Google is still the master of search, the centre of the internet and the go-to site when you’re in need of whatever information you require. So, as we sit at the cusp of a huge new Google update, a giant change, one that could turn your business or client’s site into a Google flop overnight, what is it we as PR professionals and like-minded business people need to know to stay at the top of the rankings?

For those who don’t know Google has two furry, feathery friends, Penguin and Panda. Google Panda is a search results ranking algorithm that was first released in February 2011 that aimed to change the rank of nasty low-quality and thin sites, and return higher-quality sites near the top of the search results.

Google Penguin is a code name for a Google algorithm update that was first announced in April of last year and the one that makes SEO specialists shudder all across the globe. This update was aimed at decreasing search engine rankings of websites that violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines by using now declared black-hat SEO techniques, such as keyword stuffing, cloaking, participating in link schemes, deliberate creation of duplicate content, and many others of those nasty little tactics that tried to beat the system.

Google is again about to change and announce to the world the latest updates to Panda and Penguin, and these updates will send SEO black hats, quaking once again. Google’s Matt Cutts announced:

“We will be soon going after bad merchants with a new algorithm targeted at lowering their rankings in Google, the reason being because we don’t want low quality experience merchants to be ranking in the search results.”

A pre-warning has been sent out from Google telling low quality merchants to be prepared for a possible downgrade in ranking. This could lead to a huge drop in traffic, sales and revenue for these online merchants, sending websites shooting down the Google search-sphere. I seem to remember the last update knocking some sites off page one to page four.

So when will it happen? It was predicted that it would be in the third or fourth quarter of 2013, but Google’s updates have come sooner than initially expected. Although Google update its algorithms 500 times a year to weed out the nasty low quality sites from the top rankings, it’s this huge update that will happen over the weekend that will be the BIG change. As SEO experts are waiting on the edge of their seats, they have suggested that social media is now the future, and that your business’s social media presence is what will get you higher up in the search results. In other words strategic use of social media is now more important than ever and I am very happy about that and it’s great news for people like me and my online PR agency.

“Site owners and technicians have to carve a niche out for themselves in social media if they want their sites to do well in search rankings. Sharing of content on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, StumbleUpon, Pinterest, Delicious, LinkedIn, MySpace and Google+ will be of the utmost importance. Social media popularity will, in a way, decide the fate of a site as far as Google is concerned.” –

Social media sites like Twitter and Facebook give options such as page likes and Twitter followers that are clear indications that the content being delivered and the information being shared, is of top quality and is of high demand. You might remember I wrote a post several month’s back on how social signals were the future. However, surprise surprise SEO’s across the world believe that the change to rankings being based on social media likes or followers will give Google+ a massive boost. But we all knew that was going to happen. Many believe (including me) that in the days to come, Google+ might just emerge as the most important social network for webmasters. Social media presence could be the ultimate factor on where you appear in your Google rankings, so it seems evident that it is now more important than ever before to invest in your social media activity.

It seems that Google never really knew how to determine the social value of a website before, but social media sites implement the power and now they have a process of updating their algorithms to make the ranking practises more socially focussed as opposed to rankings based on good old links. It has even been suggested that by as soon as next year, SEO will have been completely over taken by social media marketing. The evolution of communications isn’t about search it’s about people and relationships.

What does this all really mean for businesses here and now? Invest in good quality PR to up your social media profile. Social media has really taken over and we simply can’t ignore the impact that it has had on business and PR especially, but you expected me to say that didn’t you? What SEO has done in the past is deliver quick results, but in my opinion only for the short term.

What PR can effectively do for an organisation’s ranking is create long-term relationships and results, just not as instantly. But, it’s worth paying more money to have results that will keep you at the top as opposed to spending money on SEO which has now been uncovered by Google and simply won’t last. With the news of Google update 2013 on the horizon it’s too late to say catch up; really, you should already be there. Businesses should be focussing on what their audiences want to read, that’s what will improve your social activity, your ranking will develop from the content you put out there to then share on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Google+.

I am hopeful that soon people won’t be able to fool the Google ranking system with buzz words and trickery. The future of search is relationships, not links, and the guardians of relationships have always been us PR professionals. Don’t build your web presence on a house of cards.

About Chris Norton

Chris Norton is the founder of Prohibition and an award winning communications consultant with more than twenty years’ experience. He was a lecturer at Leeds Beckett University and has had a varied PR career having worked both in-house and in a number of large consultancies. He is an Integrated PR and social media blogger and writes on a wide variety of blogs across a huge amount of topics from digital marketing, social media marketing right through to technology and crisis management.