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April's Digital PR Trends and Updates: Answer engines, social search and spam crackdowns

This month’s roundup includes the impact of multiple Google algorithm updates, OpenAI’s CEO's swipe at the status quo of Search, and TikTok’s latest SEO metric.

Google’s March updates crack down on spam

Google continues to crack down on low-quality content, spam, and black hat SEO tactics through its Helpful Content Update (HCU).

Google’s March Core and Spam Updates means Digital PR (when done properly) will become more important than ever. As part of this, there have been updates to link signals that DPRs need to be aware of. It appears to soften the emphasis of links, attacks links built to manipulate rankings and devalues links from expired domains.

What does that mean for Digital PR?

This month represents a perfect storm of these algorithm changes, alongside existing challenges Digital PRs were already experiencing: building links is getting harder, with fewer journalists and an ever-growing mountain of emails (thanks partly due to AI tools making it easier to pitch at scale).

Poor links – or worse! – bought links will be punished. So the only way around these updates is link-building best practice, which fortunately, PR professionals are best placed to deliver. High quality, relevant editorial placed in trusted, established media titles linking to key commercial landing pages onsite is the gold standard. The best stories, written for people, not search engines, will cut through. And we’re nothing, if not storytellers.

Will ChatGPT become an “answer engine”?

In a recent interview, OpenAI’s CEO Sam Fridman hinted at the future of “information retrieval”. When asked if he thought OpenAI would challenge Google’s monopoly of the search market, Fridman said Google search is boring, and he thinks that ChatGPT will be (and in some cases, already is) ‘a much better way for people to find, act on and synthesize information’.

What does that mean for Digital PR?

Marketing and Comms professionals have long tried to understand the inner working of SEO (search engine optimization). If information discovery is set to shift across to tools like ChatGPT, we’ll need to figure out how to get our brands and businesses showing up there too. What kind of ranking factors will AIO (Artificial Intelligence Optimization) include?

TikTok launches “Creator Search Insights”

Latest figures show that Gen Z are using Instagram (67%) and TikTok (61%) more than Google (61%). TikTok has been leaning ever-further into this changing behavior, and its latest move is to introduce “search value”, an in-platform metric akin to SEO.

This new metric incentivizes creators to make content that aligns with what people are searching for on the platform. Using the new tool, Creator Search Insights, TikTok creators can access data about how topics are being searched for, so they can align their content creation accordingly.

What does that mean for Digital PR?

This latest move clearly shows the direction of travel for social search. While platforms like TikTok and Instagram won’t threaten Google just yet, it’s an important lesson for Digital PR. We’ve got to go where audiences are: a relentless focus on one channel could mean you’re missing significant opportunity elsewhere.

Digital PR is so much more than link-building—it’s building reputation and authority wherever your target consumers are spending time. Earning our way into conversations on these platforms and originating content should be important components of any comms strategy this year.

Article written by Ben Eaglestone, Energy PR's Data Lead.

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