“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, entitled ‘Did 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