It’s good for any profession to have a few bomb-throwers, and PR is no exception. People who challenge, bait, or even criticize an industry can make it better. That’s why I’ve always been interested in Tom Foremski’s take. His 2006 post, “Die! Press Release! Die! Die! Die!” remains my favorite attack on the lowly press release, and, indirectly, on PR.
Foremski’s most recent post, Did Google Just Kill PR Agencies?’ is in the same hyperbolic vein. It comes in response to new rules that Google handed down regarding press releases. Essentially, Google has further tightened its policies in an effort to rid the industry of keyword-stuffed announcements of dubious quality. Google is now requiring that “anchor text” and URLs within press releases be converted to no-follow links, or links that don’t count towards page rank.
In other words, Google has just made it harder to spam the web through crappy content disguised as news.
So the problem with Foremski’s conclusion is that, while inflammatory and entertaining, it’s wrong, and any agency person can tell you that. The reports of our death are greatly exaggerated.
The majority of PR firms don’t spend time posting irrelevant press releases crammed with keywords for temporary search traction. That’s the purview of small businesses and bargain-basement practitioners who can’t really claim to be professionals.
The irony of Foremski’s latest is that Google’s new rules will probably strengthen the hands of legitimate practitioners. Here’s why:
PR is not about manipulating search results. Ninety percent of professionals spend their time identifying, shaping, and telling stories on behalf of clients. And most don’t have enough SEO knowledge to game the system even if they wanted to.
Press releases amount to a fraction of what we do. They’re a tool, and like any tool, they can be used well or poorly.
“Earned” media is still the heart of publicity results. That’s the opposite of paid, which is what the Google crackdown is all about.
Press releases should be written for….the press. Yes, PRs today interact directly with customers and others through social media, but there are still journalists out there, and releases should fill their needs.
Good clients don’t use press releases as an SEO tool. Any business using enhanced releases for SEO or online marketing deserves to be downgraded by Google.
SEO isn’t the new PR. In fact, PR just may be the new SEO.