Turning a Mirror on the PR Industry

In preparation for the 2014 Global PR Summit in Miami, we decided to take a look at how the PR industry itself looks online. Starting with search results data from Sept. 28 for the Holmes Report’s Top 250 PR agencies worldwide, we used our proprietary technology to delve into the results’ identification and analysis. We looked at how much of their results the PR agencies control and how prominent their social media presence is. We also looked for any recurring themes in results across the industry.

Here are some of the key highlights regarding ownership[*].

Ownership is important and corporate websites are key.

  • PR agencies own, on average, 52% of their first page search results. That’s a lot. To put it in perspective, Fortune 500 companies own, on average, 40%.
  • Every one of the 250 PR agencies we tracked had at least one owned corporate site in their search results and 40% of them had more than one.
  • For those with more than one, the additional corporate sites took a few forms, including sites of parent or partner companies, additional business locations or languages, affiliated brands or divisions, and even corporate blogs.

More Sitelinks, Fewer “Resemblers” → Stronger Online Brand Presence

  • Sitelinks are links to internal pages of a website, often shown as part of the top result on the search page. 80% of the agencies studied had sitelinks displayed. Compare this to just 67% of Fortune 500 companies with sitelinks.
  • Sitelinks contribute to a stronger presence in search results, mainly because they occupy significant real estate on the results page. But we also found sitelinks to be associated with more overall ownership: while companies with sitelinks owned 56% of their results, companies without had just 41% ownership.
  • Sitelinks may also reflect clarity of the brand online. Greater clarity means more relevant results for the searcher; in other words, results that more accurately reflect what they were searching for. We measure this by the number of “resembler” results that appear – results that match the searched keyword but aren’t actually related to the company or person being searched.
  • PR agencies with sitelinks averaged less than one resembler result, while agencies without averaged nearly three. More resembler results leave less space on the search page for branded and relevant content, leading to confusion for the searcher and even diminishing trust in the brand.

The graphic below depicts the search results page for Weber Shandwick, one of the agencies in our research set. Sitelinks are present for the corporate site. In addition, the branded presence is augmented both by the knowledge graph (the infobox on the right side) as well as the three social media results (a form of results ownership).

Turning a Mirror on the PR Industry

Putting it Together

  • The extent of the corporate ownership we saw in the PR agencies’ results suggests that as a group, they are doing a good job of asserting control of their online presence.
  • Nonetheless, the fact that over 20% of the top 250 PR agencies worldwide have two or more resembler results highlights the need for improvement in branded online presence.
  • Diversifying content across a variety of owned domains can help PR agencies assert control of their search results. In this way, searchers will encounter the expected corporate site, but may also see related sites, such as a blog, a site for a parent company, or the company’s own site for another country. This strengthens the branded online presence and benefits both the PR agencies themselves as well as those searching for them.
  • Ultimately, shaping and maintaining a favorable branded presence online is a process that requires attentive maintenance.


[*] A search result is considered “owned” when the searched entity controls the content of that result. For example, if a search for a company yields that company’s corporate website, that website is owned, since all the content on the site is controlled by the company. The same search may yield the company’s Twitter page; this is also a form of ownership since the company controls what it tweets (although not the entirety of twitter.com).