The well-respected Tom Foremski has announced that ‘Google killed PR agencies’. In truth, I was expecting this day. Since articles started to appear announcing that ‘SEO will be dead in two years’, it’s become common for experts to proclaim negative effects, with big online shifts, for related fields. We’ve seen it with web design, copywriting, social media, and now, PR. But did Google just kill PR agencies? Not at all. In fact, it will help (good) agencies prove their value.
Silicon Valley watcher Tom Foremski claims that Google just killed PR agencies because of Google’s update of its webmaster rules on links and keywords in press releases. In short, Google announced that it would penalize companies that try to manipulate PageRank. To Foremski this means that:
“If you repeat the use of a word in your press release, Google will think you are trying to stuff it with keywords and try to trick its index. Repeated words are a big red flag.”
“Google could penalize a PR firm’s client web site because it will view the links as an attempt to unnaturally promote the site! Only “natural” growth in the popularity of a web page is allowed.”
If PR agencies did just create press releases stuffed with irrelevant links, than yes PR agencies, as Foremski knows them, will die. But, for us, a PR agency should never make link building in press material priority number one. It’s always about creating the most relevant story for your target audience. And even then it would make no sense to ruin a story that you have put in so much time and effort on, just to ensure a dozen keywords are stuffed in and have links.
In a way Google’s recent updates are nothing new. It is more like a logical follow-up to Google Penguin. With the release of Penguin, Google intensified its fight against ‘spam content’. A fight in favour of the ‘internet user’s’ needs, and to support well-written, useful content. With the introduction of Google Penguin, PR agencies should have been aware that the most relevant unique content gets prominence in Google’s search results and NOT the most search engine optimised content.
Relevance is still key
Assets in a PR campaign, like press releases, blogs or social media posts, all thrive on relevance. If a story isn’t interesting or appealing to a journalist, a blogger community or social media shares, chances are that it will never have an impact on your client’s campaign.
The same goes for the use of links. Even before Google’s update of the Webmaster rules, the use of the same link over and over in a press release or blog post made no sense. What would be the added value for a reader if you linked to your website every time you mentioned your newest products? You would expect that if a reader finds your content and news interesting, one link would do the trick.
Agencies that have focused on filling press releases with irrelevant links, across as many (dodgy) portals as possible, are in no way a representation of the work most agencies deliver. PR agencies are there to deliver unique relevant content to the right audiences. And that’s why Google’s recent updates will help PR agencies to survive, instead of killing them.