PRmoment Awards Tickets 2024 PRmoment Leaders PA Mediapoint PA Assignments PRCA PRmoment Awards Winners North

Neil Boom, PR director at, explains the PR strategy his business took when Google turned off the tap

Neil Boom, from, explains the actions and PR strategy his business took when Google suddenly turned off the tap 

So, farewell then Bebo. Two years ago Bebo was a thriving social networking site. Today, it’s up for sale or closure. How quickly things change in the fickle world of the internet.

Last June, things changed equally dramatically for our site Unlike Bebo, our issue wasn’t users heading elsewhere. It was Google. It simply stopped sending us visitors. Almost overnight Google search traffic fell by 95 per cent. As a free site, we depend on advertising revenue. Without large amounts of organic traffic, we cannot make a profit. Without Google, it was going to be tough.

While the Internet may be fickle, the rules of business are universal. One is that if you can’t control income, at least keep costs to an absolute minimum. We did. And if a main supplier (Google) isn’t helping, find a good alternative. For us that wasn’t straightforward because of Google’s dominance, but we did strike up an effective relationship with Bing, Microsoft’s search engine. Bing now sends us plenty of traffic.

Another rule of business is you make your own luck. We focused on the areas that were within our control, namely site content and function, distribution, and promotion. Number one, was the site itself. If we could make the site faster, more attractive and easy to use, its merits would at least advertise themselves.

Having a limited amount of seed capital, we couldn’t afford to sit back and let the site eventually be discovered while traffic built. Every major improvement to the site was used as PR material. We press released newsworthy changes, issuing at least one release a month.

We set up a polling mechanism to collect data from site users to create stories. This has been successful. Each week we issue a short news release based on topical polls. Coverage from around the world has created over 40,000 back links to our site and a Google Page Rank of five, both valuable commodities in terms of search engine optimisation. To improve content (and attract traffic) we increased the number of news vendors supplying stories to the site, and boosted sports and celebrity stories.

These days almost as many people access the Net from their phone or PDAs. We therefore ensured our site was suitable for mobile access. Last September, we launched an iPhone/iTouch web app. This gave us a lot of traffic.

With little additional cost, we created sister English language sites. Currently, we have sites focused on America, Australia, India, and the UK. In a few weeks, we’ll have Spanish language sites covering Spain, North America and Mexico.

Then in February, eight months after it dried up, Google started sending us traffic again. At first, a trickle, soon a flood.

Is there a lesson to be learnt? Yes, the Internet is a fickle medium, but it’s still amenable to business reason. If you can provide a good product, market it strongly, and be prepared to change quickly if necessary, then you can tough out the inevitable hard times most businesses face.

If you enjoyed this article, sign up for free to our twice weekly editorial alert.

We have six email alerts in total - covering ESG, internal comms, PR jobs and events. Enter your email address below to find out more: