Google Penguin and what it means for public relations companies

The last month in web marketing terms has been very interesting indeed, many PR people don’t often worry themselves with what Google is up to, in terms of its updates, and to be honest 90% of the time they don’t need to. However, the latest update to Google has caused a rather large disturbance in the force for companies that specialise in search engine optimisation or SEO to you and me.

Penguin from xrayspxGoogle Penguin was updated on April 24th 2012 and what it has changed is quite significant. It’s not long since we heard about Google Panda getting rid of “black hat” SEO practices – spam tactics. You know them all of those nasty Viagra comments you see all over the internet. Google Panda was focussed on stopping people using link farms to get their sites coming out higher in searches. Let’s face it, anything that rids us of spam is a step in the right direction. In my opinion the more Google relies on quality content and great creators of brilliant content the better.

So what has Penguin changed then and what does it mean for digital PRs?

Well it has changed quite a lot actually, it has been used to demote sites that use negative spammy links to cheat the clever linking system. Yes you read that right – it isn’t about the amount of links anymore. So if you hired an SEO specialist and they have been buying you a lot of directory submissions you might want to check them out first as they could have been buying the wrong types of links and if you use them, some people think they actually now cause a risk to your site.

An article on CNBC quoted Navneet Virk, director of optimization at Roundarch Isobar he says:

“The ones that are really feeling the change are the small businesses who may have hired an SEO vendor and didn’t know what they were doing to improve ranking, but now they are being penalized,” Bailey said. “(These changes are)disrupting any consistency of guidelines and punishing small businesses that lack the resources to respond.”

And Robert Gembarski from Brand Personality added in his article:

The Google Penguin update has led to a lot of panic and confusion, much in the same way that they Google Panda update did. The buzzwords at the moment are “Negative SEO”. There is a belief (note, no actual evidence of the case) that it is now easy for a site to be penalised if it has too many low quality links pointing at it. Low quality links include free-for-all directories, blog comments and forum profile links.

However, I do not believe that this sort of linking harms a websites at all. The sites that think so have probably just relied too much on these methods for SEO in the past. Now, cheap linking strategies such as this are no longer of any value. So sites have not been penalised, they have simply seen the quality of their backlink profile reduced overnight.

If you have ever done any slightly irregular link building and you have noticed your site has dropped off a cliff in searches recently you might want to read the following article on how to recover.

All of this news has got me asking myself what are the cheaper SEO companies going to do now? Are they stuck and forced to spend their time writing good quality content and getting other bloggers to use their content? Hmm well yes that’s exactly what they are going to have to do – evolve and improve. The best SEO providers are already doing this, writing good quality content and engaging in strategic blogger relations exchanging articles. Hang on, is all of this starting to sound just a little bit familiar? Are you starting to wonder where SEO stops and online public relations starts? The truth is the two have become so similar we are going to see PR companies hiring SEO specialists and vice versa much more often.

When I started this blog several years ago I called it Dead Dinosaur because I felt it was ironic, I felt that if PR companies didn’t evolve and adapt to the new media landscape they would struggle, die out and get beaten by the competition and I still stand by that. The same goes for the newspapers that are still trying to create clever digital strategies to make money out of writing their content and I don’t blame them. They just should have done it much earlier and we wouldn’t have seen as many publications go to the wall. Well now the same can be said of SEO companies and those that adopted the cheaper link building strategies as these are simply not going to work any longer and the results will be poor. This whole digital space has changed significantly in the last 12 months and companies now need high quality writers that are specialists in developing relationships with bloggers and other webmasters. I think I might be spotting an opportunity here guys.

So ask yourself am I a PR, an SEO or an online marketer? Does it even matter anymore? Do our clients even care as long as what we do achieves great results for them? Let me know.

(The image credit goes to xrayspx/ Thanks)

Posted By Chris Norton

Chris is listed in the world's top 30 PR bloggers and a regular conference speaker on crisis management and social media marketing. He is also co-author of Share This Too and lectures on digital communications at Leeds Metropolitan University.


Adam Samuel

I agree with you Chris the landscape has changed for SEO’s with this update. I see SEO as just a small part of an overall strategy these days, its becoming more important who you are and how you influence than just some links.

On the link point, I think anchor text has an influence on this update. The more commercial anchors phrases you have in your profile the more harm it could do. Need to keep your brand more visible when linking to your website.

Chris Norton

Hi Adam, thanks for the comment a nice bit of information on the anchor text as I think some people can use it too much. It’s just good to see that Google is taking a more common sense approach to how it ranks people rather than simply looking at their keywords and directory references.


Regarding cleaning up your backlinks etc – I’m not an expert so I don’t know if this is relevant – but what happens to bloggers? When I look at my blog stats and see where external referrers are, they are spammy websites. How do I stop that?!

Chris Norton

Thats a good question. I don’t think you need to worry Bryony as you would have needed to have been doing submissions to sites but I don’t think you have been so you don’t have anything to worry about. The people that should worry are companies that have been using slightly dodgy practices to get results.

Brands Exposed

Some great thoughts Chris,

I think its important for people to understand that ranking is still possible though, really, overall domain authpority is key, not just spammy link building.

Long tail seo is becoming the most important startegy for our us.

Chris Norton

Such as your comment on here for instance. lol

Andy T

I run a software company that helps simplify blogger outreach for pr firms and we’ve definitely seen the impact of ‘penguin ‘ in our business. We’ve had a major increase in seo-firm leads looking for a “guest posting” solution. I have to say I’m a bit weary about the SEO bandwagon flooding the blog world with pitches for guest posts. Blog outreach is such a powerful marketing tool and I’d hate to see it diluted by SEOs… What do you think? Will the mainstreaming of “guest posting” hurt the effectiveness of blog outreach for the rest of the PR world?

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