Dec 18th 2012

Sean Fleming

SEO is changing

Are we about to see PR swoop as SEO firms struggle to keep pace?

Search engine optimisation, also known as SEO, is a term that refers to making your website easier to find when people enter certain words into a search engine (such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing). But everything you know about SEO is about to change fundamentally, as a result of moves being made by Google to focus on higher quality results to your search queries.

In fact, in 2012 Google made more than 20 changes to the way it indexes websites and retrieves them to match your search queries. If you adopt a business-as-usual approach to SEO, gradually your website will slip down the page rankings, overtaken by those competitors of yours who have paid attention.

As an industry sector, SEO began to really take off in the dotcom boom era of the late 1990s.

Now it is one of the cornerstones of many businesses online marketing strategies, thought to be worth around £500 million per year. There are a number of key activities that have typically taken place under the SEO umbrella.  

  • Buying ‘ad words’ so that you appear in related searches, although there is research data suggesting such paid-for activities are resented by internet users
  • Syndicating any and all of your content, such as getting your press releases on lots of websites that no one has heard of
  • Ensuring you mention lots of words in your website copy that people might search for, there’s a joke that illustrates this – an SEO executive walks into a bar, pub, restaurant, gastro-pub, café, wine-bar, night-club…

Although this strategy has proven successful in delivering raw numbers – click through rates, traffic to landing pages, position on the sought after first page of Google search results and the like – Google is making changes to the way it indexes (finds) online information and websites. These changes have the potential to shake up the traditional approach to SEO.

If you want to maintain a visible presence in search results, the days of putting your press releases on websites that aggregate content from many different sources, but which no one has actually heard of, are numbered.

Quality is the new watchword, not quantity.

Having an authentic and authoritative voice online has arguably never been more important. This means developing your own content strategy and thinking like an editor not like a brand marketer.

That word authoritative is an important one. Google has started using software tags on webpages to connect the author of a piece of content on a website to all their other online activities – in effect it is validating your identity and attributing importance to you based on what it can connect you with.

Getting the right content and people in the right place has always been the stock-in-trade of the PR industry.

Indeed, with our experience of helping our clients find their voice and tell their story in compelling language, combined with our connections in the media, PR consultants are ideally placed to help businesses take advantage of these changes.

Now it has a crucial role in meeting the challenges of Google’s changed search engine landscape too.

But, of course, it helps if your PR consultants actually understand these changes themselves, otherwise the likelihood of their steering you in the right direction would appear to be remote. Question them, challenge them – find out what they can tell you and what they are doing themselves with these changes.

We’d be happy to act as a sounding board if you’re not sure about the quality of the advice you’re getting, or if you would just like to discuss these issues.

Sean Fleming, Head of Digital