By Suzanne Hewitt

Following an article emerging on ZDNet positing that Google has just killed PR agencies, Hotwire’s Joshua Lachkovic explains why Google hasn’t killed PR agencies at all and why he thinks it won’t be long until newswires introduce de facto nofollow links.   A rather hysterical article from ZDnet has been doing the rounds on Twitter this morning, asking if Google has just killed PR agencies? The thinking behind it is because of recent algorithm updates that take further steps to penalise overly optimised anchor text. The best read on these changes was over at Search Engine Land last week. Tom rightly points out that keyword stuffing will raise red flags for Google, which is true – as it has done for years. But unfortunately, there are a number of things missed from the analysis after that. First up is when it says that posting press releases is against the rules. It isn’t. Buying links is against the rules. Google wants natural, editorially led content. Press releases are an entirely legitimate way of getting this – in fact they’re one of the best ways. John Mueller, Google’s own Webmaster Trends Analyst, pointed out in a Google Hangout that press releases add great value because the point of them is to get word out about a product or service and then have a journalist or blogger choose to cover it in their own way. In the same discussion, Google’s head of webspam said that links within press releases do not pass value. The best practice is to simply set the link as a nofollow link. Buying links is a negative thing and therefore paying for a press release to be uploaded to a newswire with links included, is a negative thing. However, links can also be set to be ‘nofollowed.’ Nofollowing means that the authority of the webpage in question is not passed on to the subject address. Therefore, if you are paying for a press release to be uploaded somewhere, a nofollow link keeps it entirely legitimate. The client’s website won’t suffer at all, and if someone picks up the release and writes about it, you’ve just earnt a natural, organic, editorially-led link – the perfect type in Google’s eyes. Ultimately, I can see newswires introducing de facto ‘nofollow’ external links across the board. They still have businesses to run and rely on having strong PageRank themselves. As Google starts to be stricter about penalising paid-for links, newswires will surely be amongst those potentially hit and it is likely that links will either be removed or nofollowed by default. As a PR agency, we’re actually in a very strong position to be talking about search and SEO. Google didn’t just kill PR agencies, all it did was kill spam – and it’s been doing that for years. Update – 13/08 RealWire has implemented nofollow links in all of its press releases on its site now. It’s started….