Content that ranks highly in a Google search is de facto going to have more hits and more value. PR practitioners have to consider how digital PR supports good search rankings.
Early searches relied on the information provided by the website itself In the form of tags or keywords. Content providers could manipulate this system and search engines had to improve the way that they found information or searching would become more and more unreliable. Stanford University students Larry Page and Sergey Brin created a search engine technique based on formulas that measured links from one website to another. This was the basis for Google.
The search engine optimisation (SEO) business started to find ways to manipulate this new form of search and SEO became an important part of digital marketing. High rankings have a commercial value and there will always be a tension between SEO business and the function of search engines. SEO techniques are regarded as being either good design that search engines approve of (white hat) or they are ‘black hat’ attempts to trick search engines into providing a high rank. This can lead to sites being banned and some major international companies like BMW have been accused of black hat SEO leading to temporary bans by Google.
In May 2007 Google introduced a radical change to the system by introducing the concept of “Universal Search” which blends listings from its news, video, images, local and book search engines with those gathered from web crawlers. News for example works differently in universal search and results are combined other search results. This elevates the importance of news stories in the search rankings for any commercial organisation. PR has always been concerned with delivering news so from that point the publc relations business acquired a new importance. PR became vital to long term success with Google and other search engines.