Right now the interwebs are full of “Google has killed PR Agencies/press releases” stories. These all relate to big G’s latest update that talks about its crack down on keyword optimised press releases and the need to use no-follow links in stories that PRs push out.
Whether it is emails from nervous clients wanting clarification on the situation, or people on Twitter sending me DMs asking if I have seen various stories (because we set our stall out around being very SEO savvy), it is really up in my grill right now.
Not many public relations professionals have put their head above the parapet and come out with their take on this, so I thought I would give it the first shot.
Whilst reading, keep in mind that, with the exception of Google, no one really knows how this may all play out and I am making a number of assumptions to help me write this.
So, first things first, I am not an SEO by trade, yes I feel we as an agency are ahead of the game in this area but as I discovered from our partnership with worldie SEOs Bronco, I know very little in comparison to a true search agency.
This is how interpret the update and my topline thoughts:
1. Google wants an end to keyword stuffing in press releases
This is a good thing! Probably every agency that works in the online space has had a release sent back from a client that asks for more keywords to be inserted, or for keyword links.
We have always pushed back that unless it is just for use on a wire (and I will come onto wires in a moment), there is little value in doing this.
Yes a few journalists may just cut and paste parts of the release into their story, but this is a dying tactic for obvious reasons, and the flip side is that journalists are not mugs and will spot ‘keyworded’ up releases. Why take the risk?
2. Google wants you to use No-Follow links in press releases
This is where there is greater industry confusion, largely because many in the public relations industry still don’t know what “no follow” is (what am I? Wikipedia, go Google it yourself).
There is also confusion because some do not understand the context, and this is me making an assumption of my own; that this is just for releases that go onto wires or on new sites (and maybe even company press sections).
In my eyes this is Google, quite rightly, cracking down on all the dross that is pumped out onto wires like PRWeb, PRNewswire etc etc, sites we have all used in the past but have been seriously compromised by lesser SEO agencies adding them to their arsenal of Google Gaming Weaponry.
For a long time now I have spoken about the demise of these kinds of wires. They bring nothing other than syndicated content, syndicated links and, long term, I suspect penalties for the brands that have over cooked the keyword stuffing.
Don’t get me wrong, we use wires and historically even the wires I have slated above, but we now only use ones that we have built relationships with over the 7 years of our being in existence and where we have seen tangible, actual, credible coverage that comes on the back of them. Daryl Willcox wires being one of them and Realwire being the other.
If you place normal press releases on the wires you should have little to worry about because normal, well-written releases are not done with Google in mind, they are done with journalists in mind and as such are high quality pieces of informative content (in theory).
As previously mentioned, in my mind alone, if you sent a SEO optimised release to a journalist they would spot this and tear you a new one!
Going forward, will we use no follow on links on stories placed on wires? Absolutely, if that is what Google wants, that is what we shall do.
Well, it would not be right of me to speak about specific clients, but our own site is a good example and I can talk through how we address our own SEO.
We rank top 3 for a number of key industry terms that have delivered hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of business to our company every year.
Our rankings have come via seven years of solid work, an honest approach (we have always been ultra cautious with how we do things on the SEO front) and not necessarily going after rankings and links but letting them come naturally.
This is where many call me naive but I have always had faith in the likes of Google that they will see that what we do is more about creating thought leadership and giving actual advice that will help rather than trying to game the rankings – I will hold my hand up to the odd use of linkbait tactics but I do rather like a good Top 100 or Top 10 list.
It is kind of like the old adage: If you build it, they will come… with the light adaptation: If you build and promote it well, they will come.
For me, this update from Google is more about them once again trying to weedle out the fly-by-night, quick buck seeking and dodgy-practice companies that are looking to game its rankings.
Google is looking for brand signals and in my mind, the big benchmark global brands would not employ dodgy practices (well maybe a few do) and this is what we should all be aiming for, to become brands and thought leaders in our own right. The reward in achieving this is wider business growth and success across all of our marketing activities and not just Google.
Google’s missives on press releases and PR is just part of its wider focus on presenting back what it thinks are the best results for its users, again, I know to many this sounds naive.
Those in the public relations industry who are doing nothing wrong have nothing to worry about with regards to these updates, as I see them they are solely intended to address the rogue elements within the SEO sector and that is no bad thing in my opinion.