Is Google’s new algorithm apocalyptic for PR wire services?

Sites such as PRWeb and PRNewswire have seen huge drops in search traffic after Google’s newest algorithm update. That may be a good thing.


Last week some major wire services, such as PRWeb and PR Newswire, lost a lot of traffic overnight. It looks like Google dropped the hammer on most wire services with its latest algorithm update. And it’s bad. Really bad. What happened? After Google announced it was rolling out Panda 4.0—the latest update to its ranking algorithm—there have been numerous stories about big sites taking a major drop in search rankings. According to traffic data, we can see that PRWeb.com (an arm of Vocus) has lost nearly a half-million daily sessions, reducing traffic to a fraction of what it was getting before. The above chart shows a significant drop in organic search traffic starting May 28. Most Google algorithm updates have an impact on the organic traffic, but these drops are stunning. For some sites, we are seeing an overnight drop of over 80 percent. Why, Google? The overall trend of Google’s updates is to make it harder for webmasters to try to “game” the system. Google’s goal is to keep searchers satisfied, and one way they do that is by ensuring searches present relevant results that carry high-quality content. Content farms and sites with low-quality content get shut out. With this latest Panda update, Google is simply following through on what it has hinted at for a while. Here’s a quote from the blog of Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam team: “The objective is not to ‘make your links appear natural’; the objective is that your links are natural.” Google is not our enemy. It’s a smart company that reminds us time and time again what people want: great content, natural distribution. Wire services are not what PR is about If your primary tactic for PR is blasting link-stuffed press releases across the wires, then you probably should rethink your approach. Consider this: A wire service is an automated network of sites that copy and syndicate news releases online. Automated. Google isn’t big on automated content. Although a lot has been said about “changing old-school strategies” (Tom Foremski, econsultancy.com, and a blog post of my own), it’s surprising to see that a lot of brands/PR agencies have not changed the way they work. What’s worse is that most people don’t realize they are actually violating a lot of Google guidelines when they use a wire service such as PR Web. Choosing a “distribution” package for your news release on any wire service will end up hurting you. What does this mean for PR? For brand managers that are doing it right, this is great news, but it does make the job a bit harder. Good content always trumps lazy link-bait. That’s why everyone in PR should take extra steps to convince the new-and-improved Google they are not trafficking in paid links, nor buying exposure through an automated link scheme. The move simply forces us to do our jobs more effectively. The more obstacles to automated press release sites there are, the more benefit there will be to real PR services. Additionally, it clearly sends a message to the lazy agencies out there that there are no shortcuts. Online PR (and SEO) will become what it always should have been: “The art of creating compelling content targeted to specific audiences.” Gijs Nelissen is co-founder at Prezly, a press release publication and distribution service. Follow him on Twitter or connect with him on LinkedIn. (Image via)

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