There has been much buzz about Google's new Webmaster rules, in the wake of Tom Foremski's article: Did Google Just Kill PR Agencies? (My friend and former Fusionite Chris Michaels alerted me to the story; thanks, Chris!)
Foremski has something of a fixation with death and PR, so I was skeptical at first. He famously wrote Die, Press Release, Die, Die, Die years ago; the anti-press release tirade that gave rise to the Social Media Release.
But as I read further, it seemed clear that new Webmaster linking rules could pose a threat to common PR and content marketing practices like press release wire distribution, article syndication and guest blogging.
I wanted to learn more, and did a search to see what others were saying. I also tried to find out about any statement from Google on the topic, as well as pinged their PR department.
In terms of the latter; I did not expect an answer from them - but hey, they are in PR too, right? Don't they want to address the topic?
Some of the articles that I found were quite useful; but none addressed all of my questions, which include:
- The rules discourage linking from self-generated content, like press releases. But how different are they from earlier rules, which urged caution when using inbound links? is this really a big, new, scary change?
- What are the implications and threats for PR agencies?
- Ditto for newswires?
- Do we need to take extra steps to avoid an SEO penalty?
- Should PR agencies give up on trying to SEO content (after we have been told for years that this is important)?
Writing for the Porter Novelli blog (my friend Judy Gombita sent me the link), Chad Hyett answered the question about Google killiing PR agenices by saying No, Well Maybe the Lazy Ones.. He makes the excellent point that we are much more than SEO-optimizing, link stuffing machines. However he does not address whether we will need to do anything different to avoid an SEO penalty.
Writing for PR Newswire's blog (in advance of Foremski's piece), Sarah Skerik advocated Generating Awareness, Not Links, with Press Releases. She does talk a bit about whether we need to take any special steps when using newswires like theirs (seems like PR Newswire is taking action to make this unneccesary).
On Search Engine Land, Barry Schwartz cited a conversation that includes commentary from a Google executive on the topic.
My monthly Content Marketing column for Maximize Social Business will be out tomorrow. Check it out for my analysis and detailed recommendations based on what I learned from these articles, others, and interviews with SEO experts.