Google has updated its Webmaster rules in an effort to encourage quality content creation and discourage people from artificially increasing PageRank - the ranking in Google search results - by linking to unrelated websites and including extraneous terms in order to increase search engine ranking.

   

                     

These changes could affect the PageRank of press releases and other content published online. "Did Google just kill PR agencies," an article by Tom Foremski on ZDNet, details how these changes may impact the writing PR agencies do for their clients online. Here are the key takeaways from Foremski's analysis on what actions may result in PageRank penalties from Google:  

  • Posting press releases on multiples websites. Google now sees this as an attempt to artificially increase the ranking of content, even though posting press releases on PR Newswire, a company website and other platforms is a common PR practice used to reach as wide an audience as possible.

  • Including links in a press release or online content that Google deems unnatural or an attempt to increase the ranking of the website. Attempting to direct reporters to source information by linking a press release to the "About" page on a client website could cause your content to fall in PageRank because the linking strategy is seen as unnatural.

  • Repeating words in a press release. No, this is not a joke. Although company or product names are frequently repeated in press releases, Google sees the repeating of some terms as abuse and an attempt "to trick its index.

Although the new protocols undoubtedly portend change, it remains to be seen just how deeply the changes will be felt day-to-day for PR professionals. Google wants to keep egregious offenders from mucking up search results, but it would be impractical and draconian for Google to punish every publisher currently using these traditional PR tactics, particularly considering that most savvy online publishers do. We recommend a wait-and-see approach for PR agencies considering dramatically altering their online publishing habits.

--Suzy