Without any fuss (or as much as an announcement) Google updated the link schemes document on its webmaster guidelines last month in a bid to filter out content that manipulates its PageRank algorithm with ‘unnatural’ links. Fair enough, until the news triggered a debate among SEO and communications professionals, and touched a nerve in the PR community on the impact it will have on the workhorse of the media industry – the press release.
Three weeks later, and although the discussion lingers on, I’m happy to report that the focus has moved from Has Google just killed PR agencies? to What can PR now do? Yes, insert the “nofollow” link on optimised anchor texts in press releases, and yes, remember that writing quality content rather than hyper-linking press releases is the essence of PR, and yes, there’s clearly no room for grey in the white and black hats that SEO theoretically adorns. But more importantly perhaps, Google’s move has taught us that PR will need to strengthen not just press releases, but its overall business strategy to prevent similar and perhaps more serious outcomes of doing business with Google.
Tom Foremski (responsible for sparking the debate around the issue with his blog on ZDNet), in a subsequent piece, ‘Google is forcing a reinvention of PR’ indicated that PR would benefit from focusing on a strong product, rather than leaning solely on press release rankings. He wrote: ‘In Google’s world, there is no need to trick its index with PR and false signals of popularity. If you truly do have a better product, service, or mousetrap, Google will make sure that the world beats a path to your door.’
The blog yielded varying viewpoints but a response from ‘Chris’ addressed the task ahead for PR. He said: ‘Agencies will need to adapt and provide web presence and content marketing metrics as part of their service offerings.’
Going forward, the PR industry will undoubtedly benefit from investing in the right tools to support its strategy and campaigns, which in turn is sure to generate interest and drive web traffic.
Pete Goold of Punch Communications puts the future in perspective best when he blogged: ‘Whatever the situation, one aspect is clear, the PR industry continues to evolve at pace – and those that are able to see the opportunities that exist in combining tried and tested PR tactics with those opportunities offered by the current digital landscape are best placed to thrive.