Google's latest algorithm update, Panda 4.0 appears to be punishing sites that host and distribute press releases, by demoting them in its search rankings reports Barry Swartz at Search Engine Land:
"...since Panda 4.0 hit... PRWeb.com, PR Newswire, BusinessWire and PRLog all seem to have lost significant rankings in Google."
He published a series of charts that show traffic plunging down a cliff, as much as 71% in some cases. This could become a huge problem for companies trying to distribute news and other information.
It is also affecting the distribution partners of press release sites such as Bloomberg, which are paid to host the press releases.
Foremski's Take: Last year Google warned companies not to stuff too many links and keywords into press releases or it would penalize them in its search index. Press release sites had become a favorite way for companies to boost their standing in Google's index because they are distributed to many other high-ranking web sites, creating hundreds of back-links. Google's algorithm considers links from top sites to be a sign of trust and gives those pages a high rank for specific search terms.
Google considers PR firms and other marketing companies, to be similar to its hated search engine optimization (SEO) firms because they all work to boost visibility for their clients through paid activities rather than through merit.
Google wants search results that reflect the natural, "organic" popularity of web pages because they contain useful information. Anything that is done to try to game the Google algorithm is considered against its rules of service and can result in a ban from the search index. This means that traditional PR and marketing practices fall into the SEO category, in Google's view of the world.