Google’s recent change in its guidelines for using “unnatural” links in press releases, articles and posts—which the search engine asserts are designed to manipulate a site’s rankings—have prompted Silicon Valley journalist blogger Tom Foremski to draft an analysis that he has headlined, “Did Google Just Kill PR Agencies?”
He contends, “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,” and says, “Most press releases are posted on numerous sites to get attention and to promote a business. This is now against the rules. Google doesn’t want to see any unnatural boost to the popularity of a piece of content.”
I feel Tom’s headline is misguided, however. The contention that guidelines designed to prevent the “stuffing” of releases with keywords or the selling of links are a poison pill for PR firms is nonsense—in fact, I think it’s beneficial for reputable agencies.
Good public relations firms understand the importance of high-quality Web content. No true PR professionals would attempt to cram repeated keywords into a release, article or Web page, but rather they would seek to create a highly readable and absorbing piece in which links that appear are natural reference points for the reader.
The fact remains that creating Web content is an art, not a search-engine-optimization-driven science, and the best PR agencies naturally excel at that art. Google is challenging all of us in the PR profession to acknowledge this reality, to stop trying to game the SEO chase and start focusing on the art of communicating.
Rather than hobbling through our writing with one leg planted in a pool of keywords, we should be freely and creatively running through the points that make for an effective release, byline, blog post, essay or website. PR pros with a good content strategy and the ability to write quality communications that use the words people understand and care about will have no problems with Google’s guidelines. An algorithm or change in formula doesn’t alter the work we do at Airfoil and should prompt all PR agencies to demonstrate even greater respect for their audiences.
With its new guidelines, Google actually may have become a patron of the arts, giving new life to engaging content and new attention to the artists who can present it with its full natural impact.
The bottom line is PR agencies who know their stuff never stuff news releases anyway.
Janet Tyler is the Co-CEO of Airfoil, a high-tech PR and marcomm firm with offices in Silicon Valley, Detroit, London and Hong Kong.