PR, Penguins and Pandas


There was a great post from Chris Lake at EConsultancy this week entitled: Three reasons why publishers hate living in a post-Penguin, post-Panda world.

For those unfamiliar with Penguin and Panda, they were the code names for two major Google algorithm updates over the last 18 months. The easiest way to think of them is as follows:

• Panda = penalising websites with thin or weak content

• Penguin = penalising sites which have links from thin or weak content

EConsultancy.com is a very reputable site. So you might wonder why links from its content would incur the wrath of Google. According to Chris, it would seem that links from press releases published on the site some time ago may now be being flagged as possibly “dubious”.

As he explains: “What am I talking about? Dubious links, that’s what. Or should I say dubious links on a supposedly authority website (ours), that have been flagged up by dubious SEO tools. Emails with ‘please remove this link’ make our hearts sink.”

One of Chris’ complaints about SEO agencies is that given Google’s current view of links, they are now asking certain publishers (like EConsultancy) to change or amend links that have been placed there previously on behalf of clients because they believe they are now negatively impacting their clients’ pages appearance in Google’s search results.

The additional twist is that in some cases, the SEO firm is saying that if EConsultancy doesn’t remove the link, they will “disavow” it. In other words, they will effectively report EConsultancy to Google as a source of “dubious” links. And no one wants to be on Google’s naughty step (Chris describes it in more colorful language).

To put it in a PR context, imagine ringing up a journalist months (even years) after they have written an article and now asking them to remove things or change certain words “because your client doesn’t like what the article says now”. And if they don’t, you’ll have the journalist blacklisted.

You know what reaction you would get from a journalist. Is it any wonder that SEOs are getting a similar response from publishers and site owners in response to Google’s link warnings?

It is highly ironic that skills traditionally valued in PR should now command a premium in the world of SEO – namely, good relationships with real human beings who have the power to decide what content they run and who they link to.

As Ian Monk, the founder of Bathrooms.com put it this week in describing his firm’s PR SEO approach: “Our approach to links is best defined by a simple question we ask ourselves – would we target a link on this website if Google did not exist?”

Good relationships are at the heart of both good SEO and PR. We should never forget that.

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