For many years public relations (PR) and search engine optimisation (SEO) have existed separately, providing companies with their benefits in a very disparate manner. However, the time has arrived for the two strands to work together in order to offer the best possible online result, particularly in light of the changes brought in by Google with the launch of their latest algorithm called Penquin.
This is where Online PR comes in. It focuses on the ‘credible’, places for brands to be seen online, and the ‘genuine’, organic activity such as positive online conversations about the company.
The advent of Penguin was part of a shift in the emphasis of the search engine. Now earned links, which are back links to your website from trusted sources like national newspapers and online conversations about the company or brand, are valued most highly. Subsequently, pages benefitting from these associations now rank much higher in search results than previously.
Content is most definitely king and through the use of Online PR techniques, we can identify whether particular content is working and engaging the end user, whether this be through driving ecommerce sales or generating leads for more B2B focussed businesses.
The approach to Online PR is not dissimilar to conventional PR in printed magazines and newspapers. Time first needs to be put in to identify websites that best represent your product or service offering, along with measuring the popularity of each website (domain authority) . Once identified, a relationship needs to be built with the website and encouraged to publish editorial promoting your products and services. By forging links with credible high authority websites, this will increase your rank and relevance with search engines, increasing your chances of page one results.
In addition to improving search results, Online PR can also benefit a brands’ online reputation by engaging with users. The ease with which online content can be shared via social media now means that users have a real voice. In the past, if someone had read a print magazine article and liked it, they would be very unlikely to write a letter of compliment, instead just moving on.
However now that Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+ and online comment boxes are so readily accessible from all devices, user feedback is generated quickly and in considerable numbers.
Listening to this feedback and making sensible changes in line with it is crucial to maintaining the long term relationship between a brand and potential advocates. Far too often though, we are seeing companies displaying apathy towards this vital information source. In doing so the chance to connect with advocates that would do much to spread the word about the online presence of the brand is lost and this is an opportunity that can no longer be ignored.
Careful measuring of Online PR activity enables the identification of methods and content that generates the greatest engagement and the most credible places online for a company to be featured, helping to build the ongoing online PR strategy and raising both profile and online presence. Is that something your business can afford to be without in 2014?
Paul Haidon is Managing Director of Media Waypoint, an online and digital marketing agency based in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire. Media Waypoint specialises in every aspect of online and digital marketing, including Pay Per Click advertising (PPC), Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), Conversion Optimisation and Social Media.