Did Google just kill PR agencies?

Did Google just kill PR agencies?

Summary: New webmaster rules target core PR practices around press releases...

TOPICS: Google

Google has updated its webmaster rules on links and keywords in press releases and it doesn't look good for PR agencies. 

The details on the changes are here: Link schemes - Webmaster Tools Help

Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site's ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.

If you repeat the use of a word in your press release, Google will think you are trying to stuff it with keywords and try to trick its index. Repeated words are a big red flag (I've put them in italics to explain what Google means by "optimized anchor text.")

Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites. For example: "There are many wedding rings on the market. If you want to have a wedding, you will have to pick the best ring. You will also need to buy flowers and a wedding dress."

Most press releases are posted on numerous sites to get attention and to promote a business . This is now against the rules. Google doesn't want to see any unnatural boost to the popularity of a piece of content. 

You must, "Create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community."

Foremski's Take: I've been trying to get PR firms to put links into press releases for many years because it makes my job as a journalist easier. I can quickly find background materials such as photos, information on founders, and prior news releases.

My 2006 post: Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die! -SVW is used by universities and colleges in teaching PR. I argued for links and for a modular approach to the information so that I can more easily decide what to put into my story.

Under the new webmaster rules, Google could penalize a PR firm's client web site because it could view the links in a press release as an attempt to unnaturally promote the site! Only "natural" growth in the popularity of a web page is allowed. 

However, under the new rules, Google could penalize a PR firm's client web site because it will view the links as an attempt to unnaturally promote the site! Only "natural" growth in the popularity of a web page is allowed. 

<Updated>All forms of promotional content are suspect

It's not just press releases. PR agencies increasingly create a lot of content for their clients ranging from guest posts, guest columns, to feature length articles. These are published in many different places, they contain links, and are designed to promote the client company. 

Any actions designed to improve a company's PageRank is automatically flagged by Google and can result in a penalty.</Updated>

Lots of links, lots of repeated key words, and multiple postings of a press release to different sites, are all red flags to Google under the new rules. Such actions are viewed by Google as blatant attempts to trick its algorithm into ranking a site higher than its allotted position. 

Yet these have all become standard practices at PR agencies. Did Google just kill the PR business?

The fact of the matter is that Google and PR agencies earn their money in the same way: promoting businesses. Google does it by selling ads on its AdWords or AdSense networks, and in return it directs lots of traffic to the site. 

They don't see themselves in this way, but PR agencies are essentially engaged in a form of SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Google is at war with SEO companies and is trying to wipe them out.

Except for the most basic aspects, it sees all SEO as blatant attempts to game its algorithm. Only scammers would want to do that, is its thinking, therefore those businesses that paid for SEO services must be penalized as scammers.

Plus: Google wants the money businesses pay for promotional services because organic or not, it's all Google's traffic. 

If a business is caught violating Google's webmaster rules it can be a very serious matter. It can result in a penalty that sinks its rank deep within the Google index. Most people don't click past the first page of search results. If a business can't be found easily through Google, it can kill it stone dead.

A huge archive of transgressions…

Google can change its webmaster rules at any time. There is never any mention by Google of grandfathering-in of prior practices.

All the previous promotional PR practices on behalf of clients will be judged by the new rules. The damage is done and it will be near impossible to undo.

PR agencies face three big problems:

- Their current and former clients could become very upset with them because of perfectly acceptable prior PR practices designed to promote their business — instead of the viral, organic growth based on happy customers, which is what Google now wants to see. 

- PR agencies could be held liable for the damage they caused to the online reputation of client businesses through the execution of normal practices. It could lead to legal action and compensation claims on millions of dollars in lost sales. 

- PR agencies have to wake up to the fact that Google is now their competitor. How do they promote a client when Google punishes any form of paid online promotion? Good luck with that one.

