Tara Geissinger

Did Google Just Kill Online News Releases?

By: Tara Geissinger | August 12, 2013 | 


By Tara Geissinger

There is a lot of discussion taking place right now regarding anchor text links and online news releases.

The recent update from Google now also warns against over optimization of anchor text within news releases, in addition to article sites.

Does this mean news releases are suddenly “bad?” Of course not.

They have been an important part of the marketing and PR mix since long before the Internet.

What it means is exactly what Google says: Optimized anchor text links won’t help your search engine optimization.

Links within news releases are fine; it just means if you’re using anchor text optimized with a keyword or phrase, it won’t necessarily help. As well, using news release distribution sites for the purpose of trying to artificially boost your ranking for specific keywords won’t fly.

But that was never the original point in the first place. And because earned media is what Google heralds as the best type of link, one could argue news releases just became more relevant than every before.

The Rise of Search Engines: How News Releases Became Something They Weren’t

A well-optimized online news release has always had (and still has) the potential to reach bloggers, journalists, and industry influencers who search for and/or have alerts set up for information on the topics they cover.

It has always offered (and still does) the benefit of building brand awareness, and delivering positive, industry-leadership type content when potential clients/investors/partners do their due diligence on a brand name.

At the same time, Google and other search engines were using the quality, quantity, and anchor text of inbound links to a website to determine where a website would rank in the search engines. Naturally, businesses and marketers began using news releases as a way to generate inbound links to their websites, and embedding those links in their keywords.

Back Up… That Wasn’t the Original Purpose of a News Release Anyway

To a PR professional or the business publishing the news release, the SEO benefit was a bonus. The real benefit for publishing news online was to build brand awareness, attract bloggers and journalists, and build credibility with the end consumer.

A small contingent of SEO marketers, however, tapped into the power of the news release, and published them online with the sole purpose of only building links. To these folks, news releases may seem to have “no value” in light of the change.

But those who were only trying to use the tool to gain links probably weren’t faring as well as they could have anyway — even before the change.

When you focus on creating quality news items and messages designed to generate earned media — that’s where the magic happens.

How to Distribute Great SEO Content and Keep Google Happy

The key to abiding by this new rule is to remember what the ultimate goal of Google has always been: To generate search results that are as relevant as possible.

Here are some tips to help you continue publishing quality content, and generating links back to your site, without breaking the new rules.

  1. Natural Phrasing: If you are using anchor text to link back to your site, use keywords sparingly. It is actually preferable to use natural phrases instead. This would mean linking back to your site using something like “click here” or “for more information.”
  2. NoFollow Links: If you are distributing your article or news release on a network or newswire, double check  the syndicated links are nofollow. This option may not be available immediately, but even the largest networks are taking notice of the new guidelines and making changes. PR Newswire, for example, recently stated:

    Adherence to search engine best practices is something we take seriously, and PR Newswire will soon be changing the structure of the links in the content we syndicate to comply with Google’s new guidelines, implementing nofollow links in our news release feed.

    Switching the anchor text links to nofollow won’t be a noticeable change. The links will still “work” and readers and journalists will still be able to navigate to your site. The change is more of an internal one, and simply means the links won’t “count” when the algorithm is calculating rank.

  3. Quality Content: Google rewards great content. News releases were never meant to be link-building tools alone. Focus on publishing quality, relevant news, and you will naturally get the shares, links, and reprints you’re striving for in your digital campaign. And that’s what online marketing is all about — being seen!
  4. Optimize Where You Can: There are still very powerful SEO components to publishing a news release online. It may not be recommended to embed keywords in anchor text anymore, but using keywords in your title, summary and naturally throughout your content still makes sense. In many instances the title of the release becomes the title tag for the published page, giving any keywords extra weight.

Of course, it’s never smart to “stuff” keywords anywhere. And I would argue for a well-written compelling title over a well-optimized one any day. However, if there is a way to get both a creative hook in and a keyword, you’re looking at a brilliant opportunity for visibility!

