Google is revamping its search results, and the changes will likely affect brands.
According to a report in Thursday’s Wall Street Journal,
Google results will include more facts and direct answers to searches. It’s trying to provide the answer to a query, and keep users on its page, instead of sending them to another website.
Google is already using this approach to an extent, according to Nick Papagiannis, director of interactive/search at Cramer-Krasselt
. For example, type “height of Mt. St. Helens” into Google and the search engine kicks out the answer—8,365 ft.—in black text above the list of blue links.
"You can expect to see results like these and an evolution to a more sophisticated search experience in the coming months and years,” Papagiannis told PR Daily
. “Google is constantly evolving their technology to provide searches with the best results."
Brands and the PR departments working with them need to pay attention to the changes; they could “directly impact the search results for 10 percent to 20 percent of all search queries, or tens of billions per month,” according to the WSJ
So, how can PR professionals prepare?
“We don’t know exactly what this will do to brand searches until Google rolls out the changes,” Papagiannis said. “So anything is speculative.”
However, PR professionals don’t want to be tongue-tied when they’re asked how about it tomorrow (or in the near future). As a result, Papagiannis suggested three ways to prepare:
1. Start monitoring search results more closely.
It’s possible that someone Googling your company or client will not only get links directing them to Web pages, but also see a list of facts from Google’s database or results of semantic search.
Some of those results could be innocuous—location, size, etc.—while others could include the kind of information that keeps PR departments and executives awake at night, explained Papagiannis.
“Brands will want to monitor these changes and see what’s coming up on search results,” he added, comparing the task to one most PR professionals already do—keeping an eye on Wikipedia pages.
Papagiannis said the changes can also affect non-brand searches that are important to companies.
For example, a pharmaceutical company might have facts about colds and cold prevention on its website. When someone Googles cold facts, the pharma company’s website might appear at or near the top of a search. However, the changes to search could push those results down the page in favor of Google’s own information.
“It will be important to watch how Google might crowd out pages,” Papagiannis said.
2. Consider investing more money in paid searches.
PR professionals will want to consider a contingency plan, according to Papagiannis.
“If companies begin to see a big loss in their search results, they might have to step up their paid searches,” he explained.
Paid searches are the results at the side or top of a Google results page. Papagiannis said companies may want to invest more in this component of their search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.
If your client is appearing in a news story or on social media, you needn’t worry. Papagiannis said he doesn’t see the changes affecting news or social media results.
3. Use the changes as an impetus to build a dedicated search team.
If SEO as a function of the PR department is an afterthought at your company—or not thought about at all—this might be a good excuse to begin, according to Papagiannis.
The best way to monitor these changes is with a dedicated search team. If the new Google results kick out negative information about a client, or push websites further down the page, this team can respond quickly.
Need to get up to speed on search engine optimization? Read Nick Papagiannis’s step-by-step guide on SEO for public relations, which appeared on
PR Daily last month.