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Google vs the Press Release: Manipulation or Good Business?

mgylInqGoogle thought it was time to remind everyone that link schemes are a violation of their webmaster guidelines and anyone caught trying to game the system will be severely dealt with.

Of course. We get it. We all know about black hat SEO and about Panda and Penguin and the rest of the zoo. We got the message and most of the marketers online have fallen in line and have nothing to worry about.

Or not.

Google’s latest update contains a few paragraphs that will make even the most by-the-book marketer lose a little sleep. For example:

Additionally, creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of our guidelines. Here are a few common examples of unnatural links that violate our guidelines:

    • Text advertisements that pass PageRank
    • Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank
    • Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites. For example: [I removed Google’s links, so imagine a link on every underlined phrase)
      There are many wedding rings on the market. If you want to have a wedding, you will have to pick the best ring. You will also need to buy flowers and a wedding dress.

Yes, they just took a shot at press releases – the workhorse of the business world. Now, I understand that a press release with twenty linked keywords is probably nothing more than an attempt to scam the system but this paragraph makes it sound like linked text must be completely banned.

And can we talk about the phrase “distributed on other sites?” So if you post a press release to your own company blog, that’s okay but if you release it through a wire service you’re going to get dinged?

Even if we agree that the rules leave room for interpretation, Google ends their lesson on Link Schemes with this:

The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.

That’s pretty clear. It says, post your own content and hope that someone with influence comes along, finds it and decides to share it. Imagine if I, as an author, took that advice. I write a book and I publish it on Amazon. Now, I just sit and wait for someone to find it and talk about it to their friends. I’m not supposed to put out a press release or give a copy to a blogger to read and review. That would violate this policy:

Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link

Am I reading that wrong? I can’t ask a blogger to link to my website or my book when they review it? That’s crazy.

I understand that Google is trying to weed out the spammers from the people with helpful content but even good content needs a shove to get started. And as a reader, a blog post or press release without links is useless. I guess I’m supposed to copy and paste the relevant phrases into Google and search for the link myself. Bizarre.

I’m hoping that Google’s real intent here is to stop people from trying to cheat the system. That’s fine. But if they knock down my page rank because I link to the Amazon page for the DVD I just reviewed, I’m going to get really angry.

I’m not trying to manipulate the system, Google, I’m just trying to make a living.

What do you think? Is this anything to worry about?

Marketing Pilgrim – Internet News and Opinion

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