A new study of online behaviour confirms that good old-fashioned public relations is essential in getting search engine results that people actually click on. The research, conducted by the search engine marketing firm, iProspect, reveals a significant “click behaviour” which every online business owner needs to take notice of.

The study looked into the impact of “blended” search results. Up until relatively recently, search engines like Google only presented search results from web sites. Now, when you search on the main Google page it “blends in” search results from its news service, the image search, blog search and so on. In other words, the results you get are no longer just from plain, ordinary web sites.

News is king
The iProspect analysis shows that 36% of searchers click on a news result. However, if the searchers only looked in the news section, than a mere 10% click on a link. What this shows is the fact that if you get your company in the news, you’ll appear on the main Google results page and you will get more clicks by doing so. Importantly, the study revealed that news results are “the most clicked on” results in blended search. In other words, if you are not in the news, you are significantly reducing your chance of getting clicked on when your company appears in a Google search result. In order to get on the Google search results and get clicked by more people you simply must be in the news.

At one of the keynote talks I give about the Internet I concentrate on the need to use offline public relations to gain online benefits. This new study adds a new twist to what I have been saying. Not only does public relations get you better search engine ranking, but it also means you get more click throughs to information about you.

Most business I speak with are using search engine optimisation or pay per click as their central strategies to improve their online business. This new data from iProspect shows that this is a weak strategy. The strongest results are going to come from having public relations as your central focus for improving your online business.

You must be in the Top 10
And there’s on other important point. The iProspect study showed that 68% of people never go beyond the front page of Google. And guess where the news results end up? That’s right – they make the front page of a blended search result, whereas other more “ordinary” web sites get relegated to secondary pages. But the study showed something even more revealing. Four out of ten people said that if the company was mentioned on the first page of Google results they thought the company was a “leader in its field”.

So, to be seen as a leader, to get the clicks you want, you have to be on the front page. No news there then. But to be on the front page, you need to be “in the news”. And if you are “in the news” you’ll get more clicks than for an “ordinary” web site. So, call that PR agency now – you need them much, much more than you thought. There’s only one problem – in my experience, few PR agencies actually understand online public relations. Oh dear.

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