Google's recent Panda 4.0 update keeps crushing mediocre content.Google recently released Panda 4.0, an update that continues the search giant’s noble quest to rid search results of so-called “thin content.”

Self-serving blog posts and product pages with lots of links and not a lot of original thought are ever more destined for the dust bin of search, and with the promise that high-quality content once again reigns supreme, ostensibly, everyone is the better for it.

But where does that leave the press release? Oft abused, this form of content does have a valuable role to play in PR, but the sweeping Panda 4.0 algorithm changes seem to have ravaged the release’s search relevance.

Panda and Press Releases

Search Engine Land released detailed results about which wire services were affected:

  • PRNewswire saw a 63 percent drop in SEO visibility
  • PRWeb saw a 71 percent drop
  • BusinessWire saw a 60 percent drop

This is severe, but not as severe as one might think. Much like previous algorithm releases, Google has targeted those that have been abusing the system.

Companies and agencies that have been issuing press releases solely for the SEO benefits stand to suffer the most. They will no longer have a ‘cheat’; a way to garner a disproportionate amount of interest for a story that is really not at all interesting.

While their raison d’etre has clearly shifted, press releases are supposed to be about sharing something newsworthy, something that people will want to hear about and that journalists will want to write about. They were never meant to be about SEO, although increasingly they have been less about educating a third party audience and more about reaching prospects directly.

That said, with the dwindling chance that prospects will find and read a press release, companies need to rethink PR strategies.

However, pivotal announcements should still find their way to a wire service, because they will still pass the quality content rule.  But awards, initiatives and other corporate updates should instead become blog material, saving some budget and also saving some face for the humble and much aligned press release.

Panda 4.0 is generally good news for ‘real‘ PR. Why? Because as Google places more emphasis on authoritative websites – news sources – the value of PR for search engine optimization continues to climb.

Great Brands Need Validation

The fact is that consumers aren’t convinced by content marketing. Sure, it will help nurture leads, but corporate content still needs third-party validation from trusted, objective sources. Recent research shows that earned media is 80 percent more effective than content marketing at the bottom-of-the-funnel or purchase consideration stage.

Consumers like content from companies. But if you don’t include a third-party source to validate your claims or your product, consumer trust drops by 46 percent.

Authority is becoming a cornerstone to SEO efforts. There are signs that Google is actually placing more importance on news media websites when it comes to search results. Google is working on associating implied links from authoritative websites to search results. So if your company gets mentioned by a news publication but not linked, it will still help SEO ranking.

Bottom line? Earned media and authority will have a bigger impact on SEO than owned media. And PR does earned media better than anyone else. A lot of us do owned media better than anyone else, too.

Life After Google

Everyone in the world of digital PR and marketing thinks a lot about SEO, but it’s not the end-game for companies at this point. Especially not B2B tech companies. While Google results are important, allocating more dollars into building shareable content and social media communities can circumnavigate Google’s sometimes unpredictable changes. Your press release might not get traction in search results, but if you have 2,000 Twitter followers and tweet it at the right people, you‘ll still get some great results.

Google has created an ecosystem that revolves around great stories. The best part about great stories is that they can travel far beyond search engines. They can be emailed, tweeted, posted on Facebook, Pinned, handed to prospects and printed for tradeshows. As PR agencies, it’s up to us to help clients create stories that will resonate. By amplifying the stories in earned media news outlets with owned media such as blogs, eBooks, videos and email, you can create a ripple effect on social media that completely bypasses Google.

Need proof? Look at Buzzfeed. Buzzfeed is a news publication not founded on SEO, but on social media. Rather than optimizing headlines and content for search, Buzzfeed optimizes things for social. As of November 2013, Buzzfeed had recorded a 350 fold increase in YOY traffic growth.

Brands have more opportunities than ever before to get noticed and, no matter what Google changes, it’s always going to start with having a great story to tell.

Read More:

Why Google’s Penguin 2.0 Update Could Be Good for PR Firms

5 Fast and Easy Strategies for Your Blog

Want to learn more about creating great content for SEO?

In The Evolution of PR, Content Marketing and Blogging, we cover:

– The ongoing changes in the world of PR
– The principles of content marketing for tech companies
– Important blogging strategies
– How to use press releases for more than just brand-building