- - -

Please see: Google is forcing a reinvention of PR | ZDNet


SEOBook: Google: Press Release Links

Improving Web Site Quality Could Sink Your Google Rank -SVW

Any SEO -- White Hat Or Black -- Could Flag You As A Spammer - SVW

Is Search Broken? Does Google Trick SEOs With Random SERP Ranking Changes?

Topic: Google

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  • Good for her,but what does that have to do with the topic?

    Dr. Video
  • Maybe she does...

    But starring in a porn web camera service isnt for me.
  • Google now in charge of nature (on web)?

    "How do they promote a client when Google punishes any form of paid online promotion? Good luck with that one."

    The tighter the grip, the greater the need (aka necessity, aka the mother of invention) for alternatives. Capitalism is the most successful economic system because it most closely models nature. "Life finds a way.. so does business." With this move, Google may have just shortened its own dominance by about 5 years. When keyword search works for fewer and fewer, more and more will run (pockets full) to that which will displace it.

    Yes, something much, much better than keyword search ads is coming. Nothing and no one stays on top forever. Ask a railroad.

  • Did you even read the Google Link Schemes Reference?

    In the original Google article, the words "wedding," "wedding ring" "ring" were the anchor texts of links to the same website. In this way, they were unnatural links. In YOUR article, you don't reference them as links, but only as words (keywords) in a press release, and then go on to tell people not to repeat the same words in press releases, and further, that Google is somehow looking down upon relevant links in press releases.

    The Google article didn't say either of those things. In fact, the opposite. It said stop using repeated, unnatural keywords as your anchor texts and instead use relevant links... and if necessary, use no-follow tags on those links so that it's obvious to search you're not just shooting out a press release for the sole purpose of gaining links.
  • Black hat SEO

    Google has long penalized black hat SEO. It looks to me like the new link schemes clarify that point. Creating spam links has never been a good idea.
    Craig Herberg
  • Eh, not

    Personally, I think they just did precisely the opposite.

    The party line stance has always been that any link you pay for should not count, either by no-following the link or by them manually penalizing the linking domain.

    But any idiot can post to a wire site - the benefit of having a pr agency is having people who know how (and when, to whom, etc.) to pitch a story.The more disincentive to automated release sites there is, the more comparative benefit there is to actual pr services.

    The thing about it is, they've implemented changes that have penalized more nefarious paid link programs before without overtly advising people about it. The fact that they have so publicly brought it up now is probably either a warning shot or a veiled admission that they can't elegantly effect the change they're looking for with algorithm updates.
  • No.

    Google has just encouraged better writing. By everyone. If this results in less second-grade repetition of keywords in favor of more-natural use of pronouns and other elements of effective composition, the world will be a better place. RIP, "SEO writing."
  • NOT PR agencies" problem"

    Tom, I have to agree with Angie. The original Google reference is to unnatural "links" not repeating words or keywords in a news release. In fact, the worst practitioners of press releases are marketing departments and small to mid-sized business who don't understand that you need real "news" to get media coverage. Instead, they load up their so called press releases with marketing nonsense. Most top PR pros moved on from press releases and publicity hacking years ago and now are very often skillful social media leaders, storytellers and content marketers. Sadly those same marketing departments and some small businesses are now loading up social media channels with the same marketing nonsense, not getting results and annoying consumers. I think it's time you wrote the sequel "Die press releases, die" titled "Die marketing nonsense, die."
  • PR agencies won't die

    I think this is a bit sensationalist. I wrote a blog post around it http://metia.com/london/asavin-wattanajantra/2013/08/why-google-devalues-link-building,-and-bad-content-doesn't-work

    PR agencies just need to tell stories in a different way.
  • Here's where acronym's fail ...

    PR is Public Relations, but you seem to be using it for Press Release .. which one is it? Even Better, please don't be lazy, and type it out.


