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 SERoundtable.com and news editor at SearchEngineLand.com 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.
“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.”