SEO, PR, reputation management

Wadds wrote this post about public relations and SEO which summarised a discussion on Twitter. He articulates the consumers increasingly now use a reputation funnel when making important decisions. Starting with Google and then moving on to the trusted web: this maybe social networks, micromedia like Twitter or even social bookmarking services like delicious.

This maps to a decision making model (you could chose AIDA or whatever model takes your fancy) for the purpose of this blog post I created a four-stage process:

  • Problem / brief: work out what you want, or the point at which a need is awakened
  • Research: getting that evoked set
  • Filter: chopping the evoked set down, possibly using social proof
  • Commit: make their move

Given Stephen’s description of his process you can see how the early part of the process getting information around the problem or developing the brief to base any research to develop an evoked set happens in organic search. It is immediate and results are returned in a sub-200 millisecond time by the Googleplex.

PR SEO debate

Filtering the data and committing to the decision depends on accessing either archived information from his trusted web or real-time interaction from social contacts. I think that there are also clear parallels to a brand attachment model developed from Gallup research (thanks to Richard Sedley for introducing me to this model, its usually drawn as  a pyramid with confidence as the base).

Reputation management broadly maps to the inital part of the brand attraction model: confidence and integrity. And there is also there is a clear correlation between Google’s role in the process and reputation management. Whilst I don’t believe that public relations is purely about SEO; search now has a major part to play in public relations. Campaigns still need to have a surround sound presence to be effective touching the audience through different online and offline channels.

Stuart Bruce writes that PR is about reputation and behaviour not search: he is correct, but I would argue that at least the behaviour and reputational roles in search can be measured and it is harder to see the benefit of the offline work.

4 replies on “SEO, PR, reputation management”

  1. There’s a famous planning trap that it’s v. easy to fall into: choosing an objective because it can easily be measured.

    When we all started out on this digital planning thing (back in the era of the tamagotchi dinosaurs — or was it pokemon?) the thing to measure was site visits. I think there were at least three reasons behind this:

    – Our clients had just sunk a load of non-recoverable expenses into their websites, amd wanted to justify this.

    – Internet audiences (and therefore site traffic) were set to increase for the foreseeable future, making this a pleasantly positive trend to measure.

    – People were talking about “disintermediation” a lot back then, and it was easy for us and our clients to conflate consumer brand marketing business models with publishing and retail business models.

    – There were tools to measure things like unique visits and page views. There weren’t many other tools (obviously this was all part of the vicious circle.)

    I believe that this obsession with “unique visits” and “page views” acted as a tremendous brake on the progress of our industry. It has kept our clients focussed inwards on their sites, rather than externally on “what their customers are saying about them”

    Now — I like (and am inclined to quote) a good search metric as much as the next person. But I also believe that, if we take search as the KPI, we’ll lose sight of our strategic objectives.

    The objective for PR (whatever it is) should not be either “increased search volume,” or “increased SERPs for top keywords” or even “increased search-derived traffic on site.” Those are all — I suspect you will agree — too tactical, and will (more to the point) begin to define our tactics.

    My point? Be careful what you measure lest it come to define what you do.

  2. good stuff Ged. two things, loosely related (and i must confess i haven’t had a chance to read wadds’ original post – but i will):

    1. PR is offline search optimisation – discuss

    2. analysis of search activity, if you think about it, is more driven by ‘traditional PR’ activity rather than digital. because if you read about something online, or are sent something electronically, finding it is simple – it’s just a click, right? you don’t need to search for it. but if you hear about something from a mate or read about something or watch something and want to find out more, then you search for it. so search analysis is actually about offline comms, rather than online

    erm, that’s it.

  3. It’s amazing how the world’s of SEO and PR are merging. I think you hit the nail on the head with this post. We’re seeing many more traditional PR clients educated about the world of SEO than ever before.

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