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2 March 2016

Making Sense of Search: How SEO is Shaping Strategy like Never Before

Written by: Peter McIntyre, Senior Account Manager at Edelman

Technology, Trust

Search engines are the most trusted source of general news and information throughout the world.

In fact, the latest edition of the Edelman Trust Barometer found that search engines are more trusted than traditional media by a measure of five percentage points. An already significant gap that widens to eight percentage points for Millennials.

Considering how fundamental search is to everything we do, these findings are not surprising. Search will continue to have a dramatic impact on how we interact with almost everything, including businesses. 

Two ways to engage 

For any business looking to engage potential customers in this arena there are two options available, paid and organic search.

Paid search requires brands to buy adverts which are then displayed in response to select queries, chosen by the brand. It’s obvious these ads are sponsored and ranking is determined by several factors, but the price an advertiser pays is the most influential.

Organic search results aim to provide searchers with the most relevant content for their query and are generated using algorithms. These algorithms involve software developed by search engines crawling, indexing and scoring web pages.

Of the two, organic results are overwhelmingly more popular with searchers. One study even found that while one-hundred percent of audiences look at the first organic result, only fifty percent looked at the paid result.

Earned at the heart

So how can businesses ensure they’re at the top of those all-important organic searches?

The algorithms employed by search engines are now incredibly sophisticated, and place a premium on editorial content from media outlets and bloggers – it’s harder than ever for search professionals to “game the system.”

Thus, earned media has become one of the most valuable influences.

When editorial content links to a company’s website, search engines’ algorithms perceive this as an indication that the website’s content is relevant and authoritative to the topic being discussed.

When searchers then conduct queries relevant to that topic, that businesses’ website will appear higher in organic results, increasing site visits and if the website is up to scratch, sales, and other business critical results.

Applied communications marketing

Our CEO Richard Edelman has challenged us all to operate with the precision and analytics associated with modern communications marketing. Integrating the science of search with the art of earned is a brilliant opportunity to rise to that challenge.

Industry leaders like Stella Bayles, who published a brilliant book on this topic, are spearheading this charge. Search agencies are not blind to these changes either and are quickly creating specialist communications teams internally to challenge for the market opportunity. A sense of urgency, therefore, is required.

At Edelman we’re prioritising search’s role in content creation, influencer engagement and measurement. To support our traditional storytelling expertise we’re learning about and applying a range of tools all of which are central to this process.

Our team in London is focused on driving this progress, and integrating the power and trust of search in our content creation, influencer engagement and ROI measurement. And we look forward to sharing more with you over the coming months.

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