It’s Google’s World—PR Just Lives in It

Google algorithWith the release of three updates to its search algorithm since July, Google has adjusted the way it calculates PageRank, the fundamental paradigm for determining website visibility. The updates—known as Panda, Hummingbird and Penguin—have changed the game for PR professionals, forcing them to readjust old strategies and invent new ones in order to get their content seen.

In August, Google announced a change to its link schemes that changed the way PR professionals use one of their most potent weapons—the press release. In an effort to curb a strategy known as “link-stuffing,” Google announced an update to their Webmaster Tools guidelines, explaining a new scheme that could pick up on authors who linked to the same press release hosted on different services.

Instead of providing a boost in PageRank (which used to be the case because of the value Google places on linking to outside sources), Google now punishes authors who link to the same press release more than once in the same piece of content.

Other changes include a move toward encrypted searches, making keywords that lead users to a website harder to track. Likewise, many have surmised that Google is favoring their social media network, Google+, in ranking websites, although they have not yet specified exactly how each “+1” directly contributes to a website’s favorability in search. Still, some have argued that Google +1’s are the number one contributing factor leading to a higher PageRank.

Here are some tips to help you align your PR strategies with Google's algorithm updates:

  • Optimize your website for "conversational search." Users search in sentences, not in keywords, and Google has started to recognize that.
  • If you don't already have one, establish a Google+ page for your business and link to it directly from your main website.
  • Write original content. Google does not take kindly to content scraping and will continue to work against content "repurposing" in the future.
  • Link to less but more authoritative websites. Think quality over quantity.

To learn more about how Google's new rules and tools will affect your PR strategies, register for PR News' Dec. 18 webinar, “All Things Google: What You Need to Know Now as a Communicator.”

Follow Brian Greene: @bwilliamgreene