By Nancy Marshall, The PR Maven®

Don’t Underestimate The Power Of Google SEO For Client Acquisition: Person typing on laptop with SEO search hovering over screen

Whether you work in public relations or another industry, clients are the name of the game. The more clients you have (and the more they pay you), the more successful you become. It’s a simple equation.

In PR especially, word-of-mouth is critical. Most clients come about through referrals—a satisfied client recommending you to a prospect. Because your existing client validates your work to the prospect, there is already a basic level of credibility established. It is easier for the prospect to end up knowing, liking and trusting you since they already see a proof of concept. While there are many other forms of marketing, word-of-mouth is uniquely personal and powerful. It humanizes you in a way that LinkedIn ads can’t, although it is always worth at least considering social media as an advertising platform. And if you are personally known, liked and trusted, that can only bode well in professional settings.

However, even though word-of-mouth marketing is the foundation for many PR businesses (including my own), we cannot overlook the power of Google SEO. No matter how many referrals your existing clients pass along, it is still possible to turn a prospect into a client without a referral. Client acquisition can happen out of the blue, without you even necessarily planning for it. In PR or other industries, your goal isn’t to exclusively rely on word-of-mouth revenue streams; you want to diversify as much as possible. It’s a numbers game.

Given that Google Search has more than 90% market share in the search engine space, Google SEO needs to be a top priority for your business. That means “search engine optimization”—making your Google “searchability” as robust as possible.

Remember, your name is your brand. When people search for your name in Google, they should come across a brand that conveys thought leadership. They want to see your name on a variety of websites, not just your own. They want to see you in the news as well (yet another reason why PR skills are vital). You want to project subject matter expertise and thought leadership, as well as the other personal or professional traits that are authentically you. In my case, I want to come across as extremely social and well-connected so people know that it’s fun to spend time with me—in addition to being productive, of course. I want to come across as a connector of people, and I do!

Google SEO can refer to a wide range of activities. But, wherever you can be found, you want people to find the best possible content. Along those lines, your website should be professionally done and regularly updated so the content feels innovative and fresh. It helps to maintain a separate section with blog posts so the website is dynamic. That provides an opportunity for you to demonstrate your thought leadership on certain issues, while also showing you are active online.

A static website—one that isn’t updated frequently—is a wasted opportunity. Google will refer searchers to sites that are kept up to date rather than sites that sit idle with no attention from their owners. And that’s just the website: You should also keep your social media platforms up to date, maintaining an interesting online persona and engaging with others. Who knows—you could even acquire a client that way.

In the whirlwind world of Google Search, the keyword is key currency. You want your brand to be associated with words that are relevant and portray a valuable image. In PR, examples may include “public relations,” “media outreach,” “earned media” and so forth. “Crisis communications” is another one. Potential clients in need of crisis communications may come across your PR business organically when they search for that line of work, so it pays off to tout your expertise within that particular subset of strategic communications.

Here’s an example: My agency, based in Maine, was recently contacted by an outdoor education organization in Alaska of all places. We didn’t reach out to them proactively; we simply reacted to an inquiry from them. Why did that prospect reach out? Because they found my agency in Google Search, and they appreciated what they saw. And that prospect eventually became a satisfied client, after we created a custom crisis communications training for their work team. We then highlighted our positive experience working together through a client testimonial for my website, strengthening our Google SEO even further.

Positive content begets more positive content. The new testimonial may now lead to another prospect down the road. And they may become a client, and on we go. But the key is to harness the power of Google Search in the first place. Start somewhere!

In business, Google is your friend—and maybe even your best friend. Keep SEO in your toolbox, along with word-of-mouth marketing and everything else.

This article originally appeared on the Forbes Agency Council CommunityVoice in December 2023.