Forget Half of What You’ve Learned. Mastery of Google is key to public relations success.
Good afternoon students and faculty of Boston University’s Public Relations Student Society of America! Thank you for inviting me to speak at this social media seminar. It is an honor to be speaking to you today.
I’d like to discuss a topic with which many of you are familiar. A topic that many of you are intimately familiar. A topic you cannot avoid in everyday life or professional life. A topic of growing influence globally and increasing importance for anyone seeking success in an increasingly digital world.
That topic is Google. Today I am going to explain how Google is the key to public relations success.
We can all agree that public relations is evolving. Although traditional print media is still a stronghold for client exposure, everyday, more eyes and more profits are being earned on the digital front. Here at Boston University, we have entire classes dedicated to the mastery of new media and how we can leverage this influx of electronic communication for future clients. Social media is the medium du jour, the trendy, everyman’s tool for speaking up and speaking out. By a show of hands, how many people here use Facebook regularly – at least once a day? (. . .) How many people use Twitter at least once a day? (. . .) And how many of you checked into today’s seminar on Foursquare? Is the mayor in the house?
Considering the audience – a room full of well-educated, intelligent and proactive future public relation professionals – it is expected that each of you spend a portion – at least a portion – of your day on social media applications. But this is not because you are college-aged, or the Internet generation. It is also because the Internet is the marketplace for business and you must be well-versed in how to navigate if you want to succeed.
How does Google help in that success? Google, if utilized effectively and consistently, can be a low-cost, nearly endless, fountain of data about each of your clients. And your clients’ customers. And potential customers. Google can be the brains of your campaign.
Before harnessing the power of Google, we must understand why it is an invaluable source of information. Consider what an average person uses Google for. To look up things, right? Sure. Think briefly about how often you type a search into Google any given day. Now multiply that number by about 30,000 – the number of students here at BU. Now multiply that number by about 500 – that will get you to the population of New England. If each person in New England Googled one thing, that’s be about fifteen million unique searches. Imagine the numbers when you factor in the rest of the country…the world. The truth is that many people use Google more than once a day. Google’s reach is global, it is the standard, go-to encyclopedia for millions. And every time a person uses Google Search, the keywords he or she types are saved. Along with the time of day that search is made, the region from which the search is made, the computer’s IP address, the network connection, is the person logged into a Google account? Essentially every aspect of the search – and the searcher – is collected from each query. Take just a minute and reflect on all those bits of information. What would your clients pay to have access to this volume of data about their customers?
The answer should be, “nothing.” Google is stockpiling this information for its own development and graciously lets us take a peek at it for free. Google AdWords and Analytics are two great places to begin your Google-oriented PR campaign. Let’s start with AdWords.
AdWords is the original lifeblood of Google. The core of Google’s revenue stream was originally through advertising on the AdWords platform. AdWords campaigns are responsible for the small text-only ad boxes to the left of a Google Search, or above the search results in a yellow box. Each box represents a different campaign, possibly by a different company. A company determines keywords that are relevant to its customers and determines how much it is willing to pay to advertise alongside search results from those keywords. What is great about Google AdWords is that you only pay if the ad works. If someone clicks on your ad, you’re charged. And each ad varies in price according to the value a company places on the ad. It is a rewards-based system of bidding that is extremely manageable, responsive and easy to maintain. If your AdWords campaign is well-targeted with keywords that customers are actively seeking, you will be rewarded with higher ad placements and more clicks.
What is great about AdWords is its inherent simplicity. We know customers will be using Google, most people do. Launching an AdWords campaign piggybacks on Google’s widespread usage and brand recognition, providing potential customers an ad tailored to something they are already looking for.
Analytics is a bit more complicated. This is the real meat of Google’s data tracking. Remember all those bits of search information Google collects on every query? That data would be useless if it were not organized and analyzed in a way clients could understand and utilize. Enter Analytics: this program compiles layers of information about each visitor to your website and organizes them into an intuitive visual display called a dashboard. Analytics seamlessly ties into an existing AdWords account since both programs are Google’s and both are focused on driving traffic to you.
Like AdWords, Analytics is free and easy to set up. Whereas AdWords can tell you if you are tapping into the right keywords and driving traffic to your website, Analytics provides information on what a customer does once on the website, from where he or she arrived, when, where and how. It tells us the engagement level of our customers.
If there is one downfall to the surge of social media, it is the devaluation of interpersonal business transactions. With the rise of e-commerce, customers are becoming more likely to opt for online transactions than doing business in person. As PR professionals, e-commerce can mean two things: we are missing out on observing the behavior of potential customers for our clients OR we are learning more about their behavior than was ever possible in person. With Google, we can ensure the latter. Once we are tapped into the engagement of our online visitors, we can draw conclusions and spot patterns of behavior. What does this mean for PR folks? Everything! It means customization of campaigns, measurement of success, identification of potential customers and customer trends. All things we need to do our job better.
With Google Analytics in place, instead of sending out a pitch and hoping someone follows up with a visit to a client’s website, we can track how effective our pitch is. Do we have visitors from Boston, where the client is based? How much traffic did our website get immediately following the emailed media alert? Were visitors on our site long enough to read the latest news release? Did they arrive from places our pitch directed? Analytics knows this. And now, we do too.
These points just scratch the surface of Google Analytics and AdWords. We haven’t even begun to discuss AdSense, either! And don’t get me started on third-party integration of Analytics for increased, real-time monitoring…we’d be here another couple hours.
Suffice to say, there are many other applications we can use to a public relations – advantage. The bottom line is that as successful PR professionals, we must venture off the webpage, so to speak. We have already left behind the printed page, now we must venture into the interworkings of the webpage and what makes it tick. We must use Google.
To begin, stop thinking like a consumer of Google and start thinking like a manager of Google’s infinite data resources. There is a wellspring of PR potential, it is up to you to know how, and where, to tap into it.
Thank you and good luck!