I was reading VC investor Ben Horowitz yesterday, a post about the Future of Networking and one of his portfolio companies, Nicira Networks. There wasn't a single link in the post.
I switched over to the official news release from Nicira: there was just one link in several pages prepared by its PR firm.
I’m not singling it out as an egregious example but as a typical one that is ubiquitous across many companies -- it seems to be standard practice in PR materials to use the least possible number of hyperlinks.
I can understand the reason
newswire services charge extra to distribute documents with links, but that’s not true for publicity materials posted on a company web site. (The newswires tell me they don't charge extra for links.)
PR people know about the “link economy” because they are always pleased to see my links to their blog posts or Tweets; and I see a lot of PR people linking to stuff on Twitter and Facebook all day long-- yet those lessons don’t make it into their daily work.
Yet PR people constantly ask me how can they make their news releases more useful to journalists. I smile and answer, “Put some links in it.” People usually laugh but I’m smiling less and less these days.
In this pervasive online world where we spend so much of our work time there should be no reason why news releases --these 100% digital electronic documents -- have page after page with absolutely no links in them at all. It's ridiculous, and it looks really bad when those PR materials are used to represent companies in the vanguard of Internet and networking technologies.
Why aren’t clients bothered by the absence of the hyperlink – this most basic and fundamental element of an Internet document – from the publicity materials prepared for them?
Clients are losing out massively because of this lack of links in their content. What do PR firms tell clients if they ask about the lack of hyperlinks?
Everyone knows that the foundation of Google’s search algorithm, PageRank pays close attention to links between trusted sites. If it’s done right, it results in a robust flow in organic traffic – the right kind of traffic because it is people that are interested in that company’s products. That's good PR, right?
Companies shouldn’t go crazy and add tons of links because Google will think they are a spammer, but a few per page is reasonable, acceptable, and is even expected by Google’s spiderbots. After all, without links to other pages there wouldn’t be a Google, or a World Wide Web.
So why are company PR materials so link averse when their creators are so links-ago-go when it comes to promoting their own stuff?
I’ve been told that the problem is that PR firms aren’t paid to do search engine optimization (SEO), and so they don’t. Fair enough, but they could at least prepare SEO-friendly documents with links in them. They can leave the mechanics of SEO, the tracking and the counting, to others.
Embedding a few hyperlinks is trivial. And the bit of extra time it takes to find and test the links is a bonus when you have clients that pay by the hour. It should be a win-win for the PR firms and their clients you’d think. And reporters would save a few clicks too, making it a triple-win.
Yet it doesn't happen. This has to be deliberate. But why aren't clients creating a stink? Why are PR people deliberately shunning best practices for their clients yet are link-obsessed with their own content?
Put some links in it, it’s 2012, already.