  • PR companies

    No I dont think so, PR agencies have a lot more rounded overview of the markets and are not just reliant on the internet and google. I however dont disagree with their thoughts they are very relevent
    Cloud 4 Computers
  • ZDNet's Sensational Headlines

    I've been seeing so many laughably sensational headlines on this site lately. Could this have an impact on PR agencies? Yes. Will this BE THE DEATH OF THE ENTIRE INDUSTRY? No. Unless, as the last commenter suggested, he means the "Press Release Industry," which is not what "PR Industry" means. That would be like saying, "Hey guys, I got a job at NASA!" but really meaning "North American Soup Alliance."
  • It is still a selling point for Wire Companies

    It is about time wire services had to start playing by the rules. I got a call from the top PR company a few weeks ago and part of their upgrade package was for unlimited anchored links. I was taken back that this was still a linkbuilding strategy. I told them I would never do that and I would continue to spread my original copy with 1 branded link and a link to the newsource and that's all I need.
  • Public relations is fine and actually growing!

    By PR you mean press release and not public relations. In that case, great! The press release is an old school method of announcing news and while it won't go away anytime soon, at least this will ensure companies produce better content.

    The newswires are going to take a hit though, because this is what their business model relies on; links, keywords and auto-posting to numerous sites with link backs.
  • No, Google didn't kill PR agencies - just the SEO press release

    PR existed before Google and it will exist long after these rules are in place for one important reason. PR is about telling stories, not manipulating search results. Press releases, too, existed before Google. PR agencies do so much more than SEO press releases - as I covered in a blog post responding to this article, Tom. http://www.inkhouse.net/no-google-didnt-just-kill-pr-agencies-it-killed-off-seo-press-releases/

    Ooops, did I just include a link?
  • Hmm Keyword stuffing?

    You article repeated this paragraph - keyword stuff much? content so nice we had to read it twice?
    "under the new rules, Google could penalize a PR firm's client web site because it will view the links as an attempt to unnaturally promote the site! Only "natural" growth in the popularity of a web page is allowed. " OOPS I just boosted them again! Does anyone proofread?
    Lee Hurst
  • Much ado about nothing we shouldn't already know

    As a PR professional and someone who was luckily enough to be trained in best practice SEO at the start of my career, I am shocked by the confusion over a properly optimized press release. Google isn't changing the rules or trying to overhaul the way we do things, they are simply taking a stand against bad tactics in press release writing and linking. This announcement should make no difference in the way an experienced agency or internal communications team operates because they would have been abiding by Google's webmaster guidelines anyways.

    When has it ever been okay to keyword stuff? Answer is NEVER if you want to keep your integrity in the industry. Google isn't taking the power away from agencies to share relevant links to good content, they are merely taking a stand against those who try to abuse the system by creating a ton of spammy content and links. (This means linking to different pages using the same anchor text, or linking to pages that are irrelevant to the anchor text used.)

    The search engines aren't going to punish someone who writes a release about the launch of new wedding dress line, and then links to the landing page where those dresses are displayed. Why, you ask? Because it's RELEVANT to the release. If a PR person was anchor texting the same words throughout a release, I would wonder if they really understood best practice press release writing at all.

    Google's algorithm is a lot smarter than I can definitely wrap my head around, so it will absolutely be able to figure out the good links from the bad links and the really really ugly ones. So hopefully this brouhaha will die down, and we can all go back to do doing exactly what we should have already been doing in the first place.
    Katie Mowery
  • Or in other words,

    Google is trying to make their page rank algorithms worth something, rather than letting PR places determine what their page ranks should be.
    Jacob VanWagoner
  • Tom, is this a warning against negative effect wire services could have?

    I'm no SEO expert, but this stands out as extremely relevant from the Google-linked site:

    "Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link"

    Are you interpreting this to mean that anytime a comopany pays for release to be posted to a site such as Marketwired or PRWire etc. that they will in fact be penalizing themselves as any and all links contained therein, and in all repostings downstream, are in effect paid for?
    Joe Franscella
  • This is good news

    I think it's great, from a consumer and normal person point of view. I hate crap articles that are clearly written for SEO and sound like they written by a robot, or non-native English speaker. This rewards articles written by humans for humans. Yay say I!
    Brad Plogsted