According to Reuters, Google quietly changed the search algorithm in September. The result is that press releases are now included in search results. Needless to say, this presents huge opportunities for PR professionals. But what does it mean for readers and their hunger for valuable news?
Google and news organisations have had a difficult love-hate-relationship for years. Google wants to share all of the knowledge openly and free with the world, while news organisations want to be paid for their hard journalistic labour. In some countries, like Spain, Google News has been shut down because of legislation that requires every publication to charge services, like Google News, for showing even the smallest snippet from their publications. On the flip side, a lot of news organisations use Google to drive traffic to their own websites.
The relationship reaches a new milestone now that Google has widened the number of sources from which it draws the entries that appear in the news section. Why did the search giant do this?
The goal of search is to get users the right answer at any one time as quickly as possible — that may mean returning an article from an established publisher or from a smaller niche publisher or indeed it might be a press release
It is Tom Foremski all over again: Every Company is a Media Company. This is especially true now that corporates can have a direct impact on the news section on Google. Although Foremski thought that Google would eventually kill PR agencies, the opposite is true: this is a perfect chance for PR agencies to maximise the potential of the traditional press release.
I must admit that I too had my doubts about the press release. As a former journalist I know how to write a release that attracts attention, but nowadays it is hard to stand out. Journalists receive a lot of press releases and the chances are high that they are deleted without being opened. Now that Google acknowledges the press release as a true source for news, it is the best incentive to get the best out of that same release.
For PR agencies it is therefore important to view the press release a little bit differently. From an SEO point of view, the most effective press release is not only a text that promotes or introduces a service – that won’t score highly on the Google ranking. In line with Google standards, releases should be well written and contain useful content. The content should be enriched with links to other relevant content and include infographics and video to appear even higher in search results.
Using SEO techniques enables PR agencies to get clients directly into the news feed. The trick is to write this new breed of better press releases. This directly contradicts critics’ fears that companies are able to control the news stories about themselves. Traditional press releases serve the purpose of their releasers and that is always subjective. I can understand this criticism on the biased news feed, but I don’t think that readers only use one source for their news consumption. With the new and better press releases added to the news feed, consumers get a complete picture.
More complete than just the story told by one news organisation.