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Are PR agencies growing more important for search rankings?

It’s likely that PR is playing a bigger role in helping websites rank higher in Google searches according to a recent study. And it’s all about the way PR agencies can help encourage online news publications to link to content on their clients’ sites.

Even if you have a basic understanding of search engine optimisation (SEO), you’ll know that search engines use the number and variety of backlinks to a page as a quality signal that has an impact on rankings. In other words, if a lot of other websites point to a page, then search engines tend to position it higher (because their search algorithms view these backlinks as an indication of the value and usefulness of the content on the page).

Now, an analysis by Searchmetrics finds that backlinks from news publications are becoming a bigger requirement for high search rankings. To put it bluntly, sites that rank higher have more links from news sites – and since last year, the number of links required is increasing.  And PRs – who supply editors with their clients’ news, insights and comments – are playing an essential role in encouraging those news backlinks.

The study, which analysed the top 30 Google search results for 10,000 keywords, reveals that the volume of backlinks from news sites to homepages that feature in the top search results is on the up. For example, in the top 10 search results, the number of backlinks from news sites swelled from an average of 333 in 2014 to an average of 522 in 2015 (see chart below). This is despite the fact that the impact (on search) of backlinks in general (from sites other than news sites) is in decline according to the research.

PR agencies help SEO and search rankings via backlinks

I think it’s high time PR agencies started to make more of an effort to help clients recognise the important role that PR is playing in boosting search performance. To start, they could simply make sure they’re regularly reporting the number of news backlinks PR activity is generating – something I know many PRs still don’t do.