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Why you can no longer separate PR from Google

Remember life before Google? Here is a quick summary of the search engine’s evolution and its impact on the PR industry.

1. Google Analytics

PR activity can be difficult to measure. However, Google’s analytics tool has created huge potential for teams to show the value of their work by tracking visitors to site and where traffic comes from. Did your PR campaign page receive a lot of visitors? Did people click through from publications you placed? You can even set specific goals for the site such as downloading a PDF, using contact form or even a sale.

Tip: Don’t forget to check Google analytics and Adwords for audience data. It’s a great place to start when creating online personas.

2. Diversity in publications

Google has also made it easier for readers to find a diverse range of news sources, which has given writers freedom to create their own platforms. This not only means PROs can reach a niche audience more easily, but it means the national newspapers aren’t the only target publications you need to build relationships with.

3. Introduction of ads

Google has tried many avenues to monetise the platform. The prioritisation of paid ads has pushed organic/PR style content further down the results page. Many brands saw a reduced amount of traffic to their sites because of this.

Paid media teams know the value of brand as it can lower the cost for advertising. Investing in PR can mean your paid budget stretches further – another indirect benefit of good PR.

4. Google hits the headlines

The introduction of Google's customisable news feed became an industry disruptor overnight. It neatly organises articles most relevant to user enquiries from the world's most popular magazines and publishers.

Google news is a great way for PROs to keep up with news in real time, searching for relevant stories around topics relevant to their brand. With just 4,000 news sources when it first launched, it now scours millions of websites today, lessening the need for news clipping services.

We can get our stories out quicker, but on the other hand, it means there is a constant feed of fresh news and so our stories can be buried at a faster rate too.

Tip: Don’t forget to set up Google alerts for your brand, competitors and keywords relating to your product or people. Getting updates straight into your inbox allows you to react quickly to breaking news and avoid potential a PR crisis.

5. The rise of SEO journalism

You’ll probably have noticed publications are hiring to build out their own SEO journalism teams who look to create stories designed to rank well on Google.

These journalists will look to write content that answers popular or timely searches. For example, “How much does Kin Kardashian earn?” or “How to change a light build?”. The quick and low-cost expert insights that PROs can provide to answer such questions can lead to media coverage.

Tip: Use Google Trends to find out when journalists are writing about a topic. For example, if peak searches and coverage around Christmas starts in mid-November, make sure you have your campaign ready to go by then.

6. EAT – Expertise, Authority and Trust

In 2014, Google introduced the “EAT” principles, which means it rewards brands who demonstrate expertise, authority and trust.

PR is a great way to do this as news coverage we achieve utilises brand spokespeople who are experts in their field. We gain coverage on authoritative publications and the fact that they link to our websites, proves that they trust our opinions and content; adding SEO benefits to your PR activity.

A Google update recently impacted the publications themselves too, not just brands. Less “trusted” sites such as the Daily Mail saw a loss of visibility on SERPs (Search Engine Results Page) to more trusted sources. This will likely affect its website’s traffic which could impact advertisers on its website.

7. Mixing up the results page to show balance

A small change throughout Google’s development has been that the first page of results now shows more variety in sources. There’s more of a mix between brand websites and impartial news, comparison and review sources.

This means PR is more valuable as it directly impacts the types of sites brands are covered on. Just putting content out on your own blog will only land you on the results page once but, having reviews, interviews and product launch stories featured on other websites increases the amount of Google real estate you take up.

8. Relevancy

A key ranking factor for Google is website relevancy. The algorithm looks at both onsite and offsite content about your brand to see how relevant it is for a specific search.

PR has always been a great way to get your brand placed in relevant conversations. If Google sees your website linked to and mentioned on publications which are relevant to your product e.g. an airline being linked to by travel publications, it is more likely to reward your page in the SERPS, leading to more traffic and in turn more sales.

9.    Penguin update

Few algorithm updates from Google have caused as much controversy as the Penguin update, which arrived to put an end to shady link building. The world of SEO had to rethink its tactics once again, while owners of numerous websites watched in dismay as they toppled down the search rankings.

Penguin 4.0 was revolutionary due to the fact it operated in real-time, allowing it to penalise sites quicker. On the plus side, it allowed sites to recover from penalties much faster.

All good PROs should be aware of this update and Google’s guidelines on how to tag up paid for opportunities.

Note: There’s also been more recent changes to the guidelines on how to reference sponsorships, product placements, links, paid placements and disclosures.

Tip: Keep up to date on announcements on updates and best practice on the Google blog and don’t forget to adhere to ASA guidelines around disclosures too.

10. Tackling #fakenews

Click bait content and headlines have been popular and effective in the past, however Google have been put under pressure to tackle the issue.

Google is adapting; rewarding brands and websites who are trusted, suggesting that brand ethics will become increasingly important. Bad PR tactics such as shock value headlines that have little relevance to the real story are now seen as “fake news”.

It’s not just Google that is getting wise to it either, internet users are becoming increasingly aware of paid partnerships, spun stories and especially fake news. This means that PROs need to focus on best practise PR, where all stories are authentic and have a strong basis when pulled apart by an educated reader.

Written by Beth Hibbert, digital PR manager at marketing agency Edit, @BethanyHibbert on Twitter

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