Google may have taken away a tiny bit of SEO value to publishing news releases online, but this in no way impacts the value of distributing news releases. Quality news releases will still be seen and shared online. They will still rank in the search results, and they are still a valuable part of any online marketing campaign.

About Tara Geissinger

Tara Geissinger is an SEO and content marketing expert by day and triplet mom by night. As co-owner of the online visibility firm, SEO Content Solutions, and online news release distribution firm, Online PR Media, Tara has helped thousands of businesses get more visibility online. From helping Macy's optimize their product descriptions to working behind-the-scenes with some of the largest SEO and marketing firms in the world, she is one of the best kept secrets in the online marketing niche.

  • “Of course, it’s never smart to “stuff” keywords anywhere.” Of course. But I find Google’s guidelines quite vague. Does that mean no more  links in guest posts, or only no-follow links, or are “relevant” links okay? Who decides what’s relevant?

    • Unmana It is all very confusing, isn’t it? We are recommending to clients that guest post and distribution articles use anchor text links sparingly when it comes to keywords. If every single link coming back to your site uses the same 1-3 keywords, Google is going to know that they are the result of your controlled marketing and not organic, natural links. It is best to vary the words and phrases you are using and sprinkle in some “click here” links even! With guest posts, one of the most valuable links you can get is back to your Google+ profile for authorship.

  • SarahSkerik

    Good post Tara, and I especially liked the points you made about the real purpose of press releases – which truly hasn’t changed that much, despite the utility the SEO crowd found in press releases.   PR Newswire implemented the nofollow change to our news feed over the weekend, and today we offer 10 reasons why sending a press release still makes a lot of sense for organizations seeking to convey a message to their audiences. Here’s the link: http://blog.prnewswire.com/2013/08/12/the-top-10-reasons-to-send-a-press-release/

    • nshafer2

      Did PR Newswire add the nofollow to all releases retroactively as well?

    • SarahSkerik That is a great post Sarah! There are so many reasons to distribute press releases. I plan on sharing that blog to be sure everybody sees it!! 🙂 In a way, online press releases need some good PR mojo right now to be sure everybody understands they ARE still valuable.

  • CommProSuzi

    Thanks for the great information, Tara.  
    I feel like I change writing style and frequency to accommodate the machines. We used to write witty headlines. Now, we have to look for ways to be witty with keywords. Public Relations: It’s Always Something! 

    • CommProSuzi Well, hopefully we can find a happy medium moving forward! I’ll take witty headlines any day.

  • I was wondering about this! Thanks for the informative read, Tara!

    • KateFinley Thanks Kate. Happy to help! Like crestodina said above, I’ve also seen some negative articles about this. It’s easy to jump to the “doom and gloom” conclusion whenever Google makes changes, and I sort of did on Day 1. 🙂 But then we started talking about it internally and realized, wait a minute…this really isn’t a huge deal! LOL

  • crestodina

    Great post, Tara! 
    I’ve read many similar posts recently and this is the best explanation I’ve found. One important but subtle point you make is that these press releases “won’t help” which is very different from “will hurt.” It doesn’t make any difference good or bad. Google knows they’re just press releases and not an indication of the quality of a page.
    I’ve seen other posts that make it sound like this would “hurt” your SEO, which I don’t think is true. If an SEO-focussed press releases could hurt rankings, people would use them against their competitors as “negative SEO.” I think Google is very cautious about penalties for this reason. But they don’t hesitate to de-value certain types of links.
    One more quick note (sorry, long comment!) is about the “Natural Phrasing” I generally agree that we shouldn’t try to hard to get keywords into link text. If you overdo it, it may look unnatural and this could hurt rankings. 
     …But in my experience, most companies don’t have enough keyphrase in their backlinks. If you’ve never done SEO, put your web address into http://OpenSiteExplorer.com and click on the anchor text tab. If none of the most common links to your site include your keywords, I recommend a little “Unnatural Phrasing” for at least a few links. The key is balance. 🙂
    Thanks for a great post, Tara!

