diberry - 10:32 pm on Jul 30, 2013 (gmt 0)
In the publishing and advertising worlds, there's a clear distinction between "earned media" (a.k.a. free media or PR) and "paid media" (advertising). With "earned media" or PR, a company or organization may pay a PR agency or mailing service for distribution of a press release, backgrounder, white paper, etc., but the publication of the story doesn't involve an exchange of money between the PR firm and the publisher--which means that PR is not an advertisement.
On the Web, there's another player in the ballgame: search. A so-called "press release" may have little or nothing to do with getting publicity and everything to do with acquiring PageRank. The challenge for Google and other search engines is in how to distinguish "press releases" from "SEO spam disguised as press releases."
This is very well said. If you come from a traditional marketing background, some of Google's rules actually make some traditional marketing methods risky. People who come more strictly from the SEO side tend to scoff and not understand why we balk at that. But the answer is simple: it's just plain disconcerting to have Google telling you that a tried and true marketing method that all big brands have always used and are still using could be considered an attempt to take unfair advantage of them.
Of course Google can do what they want, and we just have to make our choices whether to follow their rules of stick to traditional marketing techniques. But it's the same surreal feeling you'd get if a teacher told you that studying before a test was unfair to the other kids and they'd have to punish you if they feel there's evidence you studied. It's like, then how on earth do you get an A? And the answer is, well, if you had good enough grades BEFORE this test, then getting an A will not make the teacher think you studied. But how are you supposed to have gotten the good grades without studying? It just doesn't make much sense.