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How PR pros can thrive in the wake of Google’s new search update

by | Sep 8, 2022 | Analysis, Public Relations

It’s a known fact that both PR and SEO go hand in hand with each other. As PR teams generate content on a wide scale, reaching a diverse, global demographic continues to be a trying task. In a new era of backlinking, search engine optimization and a focus on user experience, creating successful content now relies on Google’s algorithmic ranking system.

How PR pros can thrive in the wake of Google's new search update

(Image Source: Publicize)

As we head towards the final quarter of 2022, Google’s search engine algorithm continues to transform. On the back of August’s search engine update, named by Google as the ‘Helpful Content Update’, content regulations on the globe’s most popular search tool have changed in order to provide a more user-focused experience to online consumers.

The question is, what could this mean for the PR strategy planning process of the future? As Google’s ranking regulations change, PR content must transform in line with new SEO trends. Read on as we discuss the details of the all-important algorithm update, and delve deeper into what this could mean for PR success in 2023.

Unpacking the update

Google’s ‘Helpful Content Update’ was released in August 2022. Introducing a whole host of new ranking factors, in an attempt to highlight and remove unhelpful/spam-based content from the top pages of a Google search string, the update aims to transform the user experience In line with its current core web vitals.

While this user-focused update prides itself on only displaying the most helpful, informational-based content across the search engine, many PR professionals are concerned that a push for the removal of content with little value-add, could affect the success of promotional-based content and press releases, which strive to hit the first page of a Google search for increased engagement opportunity.

“This update introduces a new site-wide signal that we consider among many other signals for ranking web pages,” claim’s Google’s Search Quality Officer, Chris Nelson. “Our systems automatically identify content that seems to have little value, low-added value or is otherwise not particularly helpful to those doing searches.”

“Any content—not just unhelpful content—on sites determined to have relatively high amounts of unhelpful content overall is less likely to perform well in Search, assuming there is other content elsewhere from the web that’s better to display. For this reason, removing unhelpful content could help the rankings of your other content,” Nelson explains in the coinciding statement release.

Unpacking the update, it’s clear that Google will continue to rank informational content highly, in an effort to remove promotional alternatives. As we step into a new era of brand promotion, PR as an industry will have to turn the focus onto a more organic strategy, that aims to put the user first when writing content for SEO purposes.

The question is, can comms still thrive? Read on as we delve into what PR could look like in 2023.

Can PR content still thrive in 2023?

The quick answer to this question is yes if PR teams continue to redevelop their strategy in line with changing consumer attitudes.

In a post-pandemic environment, the online consumer has become the dominant force in the digital world. In fact, according to McKinsey, 71 percent of all online users now expect personalization in the content they consume. Whether it is website copy, a blog post or a social media snippet, all aspects of the user experience should be personalized in 2023 if PR professionals want to see success.

How PR pros can thrive in the wake of Google's new search update

(Image Source: McKinsey)

As we step into a new era of PR content production, content formats are also tipped to keep changing. On the back of TikTok’s viral post-pandemic success, video content could also be a key player in PR success in 2023. With over half of all consumers now ranking video-based content as their primary way to receive information, it could be time to start switching up those blogging-based content templates and go digital in order to keep engagement levels high.

Let’s have a closer look at some of the key factors PR teams must consider when rewriting their new PR strategy in the wake of Google’s algorithm update.

What should PR teams do to make sure their content still ranks highly?

There are a number of steps a comms team can take to ensure their content still ranks highly in the wake of Google’s most recent search engine update.

From prioritizing a more consumer-focused approach to a copywriting strategy to backlinking organically with internal content in mind, remaining on the top page of a google search string is very much possible if your content continues to add value to a consumer.

Don’t create content with an SEO checklist in mind

One of the key factors PR professionals must consider when creating new content is the purpose of Google’s new ranking system. As an algorithmic update that ranks new content in terms of the amount of value it adds to a user’s experience, new blog posts, site promotion and social strategy must be produced for the consumer’s benefit, rather than in line with a traditional SEO checklist.

While SEO is imperative in the competition to rank highly, it is only successful, when applied to content that has been curated with an audience in mind. When PR strategy centers heavily around generating search engine traffic and prioritizing high-ranking keywords, it can often lack true value in terms of information and writing flare.

As we step into 2023, it’s time to ditch the search-engine first approach, and start asking yourself these all-important questions:

  • Does your content answer the search query? Or will it leave readers feeling as if they need to conduct further research on the topic?
  • Does your content simply surround a keyword for ranking potential, or does your content offer original insights to potential traffic?
  • Are you writing on a number of diverse topics in order to perform well in a Google search? Or is your content surrounding a specific, well-researched genre that you can build new angles on?

Prioritizing a user-first approach is a quick way to remain popular amongst competitors and still rank highly under Google’s newest ranking rules.

Build on your backlinking strategy

Backlinking has been ranked as one of the most successful SEO strategies a PR team can adopt.

Driving backlinks to a brand’s homepage, services and most importantly, other sources of internal content, is quickly picked up by Google’s new search algorithm, rendering the piece of content as a whole more valuable in a search string.

Not only does backlinking boost your position in a Google Search, but hyperlinking key areas of a blog post, with a direct path to a solution for users’ search queries drive conversions and picks up levels of brand/site engagement.

In fact, 77.8 percent of the top Google search results had at least one external link in their content pointing toward a page, while a whopping 99.2% had an external link pointing to a website.

How PR pros can thrive in the wake of Google's new search update

(Image Source: Ignite Visibility

This just highlights that the correlation between a Google ranking score and the number of backlinks a page is receiving is vital when curating the content of the future.

In order to keep your backlinking game intact, it’s important to shy away from purely homepage-based backlinking, and pour focus into linking to other internal content/services. Not only does this appear more organic for a search engine algorithm, but it tends to be more educational/entertaining for a diverse demographic.

As we step into the future of content curation in 2023, a user-first approach is key. From content topics to writing flare and backlinking strategy. If you create with your consumer in mind, your PR team will thrive despite the competition.

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Rebecca Barnatt-Smith
Rebecca Barnatt-Smith is a UK-based freelance journalist and multimedia marketing executive.

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