The day a PR company ruined a company’s internet presence
I say ‘the day’ but I’ve seen this several times now. The problem is that PR firms tend not to have R with certain members of the P, specifically the company that built and maintains their client’s websites. And they do this by doing what PR companies have done ever since they first existed – by sending out press releases. I know, sending out press releases is what PR companies are for, isn’t it? Not today it isn’t, no. In fact, they can often do more harm than good if the company in question aren’t internet and web experts. Why is this? I think that most people reading this know that having backlinks from certain sites can harm your search engine presence and your internet reputation. This is particularly the case when those links have the rel=nofollow tag. What does this mean? These tags are normally seen on websites /pages where anyone can leave a link, such as blog comments, forums etc. What the owner of the site is saying to Google is ‘look, I didn’t put these here so don’t follow them and certainly don’t judge my site based on them’.
Fair enough, right? After all, if you run a church website and someone leaves a link to a porn site on your blog post, you don’t want search engines to think you put it there do you? You might never notice because the anchor text might read ‘Visit our church’ or whatever.
Now imagine that you are Google. You see that a site has got fifty rel=nofollow sites pointing at it and that they were all created this month or even this week. You’re going to think ‘hmm, this isn’t natural at all’ aren’t you? You might even think ‘someone is trying to manipulate search engine results’. And ninety-nine times out of a hundred, you’d be right.
So what does this have to do with press releases? Remember what I said above. These tags are normally seen on websites /pages where anyone can leave a link. That applies to online press release services. I estimate that 90% of these services have nofollow links. So the PR company, being oh so up to date and oh so knowledgeable about the internet blasts out a press release to fifty press release sites, all of which contain their client’s link. They have just create at least forty five nofollow links.
If there’s one thing search engines hate, it’s people trying to manipulate them.(We all hate that, don’t we?) So the website gets quite a number of black marks against it. It gets worse now.
Have you seen those sites that have automatically generated news? They are normally generated by software that scrapes press release sites … and their links are usually nofollow too. So those forty five nofollow links can become a couple of hundred in no time. Google frowns again, and gives more penalties.
As well as these scraper sites, I imagine that you’ve seen sites with news tickers on them (looking rather like a Twitter feed) and guess what? Those tickers are fed by the press release sites. So your forty five nofollow links, which became a couple of hundred might now be approaching four figures. The chances are too that these sites have a hopeless page rank. Sites with scraped content and automated tickers generally have little or no pagerank and this hurts your site all the more.
Google has had enough by now. It had given your site the benefit of the doubt for a while but now enough is enough. Google strokes its beard thoughtfully and throws a hefty penalty at your site, possibly refusing to index it at all.
Your PR company has just undone all the good work we did when we built your site…
Oh, and it’s not just me: