As Google continues penalizing websites that use manipulative tactics to artificially boost their search rankings, PR pros should be jumping for joy.
After all, the whole point of the year-old Penguin algorithm update
is to reward websites that are producing valuable content on a regular basis by making them easier to find.
And that’s what we do for a living, right? Not so fast.
, the public relations industry should benefit from Google’s push for quality content. Instead of turning to manipulative search engine optimization (SEO) tactics to drive Web traffic, more businesses will turn to PR and marketing agencies for well-written website copy, blog posts, and other forms of content marketing. That’s the logical next step for companies that have been relying on keyword stuffing or spam link schemes to build their Web presence.
To benefit from this situation, public relations firms must know how search works and make sure they’re not unwittingly contributing to the problem and getting their clients bumped down in results in the process. This SEO stuff isn’t just for Web geeks; it’s incumbent upon PR pros to understand the evolving search ecosystem.
Look no further than the ubiquitous online press release as a case in point.
While it’s easy to dump a bunch of links into a Web release and tell a client it’s good for SEO, there’s growing evidence
that overly optimized press releases could be factoring into search penalties. In other words, you could be hurting your client’s rankings—not helping them—by distributing press releases overstuffed with links and keywords.
That’s not to say good press releases can’t help with SEO. They can still boost online visibility
and help pages on your website rank higher
. But they have to be written, optimized, and packaged in a way that respects Google’s recent changes.
Here are some tips PR professionals should follow to keep their press releases from being classified as spam by Google:
Use links sparingly:
Linking to another piece of useful content such as a video or study is a good practice, but linking from a popular keyword to a product page looks like spam. Ask yourself whether the link provides true value to the reader. If you’re adding a link just to boost search results, it probably shouldn’t be there.
Earn links, don’t build them:
Create interesting and meaningful content that people want to find and share, and the links will come naturally. Stay away from an SEO strategy built around aggressive link acquisition.
Choose a reputable wire service:
It’s important to use a distributor that pushes your press releases out to all the major search engines and news outlets, but be wary of services that get your content posted on hundreds of random websites.
The Internet enables companies to communicate directly with their target audiences via search, but even these consumer-facing releases should have news value. Don’t jump to a press releases as the default PR vehicle for everything, and be willing to take a stand and tell a client when something isn’t newsworthy.
This one should be obvious, but it’s worth repeating. Google’s algorithm has improved its ability to separate quality press releases with real news value from drivel being churned out to manipulate search results. Structure, grammar, and spelling matter to Google.
Focus on quality over quantity:
While building links en masse used to be a good SEO strategy, it’s now far more important to earn a handful of high-value links from relevant and authoritative websites. It’s much more difficult and time-consuming, but Google will reward the effort.
The major search engines have always discounted press releases by a certain degree because they are considered “created” rather than organic content. When Penguin came along, however, Google introduced an element of risk that didn’t exist before.
It all comes down to this: We should be writing press releases for reporters and readers—not search engines. Focus on quality content, avoid shortcuts, and the rest will take care of itself.
RELATED: How to write press releases Google will love
Dave Parro is an account director at Walker Sands in Chicago. He also teaches PR courses as an adjunct professor at Aurora University. Follow him on Twitter @daveparro. This story first appeared on the Walker Sands blog, Foot Prints.