There is an ugly rumour on the Internet; it’s permeating the chat rooms; it’s tainting many-a-tweet; it’s clogging blogs wherever…
Do Press Releases Still Have SEO Value?
The most prevalent press releases sites experienced substantial negative effects from the Panda 4.0 update in May this year, which should give you a pretty strong indicator of the quality of content you’re publishing alongside.
PR Newswire responded with “revised editorial guidelines” and has seen a strong recovery despite relatively little cleanup. The site had previously been affected by Panda in 2011 and again had taken little action, with a recovery largely down to Google’s temperamental algorithm. It’s therefore pretty likely that the site will be affected again in the future.
Links from PR Newswire are tagged as “nofollow,” which means that they should not provide any benefit to search rankings anyway. In my opinion the measure of a good link is taken by how much traffic it drives, so I would recommend that anyone making use of press release distribution services up to this point takes a look in their analytics platform.
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WHAT ABOUT ANCHOR LINKS IN MY PRESS RELEASE?
Anchor text and links hold a portion art of a press release’s indirect value discussed above. However, it is highly important to be careful with links and anchor text in your press release.
Why be careful?
Less is more. Let me say that again, do not go over-board with hyperlinks and anchor text in your press releases. Use only 2-3 links for every 500 words of text in your press release. Since press releases should be kept between 400-600 words, this means 2-3 links of anchor text for the entire press release. Using too many links makes the press release seem spammy and gives search engines a reason to penalize or block it from SERPs.
Some other important points:
- “Nofollow” all backlinks in press releases in order to avoid penalties by Google. This requires that each link’s <a> tag contain the rel=”nofollow” attribute. If using nofollow links makes you hesitant about putting out a press release, then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.
- Canonical tags should be utilized in the event that large chunks of text from your site will be pasted right into the press release, or you plan to place the press release directly on your site or blog.
- Ideally you should use your primary keyword target in the anchor text of your first link because this first link carries the most weight.
- Best practices suggest linking from keywords, rather than catchphrases like “click here”, “more information”, “learn more”, or from descriptive language (e.g. sounds, smells, tastes).
BEST PRACTICES TO AVOID PRESS RELEASE SEO PENALTIES
Here’s what your business can do to optimize press releases and avoid Google penalties for unnatural links:
- Include Fewer Links: Press releases designed solely for link building or SEO tend to contain three or more links. Limit yourself to one or two links in all future press releases. Use links only as calls-to-action for readers to visit your website or learn more.
- Vary Anchor Text: Heavily optimized press releases also use keywords in every piece of link anchor text. Going forward, do not include keywords as your link anchor text. Use your company or brand name as anchor text or use more generic natural language anchor text, such as “find out more” or “click here.”
- Use No Follow Links: By adding rel=”nofollow” to your press release link html, you can effectively tell Google to ignore the links in your press releases. This means the links will still work, but Google and other engines will not count the links as part of your SEO “authority.” Here is a quick video showing how to add no follow tags to your links.
- Check with Press Release Vendors: Working with a press release distribution service helps to get your announcement in front of influential bloggers and press contacts. If using a press release wire or distribution service, check that your vendor also uses only one or two no follow links.
- Consider Removing or Disavowing Old Links: Do you have tons of old press releases that are overly optimized for SEO and pointing to your site? If you can get those press release taken down or those links removed from the web, it may be beneficial to your SEO standings. When links cannot be removed, advanced users of webmaster tools may consider using Google’s disavow tool to prevent old links from harming SEO status.
Use Press Releases Naturally: PR and SEO experts are not advising companies to stop using press releases altogether. News releases are still a great tool for connecting with journalists, media outlets, and investors. Organizations should continue to use press releases to build awareness but not as part of a link building strategy.
THE BENEFITS OF PRESS RELEASES
For the past decade, press releases have dominated the offsite content field, and for good reason. They come with a great many benefits that make them worth writing, and for more than just SEO:
- Natural links from multiple outside sources. Writing or producing great content that gets shared virally is difficult as well. But there are plenty of news sources constantly looking for new material to publish, and submitting one press release can put you in contact with hundreds of them simultaneously. Each link you earn will be from a separate site, granting you link source diversity in the process. With that said, the links will all be coming from duplicate content, which is likely much less valuable than links from unique content. Still, there is likely some value in links from duplicate content.
- High-quality, authoritative sources. These aren’t just any sources, either. While there are a few low-to-average quality drifters that get stuck in the pool of contenders, most of the sites your press release will be published are extremely high quality. They are news sites dedicated to publishing high-quality information, and they’ve been around long enough to earn their reputation. Google GOOGL +0.49% tends to view these sites favorably, which means a link from one of them is far more valuable than a link from some random blog or forum. Aside from the value of the links, the brand association with these publishers is beneficial for establishing trust and credibility.
- Opportunities for keyword linking and name recognition. Press releases, as long as you write them in-house, also give you the key opportunity to associate your company name with relevant keywords and subjects. For example, if you’re a taco restaurant, you can publish press releases that use multiple instances of your brand name and taco-related keywords in the same sentence. This increases the likelihood that search queries will result in your business showing up due to co-occurrence and co-citation, as well as the recent semantic search updates to Google’s algorithms.
- Immediate visibility and referral traffic. Press releases aren’t all about optimizing for search engines. Each news outlet that picks up your press release is going to have its own dedicated readership—which means that you’ll have a new set of eyes seeing your brand for the first time for every press release that gets published. These users will be reading your press release, getting an idea of your business, and if they’re interested, they’ll visit your site—that’s extra referral traffic that serves as icing on the cake.
- Online Reputation Management. Press releases that include your brand name in the title tend to rank well in search engines for searches of your brand name. Since you can control the content of a press release, this gives you some degree of control over your online reputation (at least as far as what users see when they Google your brand name).
A BETTER WAY TO PROMOTE A PRESS RELEASE
If you’re going to write a press release, once you finish typing (if that’s how you’re doing it) the work isn’t over. It’s not as easy as syndicating – you can’t press upload and watch the links roll in.
If you’re sending your news to the right outlets (hint: directly to targeted influencers) you have to be prepared to pick up the phone, you have to be prepared to create more content, and you have to be prepared to offer more assets. This is how press releases were used before the internet.
Previously the criteria for using press release syndication to acquire links has been asking yourself: “Is it newsworthy?” …not “is PR Newswire a site I want a link from?” Nobody is likely to disagree that right now algorithms can’t decide what is newsworthy – only readers can do that. But Penguin can decide what is a bad link and those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.
The format of 90%+ of press releases on PR Newswire et al is exactly the same. Minimum word count, with a link in it. If you saw a blog with nine posts out of 10 containing exactly 300 words and a keyword anchor text link you’d run a mile. So why do you think it’s OK for a PR site to host your great, newsworthy release when it also hosts so much crap?
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This post was written by David Moceri