We in the public relations industry have long been aware of the importance of using PR methods to increase a website’s search engine ranking.

But now, it seems, Google has taken the concept one step further by introducing new functionality that takes comments posted to websites via social sites, such as Facebook and Disqus, into account in its ranking system.

For many years, search engine optimisers have been encouraging their clients to use PR approaches in their SEO strategies. For example, few commercially successful websites are now without a blog or newsfeed that regularly updates visitors with company and industry news or comment.

The SEO fraternity has also strongly emphasized the benefits of positioning yourself as an authority in your specialist field.

Not only does this reflect well on you from an online PR perspective – by giving you the platform for providing advice and information in your area of industry expertise.

But, on top of that, since the motivation of most online searches is to find information, you are also offering the kind of content that most online searchers actually want.

The majority of search engines, notably Google, are therefore designed to recognise this and reflect it in their rankings.

And now Google appears to have found a way of using online conversation as a way of measuring a website’s relevance in search. So not only is social engagement great for PR, it is also clearly beneficial to your SEO.