Gini Dietrich

Don’t Die PR Agencies! What the Recent Google Changes Really Mean

By: Gini Dietrich | August 20, 2013 | 

Don't Die PR Agencies! What the Recent Google Changes Really MeanBy Gini Dietrich

A couple of weeks ago, ZDNet published an article called, “Did Google Just Kill PR Agencies?

While a bit, um, dramatic, it caused many in our profession to freak out a little bit.

Tara Geissinger, the co-founder of SEO Content Solutions, wrote a blog post here called, “Did Google Just Kill Online News Releases?” in response.

The answer? A resounding no.

That said, what both pieces have taught us is the old way of keyword stuffing and using optimized anchor text are bad practices. This is something bloggers already knew and something PR pros who don’t blog need to figure out.

More than Just News Releases

The biggest issue, of course, with the ZDNet article is PR is more than just news releases. Even if Google said you can no longer distribute releases online, it wouldn’t kill PR agencies.

Let’s take that scenario. I apologize in advance to my friends who work for news release distribution companies. This is just a hypothetical.

Let’s say Google does say, “No more!” and they ban any form of news release distribution online as they consider it spam, which they’re trying to kill.

What do you do?

When I began my career, we didn’t have a way to distribute a news release online. We had to – gasp! – subscribe to the newspaper or magazine and read it. We had to find the most appropriate journalist for our client’s product or service and call them. We had to target our message specifically to what their readers, viewers, or listeners were accustomed to receiving.

Sure, we created media kits, which included news releases, but we didn’t mass distribute them (too expensive) and we certainly didn’t send them to anyone and everyone who matched an online search (side note: I received a news release the other day for a Chicago opening of an education franchise…because I live in Chicago).

Then Vocus and Cision and BusinessWire and PRNewswire and all the others came along and made our jobs easier…and made us much more lazy.

Don’t Die PR Agencies!

Let’s go back to our hypothetical.

Google says no more online releases and then what?

We’ll actually have to do media relations the way we are supposed to do it: By building relationships first and then pitching a story idea.

I know most of you know this intuitively, but get bogged down in client pressures and not having enough time and it’s so easy to just hit send to a bunch of journalists and bloggers and cross your fingers, but you will have much better luck sending a story idea to 10 solid relationships and get nine stories than to send 100 or 1,000 news releases and get only one.

I like those stats much better.

Google is doing you a favor. It’s not killing us. It’s not killing our profession. It’s making us better.

Use the online services to help you build your lists and learn more about the people you’re going to meet, but for heaven’s sakes, stop mass distributing news releases. Because, if you do and they’re not written for human beings, Google will penalize you and your client.

Be better professionals. Take the time to do media relations correctly. Educate your clients on how the process works – and how long it takes. Write for humans. Don’t keyword stuff. Don’t optimize anchor text.

If you think about how you would like to be treated if someone wanted to work with you and behave in that manner, things will go swimmingly well.

About Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. Join the Spin Sucks   community!

  • I just love it when you fire from all cylinders first thing in the morning;)

    • annelizhannan LOL!! Thank you…I’ve been thinking about this for a while.

    • annelizhannan It’s that bike of hers. She’s dangerous on that thing.

      • I agree DebraCaplick , when ginidietrich  is pumping out quality content like this on a daily basis she makes the Wicked Witch of the West look like she is on a tricycle going uphill 😉

        • annelizhannan DebraCaplick LOL! That’s quite the analogy!

        • ginidietrich annelizhannan DebraCaplick I would have preferred to use Glenda, the good witch to describe you but at least I didn’t use Lance Armstrong 😉

        • annelizhannan DebraCaplick ginidietrich What a visual! LOL!

  • Google’s periodic updates have the objective of making search results more credible, more relevant and more useful. 
    Google has always and still rewards great content. It seems that every time Google does an update, the chief complainers are the ones who produce, at best, mediocre content or are trying to game the system through links, etc.

    The other complainers? People who can’t or won’t take the time to learn about the update, what its impact on their work might be, and then develop a plan to ensure success ANYWAY.
    Its a group I just don’t have time for.

