It’s well known that Google recently updated their content guidelines – again. The company seems bent on ending SEO schemes that many organizations use to manipulate PageRank. Each time there is an update to Google’s policy, it appears stricter on how organizations use links to try and improve their search engine rankings. It seems the stricter Google becomes the better it is for the public relations industry. The changes in question are in the “Link schemes” section. Let’s break it down.
Right in the opening Google warns that any links used to intentionally manipulate PageRank is a violation. The page provides examples, such as buying, selling or exchanging links. One specific example is providing a free product in exchange for someone writing about it and including a link. In other words, non-traditional product reviews. On the more obvious side, the policy also dislikes excessive use of the strategy “link to me and I’ll link to you.” In addition, heavy use of keyword anchor text in articles, in marketing efforts, etc. is a no-no as is the use of automated programs to create links to sites.
There is reference to creating links not editorially placed or vouched for by the site owner being a no-no too. Google calls this “unnatural links.” Some examples given include text ads and advertorials using links as well as links using anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites.
The last part of the policy is the kicker. You cannot “SEOize” a press release, put it on a wire service and be on Google’s good side. Any PR – even non-PR person can do this – so, it’s good for good PR folks that Google is getting stricter here. This section goes on to point out other no-nos that are helpful to the PR industry: links in widgets; footer links; forum comments with links. So, marketers can no longer just flood the Internet with their links and keywords to get good Google rankings. The use of SEO practitioners and ads for SEO gains is getting tougher and tougher, leaving PR looking like a very unique and strong option. I’m certain outside of the PR industry this will be spun differently but, it’s quite clear no matter what.
To put it even more soundly, here’s one part of the policy:
“The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.”
I read this to mean objective editorial or blogger coverage that gets many readers or a clean-content website that naturally draws visitors and more visitors. Objective editorial is done only via PR. So is objective blogger coverage. And, if you can’t create boat loads of links to your website and paste them all over the Internet to get visitors, then you need to draw visitors another way. That way is via PR. Marketers must enlist PR to do the media and blogger relations that leads to “natural” story reading about their company’s products or services. If the media coverage is good, then readers of those stories or blog posts will want to “naturally” visit your website. The more popular you become this way (via stories that get read a lot), the more you stay in Google’s good graces. If it’s not clear yet, let’s put it another way. Use PR to get natural editorial or blogger stories – good and objective web content about your goods or company. If the stories are positive, it will naturally lead to more website visits, the way Google prefers. The more good stories, the more website visits and the better Google likes you. PR has become an even more valuable method now than ever to get better Google rankings. And the more Google presses this, the better it will be for the PR industry as more and more companies come to understand the power PR has always had – the power of real influence.
Read the full details of Google’s Link scheme policies here.