Google Not Putting PR Firms out of Business

Two weeks ago, an article on ZDNet with the headline “Did Google Just Kill PR Agencies?” raised plenty of eyebrows within the public relations industry.

The gist of the story is that Google updated its webmaster rules to lessen the influence of online press releases and posted content that seem to artificially inflate search results and page rankings with numerous links and repeated keywords. For instance, if a press release contains the same word over and over again, Google’s algorithm thinks you’re trying to trick it and will penalize you for it.

It’s no secret that newswires have become less and less important in terms of reaching journalists and actually earning media coverage. However, newswire feeds with links can definitely boost a website’s SEO ranking. Only now, perhaps less so. Google wants the ranking to be earned organically rather than through hundreds of paid linkbacks.

According to the article, “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.”

So does this mean PR agencies are dead? Hardly.

PR agencies still function as valuable partners and counselors to their clients. Media relations and SEO are just part of the mix. Public relations also includes crisis management, internal communications, event planning, community relations, government relations, investor relations and much more.

A follow-up article on posits that these new Google webmaster rules can actually be a good thing. The new rules will penalize “lazy” PR firms that crank our meaningless releases at the drop of a hat. You know, the ones that would issue a press release for the equivalent of every “Seinfeld” episode.

Communicators will have to ensure that their releases don’t resemble the PR equivalent of spam. They’ll have to work to genuinely earn coverage, interest and search rankings.

As someone who has always eschewed the practices of keyword stuffing and linkbait, I’m not concerned by these new rules. They actually help level the playing field and reinforce the notion that earned links are better than paid links.

Author: Glenn Gillen, APR
Glenn Gillen is our Senior Account Manager.

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