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Gini Dietrich

Do News Releases Have SEO Value When Distributed Via a Wire?

By: Gini Dietrich | February 28, 2013 | 
130

Do News Releases Have SEO Value When Distributed Via a Wire?During yesterday’s Facebook question of the week, Kate Finley asked if news releases have SEO value when distributed via a newswire.

This has been a long internal battle for me. I know the “coverage” isn’t really such, but it always seems to help search engine optimization.

Clients sometimes like to show their bosses the number of places that ran the news release so we don’t always fight the battle.

And, sometimes, it’s okay with us because the site needs a little SEO oomph.

But here’s the thing: It doesn’t help in the sense that the release in your newsroom ranks higher in search results. Rather, your home page does…or a page on your site where the keywords are used does.

Is a News Release on the Wire Duplicate Content?

In doing massive amounts of research for Spin Sucks (the book, not the blog), this doesn’t make sense to my little brain.

A news release printed verbatim on sites such as Yahoo!, Bloomberg, and the Wall Street Journal feels like duplicate content. It is, in fact, the exact, same content running on multiple sites. And, from where I sit, most is not super valuable…or at least valuable enough Google would want it to rank.

Which, I suppose, is why the news release itself rarely ranks, but it’s odd the company’s website does. We’ve visibly watched a site begin to rank higher for certain keywords days after a news release is distributed on the wire.

So, I answered Kate’s question as such: It’s not great for journalists using it to write their own stories, but it is great for search engine optimization.

Do News Releases Have SEO Value?

But guess what? I might be wrong (I say might because Google is about as clear as a day the fog is rolling in across the San Francisco Bay).

Last month, Matt Cutts (distinguished engineer at Google and a name I am getting to know very well during my research), posted in a Google forum “links from your news releases do not have SEO value.”

But, not wanting to take his word for it, SEO Consult did a test to see if that was, in fact, true.

They wrote a news release with a made-up word in it – sreppleasers – and linked to Matt Cutts’s blog (I guess to both be funny and to prove a point).

Within three days, they began to rank for the made-up word. In fact, if you do a search now, you’ll see it has the top three search results.

I asked Frank Strong, who most recently was director of public relations for Vocus and PR Web, what he thinks.

News Release on Wire Help SEO

Still, Sean McGinnis and I debated this for a couple of hours yesterday on our Facebook wall and he argues you should treat Matt Cutts’s word like the Bible.

My Advice?

If you use the wires for news release distribution, keep doing it.

If the client will allow you to tell a story via the news release instead of announcing the news (I know this isn’t always possible because we work with a Fortune 10 company that requires us to use a template), do it. That way, perhaps it will be picked up as the beginning to a real story that will help your search rankings.

Use a canonical link in your release so you don’t get a black mark by Google.

Keep an eye on your search rankings prior to and after distribution.

And keep yourself educated on the changes at Google so you don’t get slammed with a hit from them.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, a Chicago-based integrated marketing communications firm. She is the lead blogger here at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro. She is the co-author of Marketing in the Round and co-host of Inside PR. Her second book, Spin Sucks, is available now.

127 comments
rimmkaufman
rimmkaufman

@rustyspeidel press releases should be part of a marketing strategy, not SEO per se. They can lead to press coverage, and that can help SEO.

rustyspeidel
rustyspeidel

What about creating a short release that links back to the bigger story on your company site?

MikeToner
MikeToner

I agree with Jason below- things are changing and so is content discovery...no doubt about it.

 

I spent several years as one of the SEO leads at Business Wire and for a while there was no better way to boost organic SEO than press releases. All that changed with Panda and Google basically shutting down the content farms overnight.

 

My recommendation is to focus on the true, targeted content created and distribution- via YOUR OWN channels whether it's a blog, or social media sites.

 

Newswires still have value but you have write the press release for the reader, not for the search robot. This means you have to provide quality content and quality links so that user clicks on them they will enjoy what you've shared with them- not because Google will reward you for it.

 

Tell a good story first.

 

If you write and distribute crap you are never going to get to the top of google anyway right>?http://searchengineland.com/how-prweb-helps-distribute-crap-into-google-news-sites-140597 

 

 

 

 

jasonkintzler1
jasonkintzler1

We should chat, Gina. Times are changing and so is content discovery. We're doing communicators a disservice if we keep steering them to more easy buttons - those don't exist. PR isn't about just garnering impressions - it's about relevant exposure. We have to begin to take the lead role in brand journalism or else journalists (or someone else) will. It's a golden opportunity and press releases aren't going to cut it.

wearestargazer
wearestargazer

@markwschaefer @ginidietrich We would say directly not much but indirectly yes.