    • ClayMorgan It frustrates me, too. It’s the PR pro who insists the news she has is good for your paper, even though the “news” is happening 95 miles away.

      • ginidietrich Oh, HER! Grrrrr.

      • ginidietrich ClayMorgan Or the client. Then I spend precious time explaining to the client just what “newsworthy” means, and why a blast distribution will yield absolutely “zero” results….and then they want it anyway. Grrrrr!

  • I agree — these changes ARE making us stronger marketers. The boost that publishing press releases online gave our clients was intoxicatingly easy. I disagree, however, that we should stop publishing them altogether. The anchor text links in the body of the press release may now be nofollow, but that doesn’t wipe out all of their value. A well-written and well-optimized online press release can still rank well in Google’s search results and work to build your brand. Should you be publishing a release every day or even every week? Probably not. The SEO value is secondary. But if you have news to announce, I still think it’s worth choosing an inexpensive package to get some reach online. 

    The key here — like always — is to be sure that you aren’t using online press release distribution as an excuse to be lazy. Sure, the news gets a broad reach and you get a pretty report to show your client. But it doesn’t replace TRUE media coverage and relationship building. It’s just a small piece of your online marketing puzzle. 
    Quality still trumps quantity. Every time. 

    Bottom line, if you have a quality release, don’t be afraid to publish it. Most reputable distribution platforms have already conformed to Google’s request to have all anchor text links be nofollow. (I know we did at Online PR Media — including links in previously published releases.) The link to your published release can be used to share on social media, email personally to journalists and showcase on the news section of your website.  
    I think the real mistake is that many fell into the trap that “online publicity” simply meant publishing their release online instead of actually managing their online reputation, forging online relationships, incorporating social media and old-fashioned pitching. 🙂

    • TaraGeissinger Um…that was a hypothetical.

      • ginidietrich TaraGeissinger I agree 100% with that. I think you and I were thinking different things when reading the phrase “mass distribute!” 🙂 Like I said on Facebook, there is no replacement for hard work. And great PR *is* hard work. So much more than pressing “send” or “publish” and then wiping your hands of the project! LOL

  • bobledrew

    I don’t have a single thing to add to this, ginidietrich. You said it all. Guess what I’ll be sending around all day today: this post.

    • bobledrew WOO HOO! You made my day!

    • bobledrew ginidietrich does have a lot to say huh? For an introvert even.

  • susancellura

    What?! You want us to work? Work hard? But, but, but I can push a button and tell my boss it was a successful launch!  (Insert eye roll here.)
    There are plenty of times when I’m proud to tell my colleagues that I am “old school”. By that I mean, I meet with the ad reps of the industry magazines, who then introduce me – sometimes in person (gasp!) – to the editor and editorial assistants. From there, even if it is over email, I stay in touch with them, learn how they work, what they like, etc. Some are sticking with print only and others are expanding into both print and online publishing. It is so much easier in the long run to know what they like. And, sometimes, while I may hope something gets published earlier, I enjoy the fact that the editor may come back and say, “Not this issue, BUT would you send over an ENTIRE article for a later issue?”
    That is when I do the happy dance.

    • susancellura I love it when that happens! I once had that happen with the LA Times…and the used it on the freaking front page. The client thought I was a hero.

      • ginidietrich susancellura I think I would have framed that and hung it in my office. Front page of the LA Times? Sweet!!

  • nshafer2

    I agree ginidietrich, you can also consider using ad networks (social, native, etc..) to distribute your well written content.  They allow additional advantages over PR distributions due to their advanced targeting, customized pricing models (PPC) and the ability to adapt a distribution as your data comes in.

  • JasonVerhoosky

    I couldn’t agree more, and I for one LOVE this! Write for people, write things people are going to read, and build real relationships!

    • JasonVerhoosky Jason Verhoosky. I miss you! I keep up on your antics on Facebook, but it’s so nice to see your face here. I hope you’re doing well!

