PR and SEO Pros Have Their Say on ‘That’ ZDNet Article

Did Google just kill PR agencies?“PR agencies have to wake up to the fact that Google is now their competitor.” That’s what Tom Foremski wrote on ZDNet at the back end of last week, prompting much hysteria among PR and SEO professionals alike. The article, entitledDid Google Just Kill PR Agencies?’, now has around 1800 engagements across Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.

My first thought when I read that title was: ‘linkbait’. Google’s latest update really isn’t that great and, more to the point, is simply an extension of what it’s been doing for a couple of years. For me, it’s an unnecessary and sensationalist piece of journalism intentionally published, ironically, to attract links, shares and traffic. It worked.

I asked for some opinions from PR and SEO pros within my own networks, and it seems I’m not alone in this point of view.

“Lots of links, repeated keywords and duplicated content are all red flags to Google, and it’s now enforcing its webmaster terms”, says Lee Smallwood. “The move by Google isn’t against PR agencies. If PR agencies were undertaking SEO by only using press releases then they were in fact not doing SEO. The same rules apply to any organisation, internal department or external agency.”

Charlie Southwell echoes this: “I think it depends how the PR companies were/are working. If you send crafted releases to specific, cherry-picked journalists you have absolutely nothing to fear. I think this move is really focused on PR companies that rely on mailing every contact in their list every press release and using all the press release distribution services.”

But Danny Whatmough (rightly, in my view) takes exception to the assumption that PR is intrinsically linked to journalists and press releases. “PR has always been about building awareness of a brand or a cause and raising, upholding reputations. PRs have used an array of tactics to achieve this of which the media and organic/paid search are one”, he says in a response that’s well worth a read.

What it all boils down to in the end is content. Specifically, creating quality, shareable content for humans, not for Google algorithms. Create great content and it’ll find its own way up the SERPs.

“Good PR and SEO companies/practitioners enable the natural/organic/viral linking and sharing that Google likes. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t create content without any thought to SEO”, says Adam Cranfield. “At the end of the day, Google is still a robot, not a Pulitzer judge.”

Similarly, Glenn Le Santo asks: “Does this mean people will stop asking writers to write for robots and allow us to craft copy for the real audience again – humans?!” Quite.

So no, Google did not just kill PR agencies, and to even ask the question displays a major lack of understanding of what PR agencies actually do. To sum up, nine words of wisdom from Adam Vincenzini that, for me, summarise things perfectly: “Just write for humans and all will be peachy!”

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Posted by Paul Sutton

  • omaha seo

    I write press releases to elevate the reach of my content. If you look at the press release for all that it is you can also do a fine job implementing this tactic for social media marketing.

  • Neville Hobson (@jangles)

    Good post, Paul. Google’s own Webmaster Tools guide says it well:

    “The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.”

    • Paul Sutton

      Spot on. Thanks Neville.

  • Lee Smallwood

    Thanks for the inclusion Paul.

    In addition, I think it’s important to note that press releases are important – but they play only a part in building or maintaining a brand. Releases, rather than for link building activity, are about ‘raising awareness’ and through that awareness traffic is generated.

    Google looks at/defines what a ‘brand’ is holistically i.e. recognition. If a brand isn’t recognised across multiple channels then one could argue that they are in fact not a brand. Nothing new there…

    IMO, Google is purely getting us to think more about ‘attraction’ rather than ‘broadcasting.’

    How we approach, understand and implement findings within this this fast changing space will define what the future holds…

    • Paul Sutton

      Thanks Lee, I agree. It’s not new to think of marketing as pull rather than push (although tell that to the thousands of businesses out there who don’t understand this concept), but Google seems to be playing more and more into the hands of content marketing/inbound marketing. Or rather, content/inbound marketers are going to be able to take greater advantage of what Google is doing. Inbound marketing is the future! :)

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