Mededitor
Mededitor

@profkrg We've been operating on the assumption that pushing something out via PR Newswire gives it more oomph. @ginidietrich

Frank_Strong
Frank_Strong

@itsjessicann Gin's incredible. Love her like a sister. @ginidietrich

Frank_Strong
Frank_Strong

Wow. Didn't see that coming. 

 

Flipping through the comments here and notice a lot of them steer away from the original question. I'm with @Sean McGinnis and take Matt Cutt's advice as gold. The consequences of gaming are simply too severe to gamble.  Further, why game SEO?  Gaming is akin to spin, which this blog and community is staunchly against.

 

Do press releases help visibility?  Do they drive traffic?  That's a different question.  No doubt they do.  Beyond question.   Over the years I've seen so many small businesses able to make news that would have never seen the light of day without a release. 

 

Do they need to be well written?  Yep.  Are headlines important?  No doubt. Does timing matter?  Of course.  Should you hyperlink key words?  Absolutely.  Other things that press release writers should do:

 

- embed YouTube videos when possible; ensure it's properly tagged and has a good description.

- use photos, and set the ALT tag categories with key words relevant to the content

- just like a blog, don't overdo the links -- about one link for every hundred words

- focus on good clear writing, link to relevant sources that provide additional information

- good old fashion pitching, when an announcement merits it

 

It's the combination of these things that increase visibility and tend to *earn* links from bloggers and reporters.  Good content that helps prospective customers will always find a reader.

 

Finally, track the referral traffic in GA.  

ClayMorgan
ClayMorgan

News wire.

 

When PR people say it, they are thinking PR Web, Cisions' service, market wire, etc.

 

When I hear it, I'm thinking AP, Reuters, etc.

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jfritsche
jfritsche

A client that I've been doing releases for over the past year and change has seen an incredible SEO lift from the press releases--surprisingly, it has been a bigger lift than even our traditional SEO work in the content on their site. We started pretty much at ground zero, so seeing the work have an immediate, direct impact has been quite rewarding. That has just been a bonus side effect of why we started doing the releases in the first place, but it makes the client super happy, so I'll take it!

jenzings
jenzings

Quick question that may or may not be related to this that I stumbled across today. I was reading a news release on PR Newswire, and after about 10 seconds (not enough time to read the whole release, I might add) it redirects to the company who issued the release's web page.

 

Is this a new thing that I'm just now being made aware of, and if so, what is its purpose?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @MikeToner By no means did I write this with the intent of saying you should write for robots. I 1,000% agree with you ALL content has to be written for humans and not robots. But that wasn't the point...the point is DO releases have SEO value (if they're written well and all that) if distributed on the wires. We have data that shows they do. Google says they don't. My research in writing a book has found what you said - with Panda and Penguin, the juice is gone. But we keep experimenting with it and have found the opposite. Perhaps we're just really good at storytelling through releases? :)

TaraGeissinger
TaraGeissinger

 @MikeToner I love this ---> "Newswires still have value but you have to write the press release for the reader, not for the search robot. This means you have to provide quality content and quality links." I agree 100%.

 

There are always going to be people who try to scam the system and push out sub-par press releases in an effort to gain more links and boost their SEO. Google's updates are targeting exactly those users. Assuming that we AREN'T those users and we are producing quality news announcements, then I still like publishing them online -- in addition to all of the other marketing strategies I am using.

 

I think the idea that press release publishing is either "right" or a "wrong" is flawed. You said it yourself, they work. I've seen them work firsthand. When a quality message is tweaked with SEO in mind, the results can be pretty impressive. That's why I will continue to include them in my visibility marketing plans.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

 @jasonkintzler1 Hey Jason. Thanks for the comment. A couple of things: My name is Gini, not Gina. Secondly, we never steer anyone here to more easy buttons or impressions. If anything, I'm one of the loudest voices in the industry against that type of thinking. In fact, it goes against everything we do and the vision of the blog (kind of evident in the name). This is *one* tactic underneath a very large umbrella and the question was, "Do releases have SEO value?" There seems to be an ongoing discussion about how Google looks at releases - some have anecdotal evidence it works while others say no way. My point of this one blog post was to add to a larger discussion about how to use releases on a wire. By no means are they dead, but they do have to be thought about differently. You'll notice today we further the discussion with a guest post from someone at one of the wires. That's how we provide service to the industry...not by giving them easy buttons.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich

@Mededitor From what we can tell, that assumption is correct @profkrg

Sean McGinnis
Sean McGinnis

 @jfritsche How confident are you that this "incredible SEO lift" is from the releases? Measuring anything over a year + allows for a lot of wiggle room in terms of what happens and when - which is what makes SEO such a tough nut to crack.

