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.

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.

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