  • Great discussion here, Gini. We wrote a piece on our blog that discusses how to stay Google compliant following the latest webmaster updates ( but I think the more important point you raise here is that of building relationships, and we couldn’t agree more.
    This is something we often advise in our own content – from webinars to blog posts, events and white papers – but it can’t be said enough. Our tool is made to simplify earned media campaigns – from building a list, to connecting, monitor and analyze. It gives users the foundation, helps them to be more efficient and productive, but it does not cut out the human angle. That is such an important piece, and something we #preach (!) the content and communication mentioned above.
    We think a combination of releases, relationships and content amplification is a nice balance. Releases give people the facts and is still a good way to announce news, pass it to contacts, and maintain interest by keeping it in your newsroom. Relationships – self explanatory, but they go a long way if they’re really relationships and not a one-way street. Amplification – great for brand recognition, offering value and shelf life.
    Thank you for the discussion! And for calming down the hype 🙂

    • Cision NA I want to have this conversation over wine (luckily we get to do that soon!) because I agree with you with one small caveat. Cision has provided a HUGE opportunity to become very efficient with our media relations efforts. The sad thing is (to no fault of your own), people use the software the wrong way. I agree with you that it provides users the foundation – and does a great job of it – but many people build their lists, upload their news releases, and hit send. That’s bad, bad, bad…and the completely wrong way for you to use it.

      • ginidietrich Yes, it can be a Catch 22, if you will (talk about dramatic) 🙂 
        We have added features to curb abuse (limits on # of contact exports, etc) and hope our ‘best practices’ content helps curb misuse, too, but it is something we’re aware of and continually educate clients on.
        And wahooooo wine! Looking forward to tomorrow – wow, tomorrow already! Can’t wait to talk more 🙂

        • Cision NA ginidietrich before the internet did you mail your Press Release or did you hand deliver them?

        • Howie Goldfarb Cision NA ginidietrich my preferred method for a long time was carrier pigeon (with ity bity bow ties…I like my carrier pigeons to be gentlemen, you kno? Polite and all, opening doors for the ladies, delivering roses when they dropped things off at Hearst). How do you the idea for twitter came about? Tweet, tweet…yeah, that little birdy was derived from my top pigeon, Charles….
          Now, this is sort of a long story, but before I started using carrier pigeons, obviously I used Flying Pigs….People ask me often where my business got it’s name ‘Flying Pig Consulting’? Well, back in the good ole’ days, before pig labor laws, I actually used pigs that I would suit up with fantastic flight enabled wings and tutus. These pigs would do all my press release deliver (I also had an invoice collection department of flying pigs, but that got a bit nasty after one of them contracted out business to the mafia, but that’s a story for a different time…)
          Anyway, enter the Pig Labor Law debacle and out went my pig employment program (not to mention the heat I got from the fem-nazi sector about my policy of only hiring attractive pigs that met certain weight and snout guidelines). So that’s when Al Gore and I teamed up to create the internet.

        • Cision NA ginidietrich Cision has done a great job of adding features! I know most of the larger, reputable distribution platforms also immediately sprung into action, changing their links to nofollow and educating their customers. Google’s changes truly are going to make this industry stronger as more and more focus is placed on earned links, social media sharing and quality content. 
          And wine? I’m pretty jealous down here in FL…. Have fun!!

        • LauraPetrolino  Howie Goldfarb ginidietrich You won the Internet today, Laura. That is hilarious! 🙂

        • TaraGeissinger Thank you so much for the kind words, Tara! We really appreciate the feedback. 
          Next time we’ll have to skype you in to our wine night 🙂 It’s a date!

        • Cision NA LauraPetrolino Howie Goldfarb ginidietrich YES!!!! I won the freaking internet!!! OMG! Hello ‘best day ever’. Thank you!!!!

      • ginidietrich Cision NA It’s kinda like all the hullabaloo over social media and marketing automation. People will be douches regardless of the technology. Hey ho.

  • LouHoffman

    Gini, Glad you wrote this post. Tom Foremski like many good journalists likes to provoke, but his track record as a prognosticator of the PR industry is a bit spotty. When the economic model of publishing started to crater Tom predicted doom for PR agencies with fewer people/publications to pitch. Fast forward to today and the opposite has happened. 
    I completely agree with your point- Google is doing us a favor. “It’s making us better” (though I’ll miss those “cheap” links).

    • LouHoffman The doom posts seem to do really well… I guess that’s why people write them. But you’re right – this industry isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. We’re evolving, but we’re not dying.

