google representative came out a few months ago, but he said Google, the total number of links don't matter at all, we focus on trying to understand what's relevant for that website.
Therefore, if Google is starting to prioritize relevant content more, and trying to understand what just is all about not just focusing on those links, then ultimately it's likely that relevancy is going to have a big impact on rankings, and so therefore if you're using digital PR, to improve your rankings through links and the content, then that has to be a real priority in your strategy because it's no longer enough to just be what we say. It's no longer enough to be popular and get as many links from as many different publications as possible, you need to focus on relevant and I do believe it's about the higher quality relevant links than just trying to get as many links from many different places as possible.
Areej: Do you feel this works well when we're thinking of an international market perspective? Let's say we're launching campaigns for a website based in Germany. Do you feel then that relevance is all about, well, are we getting links that are German-based websites, or are we getting ones that are more UK-based websites? Do you feel that helps and has an impact?
Beth: I think it does, and it's worth it from an international perspective if it is a German brand, especially then. You should be focusing on those titles, but I also think that getting coverage on a UK site wouldn't be detrimental if the content was still relevant. For example, if we are working with a UK brand, and we ended up getting some coverage on say, women's health Australia, as long as that content was relevant and it was potentially about a health topic or wellness lifestyle, and the wider context of that article was relevant to what our client wants to rank for, or what our audience is interested in.
Then I don't see that as being harmful, I still think that's technically relevant, even though it's in a different country. I'm not sure if that fully answers your question because I think we don't ever knowevent Google is fully looking at, but I think is relevant in terms of getting German links. I think it's also about the content and the context of the article overarchingly but I might be wrong, it'd be interesting.
Areej: No, I do agree. I found that a lot when I was agency side and we used to build links specifically for German or French sites or so forth. The more of those we get is great, but then it's very difficult for us to say, oh, by getting the UK, or the US or Australian coverage it's harmful. We can not say that. I completely agree on that point and let's say I want to go ahead and I want to audit some of my previous campaigns, or I want to make sure that our future proof my upcoming campaigns. How can I then decide, how am I supposed to measure relevancy in these campaigns?
Beth: This is not easy because I know historically it's been quite time-consuming to do, because ultimately, if you're looking at all your bad links, you're going to have to analyze that content potentially manually one by one and that can be very time-consuming, as I say. Also, you can look at-- it's not that easy but that's the reason why we end up building our own tool salient, which uses the IBM Watson API. I appreciate that's not useful for your readers because this is our proprietary technology, that we currently have internally. However, there is a free tool on the IBM Watson website, which allows you to measure the relevancy of a single piece of text, which is very useful if you are creating onsite content and also for press releases.
I could read out the URL and I'm sure you could include it, but it's ibm.com/demos/live/natural language understanding/self-service/hom, so I'm sure we can share that somewhere. It's a lot easier to understand but ultimately, this free tool, if you click on it you can then copy and paste your press release or copy and paste your piece of content, and then it will give you a relevant score out of one, so not 0.9 or one would be extremely relevant for certain keywords that you want to rank for.
However, I would urge caution. I probably say you want to be getting a score around not 0.6, because what you don't want to be doing is keyword stuffing because obviously when we're putting content together, whilst we want Google to understand what we're relevant for, we also need to be thinking of the end-user. If that's a journalist and we've made our press release just really keyword heavy, it's not going to make sense and they'll probably be thinking this is rubbish and won't use it.
The same with an onsite piece of content, if you're thinking about your end customer, end-user clicking on it, it still has to make sense, but this tool is just really useful because you can just make some subtle tweaks that can help increase relevancy. Then you know that you've optimized your content as best as possible because we know that some journalists when they're really busy sometimes, they do just copy and paste a lot of content.
As a PR persons, it's quite important to make sure that there's a spokesperson quote within press releases and by ensuring that your quote is really relevant. That's one of the best ways to do it because journalists won't change a quote. If your quote's really relevant, then that's going to help because that's something the journalists won't be able to paraphrase or to change around because it's an actual quote, if that makes sense.
Areej: Yes. It helps build a lot of authority as well and makes it much more authentic to be able to get that quote directly from the source included.
Beth: I think, if you're not able to put a quote in because the company's not got anything relevant to say, then that's a red flag because ultimately you need as a spokesperson who you've done the research for, or the story is about they should be able to put a quote together with confide and saying this is why we did this piece of research, or this is why we've created this content for these reasons and if there's not that connection between the brand and between what you're talking about, you are going to struggle with that quote. I just think that's quite interesting when you are putting together your ideas and your content.
It's also worth thinking when we get to the quote, what’re those key messages that we're trying to portray? I think that's quite, that's more of a traditional PR approach if I'm honest than thinking about the key messages, but I actually believe that everything's blurring now. Traditional digital PR is becoming quite blurred, and I think it's important from a traditional PR perspective. If we are creating an amazing piece of content, that some brand is full of key messages, and you're getting that link then it's going