Rumors have been floating around that HARO had been penalized by Google. HARO, or Help a Reporter Out, is a service from Vocus, which is also the parent company of PR Web. Through HARO, publishers can find reporters that specialize in writing for certain topics. Watch today's Daily Brown Bag to learn why HARO fell into a bed of rumors about a Google penalty, and more about best practices for PR on the web.

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Hello and welcome to The Daily Brown Bag. Today we're going to be talking about Google and the HARO penalty. I'm Chad Hill and I'm joined by Adam Stetzer.

Good afternoon Chad. Welcome to The Brown Bag. We're talking about the HARO Google penalty. If you're not familiar with HARO, Help A Reporter Out, it's a service that's become quite interesting and there are some rumors flying around today so we wanted to cover the news but first the backdrop.

What is this? Well this is a real business PR professional service that's used by marketers and publishers alike and it does help connect reporters who are looking for specific information with folks who might want to earn their way into the story. You sign up for this service. It is free and it does run based on e-mail updates when reporters are putting out queries. You can also of course use Twitter to follow it.

So an example here would be Chad like USA Today reporter is looking to put out a query looking for let's say farmers to talk about the drought that's happening in California. How will it impact crops this year? So you can see where this facilitates communication flow of information and help stories be more fact based because it's a resource that a lot of people in PR then use to who if they're trying to get a story out or have something to say, they get to that reporter.

Now there is no promise of a link nor is it required whatsoever and so you know that's where I think the discussion gets very interesting and it is important to know that HARO is owned by Vocus who also owns PR web. So in terms of this Google penalty rumor that is flying around about Help A Reporter Out, Chad, what do we know what's really happening here?

Yes well there is an SEO consultant Bill Hartzer and he basically was working with a client who had been hit with a Google penalty and so he was working through trying to clean up their links and get and submit a reconsideration request and the story that at least is written here is that when Google rejected one of his reconsideration requests which happens pretty frequently they gave some specific examples and those examples included this HARO mention.

Now as people dug into it what really turns out that happened is that actually the original story that was written through the Help A Reporter Out channel did not have a link but somehow whether it was another SEO company that was working for this client or the client had taken that content and sort of republished it a few times adding in a link which then I guess had set off some trigger, some alarm bell over at Google when they were reviewing the reconsideration request that maybe this was not up to snuff duplicate content etc., etc. and so they flagged it.

So I think really the original alarm bell Adam here was that oh my gosh Google is actually cracking down on HARO which just sort of goes right to the heart of just how PR works but it sort of turns out maybe this story is a little more nuanced.

Yes. This actually sounds like quite a false alarm so if what you're saying is true and there was some variation of content maybe duplicate content and who knows what was going on with links there then you're right there maybe is not much of a story here but I can see why people are on pins and needles because with the actions that Google has been taking lately around you know guest blog posting and the forums in which people meet to co-ordinate those activities, this is a forum where people meet to coordinate PR activities and reporters and people who have facts and are pushing stories.

So I think that brought a discussion that everybody is really interested in is just how far is Google going to take this and there has been some criticism and some heat saying wait a minute you know you want an internet based on links and high quality things that editorially earn placements and PR of course has worked on some of those same principles for years and years so I would be pretty surprised if there really was a Google penalty here Chad. I would take it you would feel the same way.

Yes. Absolutely. I mean to me this was sort of a...It was a great...It was a sensational headline because it really was right at the heart of PR but I think as you dig in this is what Google, when you really read between what Google is saying, you have to believe this is what they want. They want people, you know real experts out being cited and referenced and content. This is what the internet and links are all about. It helps readers when you're reading a piece of content and you see a citation or a quote by a person, it's useful to be able to click on that link and go read more about them whether it's their company or their profile or a Wikipedia entry about them. I mean that's what the internet is all about from really the beginning.

Right. So the news today is that this is a false alarm as far as we know Help A Reporter Out is still in good standing and still very high quality. They bet their reporters and what comes out of there is very high quality stuff which is why some of the best news outlets in the world actually use it. As far as we know the internet is still in balance. That's still the way things work and we can all breathe the sigh of relief. But we would like to hear your comments and your first reaction in this whole philosophical debate about you know what's been going on with a Google penalty. Drop us a comment and please subscribe to our YouTube channel. We'll see you back at The Brown Bag tomorrow.