  • I echo ClayMorgan’s point from below – plus, I wonder, aren’t marketing & PR pros relieved? The changes from Google actually increase your value, in my opinion. 
    The other thing, and I think this is where people see the trees and not the forest, is that Google is clearly moving towards defining the value of relationships / connections. For all the talk about amazing content, the space between people and organizations is what matters the most. Which is of course why people like yourself and Sam and Danny are well positioned for the future.

    • JoeCardillo I saw (but haven’t fully investigated yet) the move toward longer form content in search results. I think that goes even further to defining the value of content as it relates to building trust. And I agree with you…if you already practice PR really well, these changes aren’t a big deal. Where they’re going to hurt the industry is in agencies who spray and pray or the big firms who put junior employees on media relations with one goal in mind: Pitch.

      • ginidietrich JoeCardillo This is very true! Google’s changes really only impact the people who were using online press releases for SEO purposes only. You could basically buy hundreds of inbound links with the distribution of one press release. In terms of SEO, they were too powerful and could be used to skew Google’s search results. Like Gini said — if you were already practicing PR really well, this small change shouldn’t make or break your campaigns. 
         Oh and I love “spray and pray!” I am going to have to use that someday because the visual is too perfect! LOL

        • TaraGeissinger ginidietrich JoeCardillo Exactly – press release for link building w/regard for content was always a tricky proposition. Google is closing that avenue off, something that ultimately is better for good SEOs anyways. 
          The longer form content thing is interesting – I remember 5 years ago being told that search engines didn’t or weren’t likely to consider content beyond a certain point, say 600 or 1200 or 1500 words. Whether that was true or not I can’t say, but I know that idea drove people like Sean McGinnis crazy because there is no reason you can’t have value in longer posts (instructions/guide on proper SEO, for ex.)

    • JoeCardillo ClayMorgan Who’s this Sam you talk of?

      • Danny Brown JoeCardillo ClayMorgan He’s a born troublemaker, that one.

  • *applause*

  • Every technical advance makes us better – or should.Forums made us consider bigger stats than downtown focus groups;Email made us consider shorter, punchier copy;SEO made us think of contextual;Social media made us think of less pervasive;Content marketing made us think creatively.
    All these “death of” posts are usually good linkbait, and now and again even have some decent points in them. For the most part, though, they’re very often redundant by the time they’re published, because the folks doing good stuff aren’t reading the “death of” posts, because their daily actions are already way beyond whatever the post is about.
    Or something.

    • Danny Brown This is like an exact recap of Seth Godin’s post today! Is Seth stealing your stuff again? Regardless, both extremely good points!

      • LauraPetrolino Damn that bald freak!!! 😉

    • Danny Brown And therein lies the problem: anyone who thinks a specific tactic is going to make or break their efforts, well, it probably will.

    • Danny Brown I always think the death of posts are funny. It makes me roll my eyes.

  • This is kind of weird. I fully support Google’s effort to have content written like we would for a book or magazine or a a letter to a friend than for SEO. SEO copy is not natural and to me is clutter cramming the internet.
    That said what confuses me is why you would do this for a Press Release. Aren’t you creating them and sending them to people? Are the ones on your site really meant for SEO? I always felt they existed for investor purposes.

    • Howie Goldfarb Great writing for humans will never go out of style.

    • Howie Goldfarb People will always game the system and this is one way that is happening.

  • Gini, we’re definitely thinking along the same lines on this.
    Relationships are the secret sauce, not links in press releases.

  • Exactly. I’m right in the middle of a good old-fashioned media relations outreach program right now. I think we spent probably around 60 hours collectively (mercymypr is working with me on this and karelyneve helped a ton with the research) – I’m not joking – on researching and updating the media list, using Cision (disclosure: client), and then sending out individual pitches and following up individually as appropriate. 
    Not once we did we send a bcc email using Constant Contact or any of that nonsense; the only thing we did was to send the media advisory (it’s an event, tomorrow), to news & assignment desks specifically stating it WAS an advisory for planning purposes. That got responses. It’s backbreaking work, but when you do it the right way, it works.

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