 

I honestly don't know. I'm not looking at your data (or yours either Gini).

 

Over the past year+ there have been about three dozen or more changes by Google any random handful of which could easily explain any major rank and traffic changes, up or down. beyond the changes to the algo, there are undoubtedly other things that are happening to the site as well in terms of updates, further links, social shares, etc... Again, any one of these changes might have impacted.

TaraFriedlundGeissinger
TaraFriedlundGeissinger

@jenzings Was there an iFrame below the press release displaying their website? If their website doesn't allow for iFrames, it will automatically redirect to their homepage. Maybe that's what happened?

JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

 @ginidietrich  @MikeToner This all makes me think that we should:

 

a) Always keep in mind that what Google says and Google does are very separate things. They are a company w/competitive interests, not an impartial agency, and they have public, semi-public, and private agendas. Nothing wrong with that, simply means we don't get easy answers for everything and have to be flexible and creative in our thinking.

 

b) Consider the possibility of taking Google at face value when they say they are truly trying to provide good content. IF this is true, then part of how they structure search means they don't write off duplicate content / stuff that goes over the wire automatically (despite what they say), because humans wouldn't do so. When a press release goes over the wire and is widely shared on social networks/linked to or used in part or republished in part on other reputable sites, these signals indicate good content. It's not just about the content itself, duplicate or not, it's about what it means and what it compels people to do. I would think that is what matters the most to Google because that's what puts the dollars in their pocket.

jfritsche
jfritsche

 @Sean McGinnis  I'm confident because it shows up plain as day in our analytics. Whenever we send out a new release it gets pushed out via social and on their own site, as well as the newswire. We see all the clicks coming into the company's site from those locations. When you search for this company's name (I'd share if I could, but I can't) you see their releases all over the results. They used to not really rank at all, even if you searched their own company name. It was BAD. I think the SEO from the releases really created a good foundation for them to build from, because their site redo wasn't actually finished until months after the PR portion of their campaign took off.

 

You're not wrong in that lots of changes have happened that could easily have boosted SEO over and above anything releases are able to accomplish. And I'm not saying they're the only thing that has generated good results for us. But I think it was really easy for us to see what was going on with the impact on the SEO for this client because they basically started with nothing. The way we implemented content for them was a very layered approach, so we've been able to monitor what works and what hurts quite well. 

 

Every client is going to be different. I'm confident that this wouldn't make nearly as much impact on some of our other clients who are very established online--but I do think it would make more of an impact than most people think. And with the right client, like the one we've seen such awesome results for, it can be an essential tool.

 

TaraFriedlundGeissinger
TaraFriedlundGeissinger

@ginidietrich @jfritsche @Sean McGinnis Yes! That's what I was talking about earlier. I love using them too - and not in an effort to "game" SEO, but in an effort to increase my client's traffic, boost their SEO and continue to add to their credibility online. If you are creating and publishing news about your company that is engaging and utilizes multimedia, it's a perfect complement to a robust online marketing campaign.

jenzings
jenzings

 @TaraFriedlundGeissinger  I think that might be it. Down at the bottom there is a site preview/close site preview option, but it just automatically diverts away from the news release! Super strange, and very annoying.

Sean McGinnis
Sean McGinnis

 @jfritsche More to the point, if you read what Matt Cutts actually wrote, it's fairly targeted in scope. I believe his point (so far as I can tell) is that the links from the news releases that are published on the release sites themselves are probably not helping with rank - Or number 2 in my list of potential benefits above. That still leaves a lot of potential value  - value that is optimized when we write valuable releases.

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jfritsche
jfritsche

 @Sean McGinnis Heh, no worries! When I went back and read my reply to you, I realized how it sounded. 

 

I would actually love for you to run your own tests and see what happens, and then report back. I would probably nerd out over that.

