Memo to Tom Foremski: Die Linkbait Journalism, Die!

by PR Coach on September 4, 2013

PR news release graveyard

Will Google slap finally kill news releases?

New webmaster rules from Google just killed PR agencies according to Tom Foremski’s post “Did Google just kill PR agencies?” last month.

He highlights a Google webmaster update warning about black hat, linkbait press releases and other similar improper SEO content practices trying to manipulate search engine results.

Look out PR agencies Foremski warns.

Wrong Tom. You’re way off base with your interpretation of this new Google webmaster rules update and how they will impact PR agencies.

Foremski is best known as the author of Die press release! Die! Die! Die!”, an infamous 2006 screamer aimed at PR people.

In his mind, he has single-handedly caused a revolution in press releases since then:

“My 2006 post: Die! Press release! Die! Die! Die! -SVW is used by universities and colleges in teaching PR. I argued for links and for a modular approach to the information so that I can more easily decide what to put into my story.”

While Foremski didn’t do it all by himself, his noisy criticism certainly helped set the table for change and the evolution of today’s improved social media news release practices.

I always enjoy his posts even though PR people are sometimes unfairly the target of his rants and his own linkbait journalism.

PR agencies will not die because of this Google slap warning

Will Google slap kill news releases?In this newest post, Foremski misinterprets Google’s warnings on getting SEO-slapped for black hat link building practices. Then he wrongly applies his mistake, concludes somehow that it applies to press releases and therefore threatens the survival of PR agencies and his favorite target – PR people.

Sorry Tom. The worst practitioners of bad press releases are not PR agencies or legitimate PR pros. They are usually marketing departments, uninformed small businesses or black hat SEO practitioners who mistakenly think press releases are a great way to easily get “free advertising” and links for better page rank.

Their news releases don’t contain real news. They simply stuff their press releases full of marketing nonsense and attempted linkbait.

If you want proof of that, check out my bad-press-release posts at the end of this post.They’ve proven remarkably popular and they are fun to read.

Most savvy PR people rarely use news releases, relying on other ways to reach key journalists. In fact, PR pros these days are usually social media leaders, skillful storytellers and adept content marketers.

Four linkbait lessons for PR and marketing to learn

great content generates SEO

Focus on great content. SEO will follow

Despite Foremski’s linkbait title, there are four important points to note regarding the Google update memo and reference to press releases:

  1. Google is not targeting “PR agencies.”
    It’s targeting black hat SEO practices, including news releases, that use keyword stuffing, unnatural links and other similar spam practices. Many businesses, including some SEO pros, intentionally or unintentionally use these tactics to try to get links for better search engine ranking.
  2. Newswires still offer a valuable service.
    Legitimate newswire services such as PR Newswire, Business Wire and PRWeb, do offer good value. They are not a silver bullet by themselves but they can be an important element in an integrated communications strategy. Just don’t use some of the spammy free/paid newswire services. A quick read of the days’ news releases on MyPRGenie, 24-7 Press Release or PRLog.org illustrates the problem. They’ve been overtaken by spam. No serious reporter pays any attention to the “news” carried on these services. Except as a source of amusement.
  3. Nothing replaces research and targeting specific reporters, beats and media.
    This is area where traditional PR still offers huge value. It’s all about real news and relationships. Reporters trust PR people, experts and other valuable news sources that understand what is “news” and when and how to offer real news tips.
  4. Social media changes the game.
    Every business has been disrupted in some way by social media. None more so than marketing and PR. We are all publishers now. It’s critical to write, produce, publish and upload content with value to share with our stakeholders. If we’re skillful, our advice, information, direction, storytelling, entertainment and other great content can generate excellent page rankings. More important, it can create connections leading to long lasting and profitable relationships. You couldn’t do that in the good old days of PR and advertising.

The main point in Foremski’s argument is still critical. Google cares about and assigns higher search value to real content that matters to those using its search engine to find information.

Unfortunately, the same thing is creeping into social media channels. Spammers are annoying consumers and, instead of engaging them, pushing them away by filling up the new channels with marketing crap.

I guess it’s time I write the sequel to Foremski’s famous anti-PR rant called “Die Marketing nonsense! Die! Die! Die!”

Fortunately, there’s a simple solution to prevent getting Google-slapped for poor press release practices and content marketing missteps.

Spend most of your time and energy creating great content rather than worrying about PR-is-dying, linkbait headlines. Better search engine rankings will follow.

What do you think? Have you given up press releases? Do you think Google has killed PR agencies? I’d enjoy hearing your opinion in the comments below.

Author: Jeff Domansky

Related Posts:

21 Brand New Worst Press Release Disasters

Bad Dogs: 18 Brand New, Worst Press Releases

Bad News Releases: 25 Press Release Turkeys

Bad Press Releases: 20 Worst Headlines Ever

38 Experts Share News Release Best Practices