Yesterday, Google launched its newest Panda (4.0) update, along with an update to their Payday Loan Algorithm (hilarious name!). Two major updates in one week. Yikes. It may take a bit of time for the impact to fully hit, but it’s coming.

WHY SHOULD YOU CARE, if you’re a public relations professional, not a search engine optimization (SEO) specialist?

As content creators, knowing the technical side of SEO isn’t important, but understanding how it intersects with your content is. Clients and employers expect public relations to bolster their reputation and visibility, not hurt it.

And in this case, what you don’t know CAN hurt you (and your client or employer).

Here are a few things you absolutely must know. None of them are difficult, but they help you stay on top of your game, impress your client/employer and earn that promotion.

1. Diligently watch for duplicate content.

When you create content that is similar to something created in the past, it is critical to repurpose. Don’t copy and paste.

Panda is all about penalizing poor SEO tactics or those violating Google’s quality guidelines to manipulate rankings. Content marketers are some of the worst offenders because black hat SEO’s are increasingly turning to content marketing as a way to integrate a backlink strategy. In jargon-free terms – when other stuff stopped working, they turned to writing content to achieve results. The issue is that they are writing content only to support the link, not writing great quality content that is valuable to the reader. Because PR pros are often content creators in some form or another, we can be part of the problem without realizing it.

If you are actively repurposing press releases into blog posts, speaking engagement PowerPoints into SlideShare decks, and more – then you MUST be the organization’s watchdog, always looking for duplicate content problems. Copying and pasting a quote or a few sentences is one thing, but never, EVER use the same copy across multiple pieces of content.

Make sure you are fixing duplicate content issues when you come across them and be absolutely sure you aren’t adding to the problem.

Repurposing content is about getting the same idea into more people’s hands – increasing reach – by using content as building blocks. It’s about expanding and building on an idea, and rolling it out in a variety of different formats. Repurposing is NOT copying text from a Word document into a PowerPoint, or reading a blog post and uploading it as a podcast. It’s about rewriting something or expanding on the same idea.

Repurposing content is like building blocksA great example of duplicate content is posting a new press release on a company blog that is already posted on their website in the “newsroom” page. This is duplicate content. Instead, write up a short paragraph about the news for the blog post, then link it to the full press release in the newsroom. Not only does this avoid penalties, but it is an opportunity to add a fresh perspective or elaborate with more detail. A blog should give value to the reader, not simply regurgitate information found easily in other areas or pages.

2. If your client has a website with the same copy used in multiple places, push for immediate removal.

You might notice this if they have you post a press release to multiple websites, for example. They are more likely to be caught and penalized for duplicate content with the new Panda update, so it’s time to start editing.

If you discover your client or employer has multiple websites that are exactly the same, for example, let them know they are at risk of severe penalties. It can cause their website to be completely blocked from ranking at all, or at the very least cause their content to rank far lower than it should.

It’s a fantastic value-add for them when their PR professional can bring these kind of issues to their attention. You don’t need to know how to fix it, but you should know how to recognize the issue and bring it to their attention.

3. Never publish blog posts that you find on other sites.

It is not okay to copy a blog post you like and publish it on your own blog. Not only is this called scraping, when you copy/paste someone else’s post into your blog, it’s also blatant copyright infringement. Including a line of attribution does NOT protect you.

The best practice is to use a few sentences as a quote, then link over to the original source. Better yet, summarize their article instead of using their copy, then link to it.

The only exceptions are major blogs and ezines who rely on post syndication for their content. They are typically savvy enough to be aware of the issues, and work hard to ensure both author and publication are protected from SEO penalties. If you are interested in syndicating client blog posts, be sure to ask how SEO is handled to avoid duplication penalties or having your source posts disappear from rankings.

4. Remember long content is better than short.

Why? Because longer content helps Google understand context and build semantics around your industry and content topics. It gives the search engine more to work with. At the very least, make sure you are publishing content in a variety of lengths.

Help your client or employer understand that blog posts, website pages, press releases and byline articles should be at least 600 words, and longer is better than short. If you can, occasionally write content that is 2,000 – 2,500 words or longer.

5. Focus on writing and placement quality, not quantity.

High quality of writing seems like it should be a given, yet far too many people publish content that is badly written, full of misspelled words or grammar issues, or a lengthy ramble that provides no value to the reader whatsoever.

My favorite way to proofread a final draft? Read it out loud to make sure it flows, then read it backwards one sentence at a time to isolate typos. It works.

A second quality indicator that isn’t thought of often enough is quality of the placement.

Are you submitting guest posts to high quality blogs or industry e-zines, or grabbing any placement you can land that seems relevant? Taking time to find the best placement possible delivers stronger results to your client in multiple ways: audience, traffic and SEO ranking.

It matters.

Do you have something to add? Feel free to comment!