In the PR and SEO industries, there's been a lot of chatter about the anchor text links used in online press releases. In Google's latest guideline update, these links are specifically cited as an example of over-optimization — or what “not” to do.
But don't panic yet – Google's recommendations only change a small part of the online press release.
Overall, publishing a press release still gives you all of the benefits that they did before. In fact, it can be argued that they just became even more powerful!
What Exactly Changed?
Google's changes focus on two things when it comes to the anchor links in online press releases (or articles):
• Anchor text links should be no-follow. This is an internal SEO change that many (if not all) of the reputable distribution companies have already made. Google uses inbound links in their algorithm for determining a site's ranking. This change simply means that the anchor text links in press releases will no longer help your SEO.
• Anchor text links should not contain keywords. This recommendation really applies only to those who are aggressively attacking their SEO campaigns, or for those that publish daily or weekly press releases. If you fall into those categories, we recommend using only natural phrasing in your anchor text, like “click here” or “sign up now.”
Bear in mind that the SEO benefits were never the real purpose of distributing a press release. Google has always been clear about their goal: to generate the most relevant search results possible. Because of this, they place a high value on “earned” media and links.
And that's why online press releases are still very, very powerful visibility tools. A strong, well-optimized press release can still result in many natural links and shares.
Why Were These Changes Necessary?
We've always known that online press releases pack a powerful SEO punch. Many PR firms have been using them for years to gain the attention of industry influencers, bloggers, and journalists.
Over time, however, some SEO firms began to recognize their power as well, publishing aggressively and “stretching” the definition of news to suit their needs. Sites were beginning to rank higher because of how often they were publishing press releases, instead of from the credibility of quality media outlets picking up their stories.
By changing their recommendations, Google has essentially shut down this practice. Which, if you are a PR professional or looking to legitimately announce your company's news, this is a good thing!
How To Create Strong SEO Press Releases & Follow The Rules
Publishing press releases is still an excellent and recommended way to gain visibility online. Here are some tips to help you remain in good standing with Google and get the most out of your investment:
1.) Use no-follow links: If you are distributing your press release on a syndication site or newswire, double check that they have changed their anchor text links to no-follow. (Most of the main PR distribution sites such as PR Newswire, Business Wire and Online PR Media have already done this.) And don't be afraid of using no-follow links. Diversifying your inbound links is actually a good thing!
2) Limit Keyword Linking: If you are aggressively targeting a handful of keywords, it's best to not use them in the anchor text of a press release or article. Instead, link to your website using your company name or other natural phrases like “subscribe” or “webinar.” Also, consider linking to other published content in addition to your website — like your Google+ profile, another published article, or your blog.
3) Nothing But Quality News: Press releases have been used successfully for decades. It's only recently that they have been considered a link-building tool. Get back to basics and publish only quality content — news that you know others will truly want to share with their readers and followers. Those links and shares are exactly what Google is looking for when distinguishing which companies are leaders.
4) SEO Is Still Okay: Having no-follow anchor text links isn't the end of SEO for the press release. There are still plenty of opportunities to optimize your release and have it show up nicely in search results. Include a keyword in the title and summary of your news and sprinkle them naturally throughout the body. Using a small amount of strategy here can really pay off in the long run.
Using these tactics will help ensure that you can still utilize online press releases as a valuable tool to gain online visibility and media attention for your company. As with any other changes from Google, businesses can never go wrong by publishing only quality content and news items.
What questions do you have about Penguin 2.0 and online press release distribution? Let us know!