The last month in web marketing terms has been very interesting indeed, many PR people don’t often worry themselves with what Google is up to, in terms of its updates, and to be honest 90% of the time they don’t need to. However, the latest update to Google has caused a rather large disturbance in the force for companies that specialise in search engine optimisation or SEO to you and me.

Penguin from xrayspxGoogle Penguin was updated on April 24th 2012 and what it has changed is quite significant. It’s not long since we heard about Google Panda getting rid of “black hat” SEO practices – spam tactics. You know them all of those nasty Viagra comments you see all over the internet. Google Panda was focussed on stopping people using link farms to get their sites coming out higher in searches. Let’s face it, anything that rids us of spam is a step in the right direction. In my opinion the more Google relies on quality content and great creators of brilliant content the better.

So what has Penguin changed then and what does it mean for digital PRs?

Well it has changed quite a lot actually, it has been used to demote sites that use negative spammy links to cheat the clever linking system. Yes you read that right – it isn’t about the amount of links anymore. So if you hired an SEO specialist and they have been buying you a lot of directory submissions you might want to check them out first as they could have been buying the wrong types of links and if you use them, some people think they actually now cause a risk to your site.

An article on CNBC quoted Navneet Virk, director of optimization at Roundarch Isobar he says:

“The ones that are really feeling the change are the small businesses who may have hired an SEO vendor and didn’t know what they were doing to improve ranking, but now they are being penalized,” Bailey said. “(These changes are)disrupting any consistency of guidelines and punishing small businesses that lack the resources to respond.”

And Robert Gembarski from Brand Personality added in his article:

The Google Penguin update has led to a lot of panic and confusion, much in the same way that they Google Panda update did. The buzzwords at the moment are “Negative SEO”. There is a belief (note, no actual evidence of the case) that it is now easy for a site to be penalised if it has too many low quality links pointing at it. Low quality links include free-for-all directories, blog comments and forum profile links.

However, I do not believe that this sort of linking harms a websites at all. The sites that think so have probably just relied too much on these methods for SEO in the past. Now, cheap linking strategies such as this are no longer of any value. So sites have not been penalised, they have simply seen the quality of their backlink profile reduced overnight.

If you have ever done any slightly irregular link building and you have noticed your site has dropped off a cliff in searches recently you might want to read the following article on how to recover.

All of this news has got me asking myself what are the cheaper SEO companies going to do now? Are they stuck and forced to spend their time writing good quality content and getting other bloggers to use their content? Hmm well yes that’s exactly what they are going to have to do – evolve and improve. The best SEO providers are already doing this, writing good quality content and engaging in strategic blogger relations exchanging articles. Hang on, is all of this starting to sound just a little bit familiar? Are you starting to wonder where SEO stops and online public relations starts? The truth is the two have become so similar we are going to see PR companies hiring SEO specialists and vice versa much more often.

When I started this blog several years ago I called it Dead Dinosaur because I felt it was ironic, I felt that if PR companies didn’t evolve and adapt to the new media landscape they would struggle, die out and get beaten by the competition and I still stand by that. The same goes for the newspapers that are still trying to create clever digital strategies to make money out of writing their content and I don’t blame them. They just should have done it much earlier and we wouldn’t have seen as many publications go to the wall. Well now the same can be said of SEO companies and those that adopted the cheaper link building strategies as these are simply not going to work any longer and the results will be poor. This whole digital space has changed significantly in the last 12 months and companies now need high quality writers that are specialists in developing relationships with bloggers and other webmasters. I think I might be spotting an opportunity here guys.

So ask yourself am I a PR, an SEO or an online marketer? Does it even matter anymore? Do our clients even care as long as what we do achieves great results for them? Let me know.

About Chris Norton

Chris Norton is the founder of Prohibition and an award winning communications consultant with more than twenty years’ experience. He was a lecturer at Leeds Beckett University and has had a varied PR career having worked both in-house and in a number of large consultancies. He is an Integrated PR and social media blogger and writes on a wide variety of blogs across a huge amount of topics from digital marketing, social media marketing right through to technology and crisis management.