    • crestodina Thanks for the compliment! And yes, I agree completely with what you are saying regarding keywords. Google’s new guidelines target the major spammers. These are people that might be issuing two or more press releases per day for just SEO purposes. (Yes, they really do this!) Over a year or so, the number of backlinks all using the same handful of keywords would be pretty large! 
      For the rest of us, however, chances are that we aren’t even close to being labeled a “spammer” in Google’s eyes. Using a keyword or two in the provided anchor text links of an online press release, even if you put one out monthly, is probably not a problem. 
      As with most things, moderation is key. Would it be natural for every inbound link to your site to use the same *exact* keywords? Probably not. Use variations. Use related keywords. Use the occasional natural phrasing. Link to your Google+ profile or page sometimes. Link to other published content other times. Mix it up, keep it fresh and always consider your news angle first and SEO second. 🙂

      • crestodina

        TaraGeissinger Agreed. Variety is better for readers and robots. 🙂

        I do know of a story where a poorly-timed press release got a website blacklisted from Google. The problem was duplicate content, not over-optimized anchor text. But it’s quite the story. Gini covered it once on this post…
         Penalties do exist! …and PR companies can cause them.

        • crestodina TaraGeissinger OMGosh, I know! I remember reading that post and getting that sinking feeling….

  • Randy Milanovic

    Google just killed the SEO. I get it too… press releases are the ultimate self promotion.

    • Randy MilanovicYes, they are! Your comment makes me think of what Lee Odden said in his post today on this subject: “You may as well treat press releases as if they were advertising. And why not? Create a compelling news story, link to a landing page and use a news release distribution service to drive exposure to your ‘offer.'”
      Self publishing press releases online has always been a little bit more like paid advertising than traditional publicity in my mind. You are paying for a guaranteed number of places to reprint your news. Sometimes this means your news gets “picked up” by other non-guaranteed blogs and publications — and that’s great! Sometimes they act as a sales tool when they show up in your target audience’s Google search. Either way, they are just a small component in an overall content marketing and visibility campaign.
      Lee’s awesome blog is here in case you’re interested: http://www.toprankblog.com/2013/08/google-did-not-just-kill-pr-agencies/

      • Randy Milanovic

        TaraGeissinger Randy Milanovic Agreed. Online marketing works much more effectively as a mix of activities.

  • DennisMiller1

    Hey really superb post

    • DennisMiller1 Wow, thanks! I’m glad you liked it. 🙂

  • Great points TaraGeissinger 
    It has always been important to write content for the end user. Lately, Google has put an even greater focus on providing solid content, which can be difficult for some people. 
    One of the key points you mentioned was, optimize where you can. As you mentioned there is still a lot of value in press releases. They can help to sent social signals to your site, drive traffic and some other goodies. 
    Google has made it clear, don’t stuff. Rather, lightly smatter with keywords. 
    Great read.

    • IpjRobson TaraGeissinger Exactly! I love that you mention social signals because I was just talking about this today with a client. Social, SEO and quality content aren’t separate anymore. Google isn’t saying to not use keywords in your anchor text anymore. They are saying that they WILL take action if they see you stuffing them into every possible location. Link building is changing and savvy marketers are simply adjusting. The end goal is to create a better end user experience — which is better for all of us!

      • TaraGeissinger IpjRobson For sure. 
        Times are constantly changing. You just need to makes sure you know what is happening. 
        In the end it’s be real and be valuable.

  • Releases still tend to be one of our greatest tools for raising brand awareness, at least locally. Nicely outlined article TaraGeissinger. I’m framing this: When you http://spinsucks.com/social-media/seven-tools-for-writing-blog-posts/ news items and messages designed to generate earned media — that’s where the magic happens.

    • Word Ninja TaraGeissinger Thanks! 🙂 I’ve always been a huge proponent of press releases too. They just WORK for me. I totally get where Google is coming from with this change. People were taking advantage of the links and they were losing credibility. With big change comes opportunity and I think the discussions surrounding this change have all been very positive!

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