Why SEO is an important facet of Online Public Relations

by Peter Young on March 21, 2009 · 7 comments

I was recently involved in a conversation regarding the best fit for brand reputation as many legacy PR agencies were arguing that this function should be purely a PR activity rather than a combined, holistic approach to brand reputation. I hadn’t really thought more of that conversation until recently, whilst evaluating potential companies from which to buy a new kitchen from.

As with most people, our purchase process began with research. A simple search for kitchens was the starting point for the purchase, and a number of initial organisations were shortlisted for further evaluation. In the end we decided to bring a couple in for further discussion including Company A. Company A came into present their product and service, and after a 5 hour sales process we ended up suggesting there was a reasonable likelihood of further progress. That was until further evaluation was undertaken regarding Company A.

Company A brand search results

Company A brand search results

Such a search however produced a wide range of results, both from generic promotional activity such as Local Directories to the usual republished press articles. However it was the overwhelming response from a number of high profile forums which was the major factor that started ringing alarm bells. It is generally accepted that people only naturally leave comments when they are unhappy with a product or service – however the extent of the feedback was surprising to say the least.

The first 5 results post brand were all review forums, all containing 98% negative feedback regarding the organisation of which 50% contained the term ‘Do not touch this organisation at any cost’ (or variations thereof). Many traditional PR responses are often tailored to one-off responses – however online these responses can manifest themselves within the online brand space for a significant period of time, and can (and do) have a significant effect on both click through rate and ultimately the number of conversions. According to a recent report by Microsoft 9 out of 10 people use the internet for shopping and as a result ignoring these search results is just something that cannot be ignored.

It is therefore surprising little further activity has been reviewed in the circumstances. Certainly PR has its place to play in the whole remediation of this process particularly as the tone of the response in such a circumstance is crucial – and a dearth of 10 best types of kitchens type articles is not the type of response mechanism one should be considering in these circumstances. Instead one should be focussing on:

  • Identifying the most vocal contact points. Identify if any brand advocates do exist in these areas. Understand what people are writing about you, and whether there is any truth in what they are saying (honest appraisal is the best approach here)
  • Formulate a response where applicable. I would always suggest engagement with a PR Practitioner in these instances as you should only be correcting fact, not entering into a slanging match as this is only likely to compound the problem. Be personable and where applicable personalise this to the target audience – don’t standardise a response – people can tell a mile off.
  • Get an Online PR campaign under way. Wires such as PRNewswire are great at hitting touchpoints like Reuters, Bloomberg, Topix and the Press Association (amongst others) – however again it is imperative, you have a good story not just an advert. Keep this regular, a simple one-off will not suffice
  • Utilise internal assets. Many organisations have group websites, microsites, subsites etc, all of which could be optimised in their own right in response to such issues. This could allow you to dominate a greater proportion of brand search space than just the typical 2 results (+ sitelinks)
  • Engage with social media if applicable (Obviously this will be more applicable to some brands than others), but sites such as Twitter are very quick to respond to breaking news and very viral in nature.
  • Work with brand partners. Some of the best instances of such partnerships of this can be found in open source programming areas with hosting providers such as Rackspace providing hosting to PHP.net – saw one recently between Total Jobs and the Home Learning College as well). Often (not necessarily in that last example), these partners can aid with promotional opportunities.
  • Don’t forget your PPC. For example, blagger.com (one of the examples in the image above, runs PPC ads at the bottom of the page. Content Network targeting would allow you to run ads on these sites, which via site-targeted would allow you to respond directly to these instances (indirectly)

There are a number of other small things that could be done in these instances, however the main point of this is leaving such feedback to stagnate is not necessarily the best approach. It IS affecting brand perception, it IS affecting your conversion, and it IS affecting your bottom line

Can you really AFFORD to leave it alone?

Google+ Comments

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Peter March 24, 2009 at 6:41 am

Utterly superb article. Echo’s my sentiments in every respect.

Well done.

Robin Houghton March 24, 2009 at 12:08 pm

Great post, and well illustrated. Something else worth thinking about is to re-energise your brand advocates. Not necessarily as a response to negative ratings, but as an ongoing part of your online PR strategy. Simply asking satisfied customers to give you a rating or a positive review can work, rather like those ‘rate your seller’ emails from eBay or Amazon. Happy customers often oblige if you make it easy for them. A body of positive comments will over time (hopefully!) outnumber the poor ones, and of course be picked up in searches, so reducing the visibility and impact of negative comments.

Ray@campusfork.com March 25, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Great article.
Living in Bay Area, SEO has been part of internet marketing.

Your knowledge is a great asset especially in China where SEO is lacking.

The tricky things is when websites using Chinese character attempt to get optimization.

see you on Twitter!

Rayfil Wong

Peter Young March 25, 2009 at 3:14 pm

Thanks Robin,

Its amazing how many organisations seem to forget about the impact of negative rankings on both other channels such as PPC (impact on CTR), but also on the bottom line (as highlighted in the example I used above).

Given the extent to which search engines dissect our every days, it is still suprising how many organisations ditch SEO in favour of one-off ‘viral games’ and the like.

Steen Seo Öhman March 28, 2009 at 5:29 am

Well in Denmark most PR work is done by “old” journalists. They really don’t know anything about the nature of the web, as they normally have a background in TV or newspapers.

They really don’t understand the nature of the search engines users, and how the search engines work.

SEO is not a integrated part of PR in Denmark, but change is going to happen in one or two years.

SEO Pro April 2, 2009 at 2:21 pm

I attended a PR association meeting a month ago. One of the “PR Pros” actually said that he thought social media like facebook and twitter was silly and wouldn’t work for anyone in his demographic!

Hope HIS company gets rid of him soon!

Aleksej Heinze March 23, 2011 at 8:27 am

Hi Pete,

This is very interesting, to some extent you could argue that PR or reputation management or Social Media Optimisation are all there to help with SEO. For example a simple use of Google Alerts for your Brand Name is something that could help in both link building (by following up posts and requesting a link to your page) and also to identify weaknesses in service.

However, on the other hand the key issue for me here is that irrelevant how good their online PR is doing – if the main service/product is poor there is not much that reputation management can help you with! Social Media it is certainly a great market research tool for the company to see how they could improve their service in the first place – so, this goes beyond PR and to the managing directors or operations managers and others who might make the products that bit better!?

Anyway, I see this post is a couple of years old, but same lessons still apply today and perhaps it would be good to talk about it tomorrow at #SSMM!


PS: I really like the image – “Company A” how did you manage to make such a search window?

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: