Why the Future of SEO Lies in PR

With all the recent shakeups by Google to its search algorithms, some SEOs have declared that Google is trying to “kill” SEO. But the party line from Google has always been “We’re trying to improve the user experience and return relevant search results every time.” I see no reason to doubt this sentiment.

How Google Has Evolved Search

Look at the last few major updates. Panda, first rolled out in 2011, was designed to weed out “thin” content. Thin content is short, contains very little information, and is absolutely stuffed with keywords. Real users hate this content because it’s pointless to spend time reading it. This forced Internet marketers to produce “thick” relevant content, and not be too heavy-handed with keywords. As a result, the user experience goes up.

Same thing with Penguin. Link farms — vast blog networks who, for a fee would link to sites in order to raise their authority — all got shut down. It’s not that link-building in this manner wasn’t effective. It was. But Google didn’t like it because of the masses of poor quality pages it took to produce it. This sent SEOs scrambling to disavow any low-quality links, but although it was a challenge for marketers to find “Google-approved” places that would link to them, in the end they persevered by reaching out to trusted websites and doing a lot more legwork to build relationships.

Which brings us to Hummingbird. First unveiled in October 2013, Hummingbird is a new type of algorithm altogether. It’s job is about using the context of a search query to gauge the intent of the user and provide the information that he or she is looking for. That doesn’t sound so different from what they were doing before, does it? It’s not — except for one crucial difference: It doesn’t need keywords.

The Keyword Is Dead

Without keywords, backlinks, and the associated sound and fury, many Internet marketers were left feeling like there was nothing left to do to fulfill their clients’ needs. Hence the wailing and rending of garments that went on after this change.

But in reality, there’s plenty left to do. And your customers will thank you for it. Now, you can:

  • build content that actually answers your customer’s questions instead of having to target a search query
  • build relationships with customers and encourage them to talk about you, share your content and interact with your brand
  • reach out to authority sites and build relationships there, encouraging them to engage with and potentially cover your business as well.

In other words, once you have a standards-compliant, easy-to-navigate website, the role of the Internet marketer will be to engage on behalf of your brand and build the relationships that you will need to rank well in Google Search. If that isn’t Public Relations, I don’t know what is.