How Google’s Panda 4.0 Affects PR

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About 10 days ago Google started the roll out of Panda 4.0 – a major update to their search algorithm. The goal of this update is to remove what Google calls “thin content” from the search rankings.

Why is this of interest to the PR profession? Although most PR pros are not SEO pros, we have realized that search is one of the big game changes in the news industry. In fact, back in 2011 Pew Research stated that search was the one factor that had most influenced the news in the past decade. Whether your news content ranks in search is important.

There have been signs that Google is not too thrilled with press releases. Matt Cutts, Senior Search Engineer at Google stated that Google regards a press release as owned content and does not give the links in a release any SEO value.

Barry Schwartz, founder of and news editor at did an analysis of how Panda 4.0 has affected press release sites. His results show that the major wire services have lost significant visibility and traffic as a result of this update.

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“This drop seems to have come right after the Google 4.0 update. The controversy around press release sites were mostly about links flowing from those releases, not necessarily the issue with the duplicative nature of that content. But let’s be honest, many many press releases issued are content thin and spammy on the content end, not just on the link end. So maybe, just maybe, Panda 4.0 adjusted for it and the big sites felt it?” writes Schwartz.

What does that mean for companies using these wire services?

Tom Foremski, former Financial Times journalist and founder of Silicon Valley Watcher, warned the PR industry about Google’s new rules for press releases almost a year ago. Here’s his take on this new Panda 4/0 update:

“Google considers PR firms and other marketing companies, to be similar to its hated search engine optimization (SEO) firms because they all work to boost visibility for their clients through paid activities rather than through merit. Google wants search results that reflect the natural, “organic” popularity of web pages because they contain useful information. Anything that is done to try to game the Google algorithm is considered against its rules of service and can result in a ban from the search index. This means that traditional PR and marketing practices fall into the SEO category, in Google’s view of the world.”


  Discuss This Article

Comments: 3

  • Travis Jamison says:

    For serious SEO’s, most of us have known that press releases have been on the decline for a long time. Probably only 5% of all PR’s are legit stories, while the other 95% of of them are purely newbie SEO attempts at getting backlinks.
    Don’t get me wrong, they can have a benefit if used properly, it’s just the chances of that being done is slim with most of the low quality stuff I see.
    If you want to check out a complete Panda 4.0 writeup, read this page:


  • Serena Ehrlich says:

    Hi Sally – good piece but a bit of a misnomer in the headline.
    It is really key for PR professionals to understand this update does not affect them. This update and Barry’s comments were about SEO spammers, not about PR professionals. For PR professionals, they are finding the opposite is happening. Now that the PR news wires are clear of the spam that has been cluttering it up for 5 years, they are seeing more successes than ever. In short, those PR professionals using a quality newswire to distribute quality news have not been impacted. Those using cheap, new distribution platforms to distribute SEO content, on the other hand, need to find a new tactic.

    • William Comcowich says:

      I agree with Serena. Just because distribution sites like Business Wire and PR Newswire’s ranking were affected, doesn’t mean PR people that use those distribution services are affected. The purpose of press release distribution sites is to get the release picked up by traditional news organizations and social media channels. It doesn’t matter how Google ranks their actual sites.

      I went deeper into this issue in a blog post last week and included insights from Carrie Morgan, who shared superb tips on what PR pros should expect from Panda 4.0:

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