Don’t let SEO experts steal your job!

Google is the big gorilla in PR. Don’t agree? Then perhaps you should think again.

PR is ultimately about influence ... I assume I'm right in saying this? Whether you are influencing media to take a particular slant in a crisis situation or you're simply spinning up a story and influencing the media to take it, which then influences the public at large, in any way shape or form – it's all influence.

What makes something influential? Well, I think it’s a combination of things:

Trusted source + Right time + Right information = Influence.

If my formula makes sense to you, then I put it to you; Google is “influence” embodied. You may think Google is important, but do you appreciate how important it is? Google gives people information in a timely way when they ask and the majority of us think the search results are fair and unbiased. Did you also know Google is as trusted as mainstream media?

Let's look at some stats to back up my point.

The chart below which looks at how much people trust the media, shows that overall, search engines are as trusted as traditional media. 

SOURCE: Edelman Trust Barometer

While 73 per cent of users think search engine results are very/reasonably trustworthy:

In general, how much of the information you find using search engines do you think is accurate and trustworthy?

SOURCE: Pew Internet

That means when Google brings up search results, we generally think the results are right and so we usually won’t bother looking on page two because page one gives us the results we want.

That makes natural search results very important.

Visualise this: what if you did a search for a potential supplier, typed in its brand name and up came negative reviews on forums and bad coverage from bloggers? You would probably look for another supplier. This is Google influence in play. This kind of influence may not have the “bang” of a newspaper story, but Google affects how people perceive a brand in a consistent and ongoing basis. And bear in mind, in a week that newspaper will be in a landfill rotting away and gone forever.

It's arguable, the real power of that newspaper is when the article ends up on the internet in perpetuity and is seen at the right time, for the right person and influences in some way – all because it’s prominent on the right search engine result.

I think a lot of PROs know Google is important, but they don't really know how to change search results. They get the idea SEO is something to do with content and links and that somehow good content gets links and then rankings, but then many PROs don’t really understand what a good link is.

When we don't understand something and it's complicated and not really urgent, we ignore it. I suggest PROs, on the whole, have put Google in the bucket of “it's too much hassle and clients don't scream for it yet, so let’s ignore it for now”. And so Google gets side-lined in PR, despite its huge influence on consumers and brand perception.

The catch for PROs is that SEO specialists are being forced into being good at digital PR. It's because of Google's purge on “spammy” link building. To get links and not be penalised SEO experts have to create and place editorially justifiable content. The greater the purge on “spam”, the better SEO experts will get at digital PR. They already know how to do relationship building, content, and ideation and as a bonus they also know how to manipulate search results.

It's only a matter of time before your clients quietly tests out that SEO agency on a digital PR project and suddenly those geeky SEO people have eaten your lunch.

So, in conclusion, I don't want to preach or scaremonger. I just think SEO people are creeping up behind you and when your clients demand influencing Digital PR on Google, lots of you will fall over. So before your back is against the wall, how about talking to the SEO nerd in the corner and see how you can all work together?

Nick Garner, CEO of SEO agency 90 Digital