Public Relations: The Force Behind Real Internet Results

Brook Zimmatore | August 22, 2013

For the past 10 years we have seen the search giant Google quietly (and not so quietly) dominate the internet and then, in the same manner, begin to squeeze profitability from every corner. As quality guidelines were announced and the internet started to follow some semblance of rules, a new industry, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), was born.

With white hat SEO becoming a billion dollar industry overnight and black hat SEO services reaching close to 400,000 million a year it looked to the students of 2010 that becoming “SEOist” or search engine marketer was the smart decision.

What many failed to see were the early warning signs of Google’s war against SEO, or what they call “an industry which manipulates search results”. I won’t be a judge of that statement, as the Director of an online marketing company from 2007 to 2012, I could see the ethical reasoning behind Google’s vision. Apparently, Google disagreed with companies being hired who can effectively enhance search results when the company themselves had no backbone to support their stature. Even if Google was driving force behind disassembling about 70% of the SEO industry through Panda and Penguin, many still argue it was due to Google’s greed and hunger to cash in on any promotional angle they could. In fact, their Adwords system is no different to SEO. If you pay more, you get to the top faster — and for longer.

Conspiracies aside, here in 2013 we are seeing the internet mould a new invitation for a leader to dominate what we see on search results. In fact, it has always been this way, but just never used properly.

Public Relations is the new SEO.

But this time, blackhat techniques and low quality link building networks have no part in it. Harnessing the power of media contacts, online publications, creative strategies, social engagement and much more, the Public Relations industry has the internet at its finger tips.

But will the PR industry realise their true strength? We did.

There are still “SEO” guidelines to follow

Yes it’s true Google’s website quality guidelines still exist and should be followed. Their simplistic descriptions of what a page should contain to help the search engine understand the content should be used. This is straightforward and good practice.

It is all about getting real people to talk about you.

But, it is the PR’s job to get that all-important citation for your company and website. Google explains this on their page about Google-friendly websites. With a vast amount of back link sources depreciated over the past 2 years, it is no longer possible to generate a generic en-mass solution.

It is all about getting real people to talk about you. That’s all! And which job description has done this effectively since the advent of advertising? The PR.

Reputation management, SEO, PR

Massive’s interest in all this is the creation of our “Digital Wall” strategies for clients. We explain more on this here. The Digital Wall is simply a coined term by our firm meaning; powerful search engine results dominating the vital keywords of a client to protect them from harmful content. From a reputation management standpoint, this is extremely valuable as the most sought-after web searches for a brand can then be controlled by us (and the client).

What Massive does here will be of immense interest to those still reeling after being punched by Google.

  • Using media channels – Any good PR firm will have their own contacts in the media. This is an SEO’s dream because a PR can get a trusted source (online newspaper) to run a story crafted and designed with a strategic message and perhaps sprinkled with essential search terms. So when we want to create a Digital Wall, we simply start with the media. A well-written article in the New York Times will rank extremely well – good for business and good for online reputation protection.
  • Gaining traction through social campaigns – Social media is not just about trying to force your link or idea on to others. It never works. A good PR company will understand the depth of communication and interaction required to get anywhere from 100k to a million + followers on social media. It requires creative ideas, understanding the broad public and much more. Great PR firms can change the way people think about a product or brand with social media alone.
  • User-generated content – Looking at Google’s vision, this is close to one of the best strategies out there. Google loves what others love, that’s how it has been setup. Campaigns which get other bloggers, media outlets and websites to WANT to share your content or write about you will create a powerful and unstoppable brand presence. How do you get people to talk about you? That’s the PR’s job.

Case Study

Let’s take a look at one of the biggest companies in the travel industry — TripAdvisor.

Trip advisor PR firm

How is it they rank online for almost every touristic location, travel review, hotel or restaurant across 31 countries in 21 languages? The sheer quantity of exposure from the internet search result alone generates over 200 million unique visitors every month and enormous advertising profits and referral commissions. This is a powerful business machine.

What fuels this site is:

  • Online search results
  • User generated content
  • Media mentions
  • Paid advertising (TV/Radio/Magazines/Internet)
  • Social Campaigns

And what generates the most revenue? The internet — pure, first page results for almost any travel location from South America to Australia.

To understand how this was accomplished you have to look at the above list in reverse:

Social Campaigns – intelligent use of almost every platform including facebook for reviews, chat, recommendations and sharing. Instagram and Pinterest for images Twitter for recommendations and feedback. Google+ for search enhancements.

Result: Millions of TripAdvisor pages getting shared around the world.

Paid Advertising – Strategic placements of ads to reach holiday goers, target popular locations by country, printed newspaper splash pages, creative commercials on TV – all worked out based on the populations demand to travel.

Result: Millions driven to their website or social pages.

Media mentions – When you have contacts in the media you can accomplish wonders. TripAdvisor has seeped into almost every travel section of online and printed newspapers across the Western world. Again, this drives people to their website.

User generated content – It takes a little ingenuity to make people talk for you and about you. The internal structure of Trip Advisor takes the art of user generated content to a new level. You almost don’t want to leave without writing something.

So is it a mystery why Google loves them? Nope. But it was not the work of a large SEO firm or Search Marketing company which accomplished this. It was the efforts of one of the world’s top PR firms, Eldeman, alongside TripAdvisor’s strong internal communications team. Only a PR firm could generate such a powerful demand. The strength of the PR firm of course determines the weight of the campaign, and TripAdvisors management chose well.

So the next time you think about hiring a search marketing company or SEO company, consider the above and start asking around for a PR company who already specialises in your industry.

CEO / Co-Founder
Brook Zimmatore is the Co-Founder & CEO at Massive.