Google quietly announced some pretty big changes to its search algorithm that could have big implications on the PR industry, especially those that focus on SEO tactics. The key piece of the Google webmaster document change that has people sweating bullets has to do with the inclusion of links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites. You know, those press releases that are chock full of hyperlinks pointing back to web content generated by a particular brand.
For web services like, Vocus (PRWeb), PR Newswire and others, I imagine this is going to up the volume of calls from concerned clients – at the very least. After all, as Tom Foremski put it for ZD Net, “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.”
“Google is at war with SEO companies and is trying to wipe them out,” Foremski wrote.
But, I see things differently. In fact, I’m inspired by where this is going and here’s why:
1. Better Readability – Press releases published through wire services have been riddled with link bait. Headlines were obviously written for robots, not humans. If you asked one employee at one company about their latest news, not one of them would answer you with a headline like that. Finally, Google is forcing companies to get real about the content they share.
2. More Engagement – At PitchEngine, we get asked all the time about SEO. From day one, I’ve felt that if your content is good (well written, media rich and authentic) it will get liked, tweeted and shared. Today, this is FAR MORE powerful than backlinks and Google is just reinforcing this. The “social media release” that we made mainstream four years ago was about utility and engagement, not artificial authority. Does content published on our platform get great search indexing? Yes, because there’s a lot of brands publishing legitimate news, articles and announcements there and that’s what a relevant audience wants to read.
3. Less Laziness – Too many PR agencies (and in-house PR departments) just go through the motions. They write a press release, push it out on a wire and call it a day. That’s a great way to eliminate the longevity of your career. This small change should signal more to you than a visit with your “SEO guy.”
4. Changing of the Guard – I’ve said it, blogged it and shouted it as loud as I could, if traditional PR doesn’t wake up, they will be replaced by other seemingly unthreatening parts of marketing and communications. Journalists will take the place of PR pros as chief storytellers. Ad agencies will take the place of content creators. Either way, if you’re simply bringing great AP format and bulletproof copy editing skills to the table you’re in danger of being an antiquated part of a marketing budget.
5. Beyond Google – When one company, app or medium is holding all of the cards, then it’s time to think bigger. Do people discover your content through search? Absolutely, but only if it’s relevant. Google is making search more contextual and relevant to each of us everyday. If we stopped thinking broadly and start thinking organically, we’ll start creating the kind of content we’d like to read, instead of generic copy that looks like it was spit out of the AP 5000 machine. Create content that people will share on Facebook. Write concise text that will get retweets on Twitter. Those things will move the needle for a client or brand way before a generic press release ever will.
In the end, it’s about being passionate about what you do. If your job sucks, then so will the content you create. If you look for shortcuts, then you’re probably that person in real life. I realize I can’t change everyone’s opinions or age-old PR tactics, but I do think I can prevent some from heading down a dead end path. Here’s to those of you with the heart to do what you believe in and the tenacity to see it through.
What do you think? Is this the evolution of PR or just another obstacle in “the process.”