Frank_Strong
Frank_Strong

 @Sean McGinnis I understand where you're coming from.  I get the same way about PR.  I'd add a sixth bullet to your list -- it's one that's overlook:

 

6.  How are people finding that release? 

 

The answer will lead us right back to where this sub-thread started.  I don't want to debate what is and what is not proper SEO (And I think you mean that in an academic/professional point of pride sense vice white or black).  

 

 

 @jfritsche 

Sean McGinnis
Sean McGinnis

 @jfritsche   Sorry. My skeptic hat is constantly covering up my manners. I'd love to give you more credit, but we just met. ;)

 

If you say there's value, then I suppose I'll have to take your word for it. See my note above. One of the things that's really important to me is to understand WHY things are happening. I've seen it far too many times that people who think they understand things believe THIS is happening because of THAT, when oftentimes THIS is actually happening in spite of THAT.

 

Even if they ARE helping, I'd want to see more so I can try to determine WHY they are helping. I'll have to run some test of my own one of these days.

Sean McGinnis
Sean McGinnis

 @Frank_Strong  @jfritsche You're not wrong. But traffic coming from the releases proper is not SEO. At least it's not necessarily SEO. if people visited those pages from anywhere other than a search engine, then it's not even search related.

 

That's been part of my concern about this post and in fact the entire thread. "helps with SEO" is an amorphous thing. It's important to me to nail down the perceived value we are all talking about here. Here are a number of possible "SEO values" associated with press releases:

 

1. Adding the release to your site adds content related to a specific keyword not otherwise covered on other page of your own site.

 

2. Links embedded in the release add SEO value to your site when the release is published to the news release domains.

 

3. Links embedded in the release add SEO value to your site if/when the release is syndicated to other sites beyond the news release sites

 

4. Links are embedded in stories written by a journalist who reads the release and decides to write/blog about the angle your release discussed.

 

5. There is co-citation or semantic values to the fact your name appeared near specific keywords on the release.

 

Sorry, but it's important to me that we narrow down the value that is being touted by people who claim there is value. I'm not trying to argue against that value necessarily. I have no access to her data (or Gini's). But what was said above is not, IMHO, related to SEO.

jfritsche
jfritsche

@Sean McGinnis I know that...I mean, give me a little credit. ;-) That's what I get for responding on the train. The point I was (poorly) making was that while we get traffic indicators from our process, we also get actual keyword boosts every time we put out a release. The analytics show as much. Like I said before, it isn't all we are doing by a long shot, but we do see actual results and they are stronger than I'd have thought releases could provide. All I can tell you is the rankings are there, they weren't when we started, and the releases have played a large role in that.

Sean McGinnis
Sean McGinnis

 @jfritsche "Whenever we send out a new release it gets pushed out via social and on their own site, as well as the newswire. We see all the clicks coming into the company's site from those locations."

 

That's not SEO.

TaraGeissinger
TaraGeissinger

 @jenzings  I think that is probably it. I have seen that happen quite a bit before. Usually there is something on the client's site that a programmer can change to allow the site to be viewed in an iFrame. Can you tell programming is akin to magic for me? LOL

JoeCardillo
JoeCardillo

 @jenzings  @Frank_Strong  @Sean McGinnis  @ginidietrich You mean you can't read a press release in 10 seconds either? Whew. That's a relief....for a while there I thought I might have, um, literacy problems;)

 

Tara and Frank are probably right, it sounds like an iFrames issue. It's not my area of expertise, but would you mind providing the URL or a keyword or two I can use to lookup? I'd like to pass along to our team.

jenzings
jenzings

 @Frank_Strong  @Sean McGinnis  @ginidietrich I am kind of hoping it is a glitch, because the release was from a very large and respected marketing/ad/PR firm. That said, it happened on another release from them too, so if it's a glitch, it's across all of their news releases.

 

And again, it's wicked annoying to not even be able to finish reading the release before one is bumped to the website.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Do News Releases Have SEO Value When Distributed Via a Wire? [...]

  2. [...] SEO Benefits. An online release published on a variety of reputable news and PR sites offers links back to your website. Additionally, as Gini Dietrich discussed last week, it has the potential to rank well in search results. [...]

  3. [...] not to say good press releases can’t help with SEO. They can still boost online visibility and help pages on your website rank higher. But they have to be written, optimized and packaged in a way that respects Google’s recent [...]