News Releases- Five Ways to Avoid Google PenaltiesBy Gini Dietrich

When I was in Salt Lake City a few weeks ago, not only did I get to spend time with my family, I spoke to three Vistage groups.

(As a side note: Getting paid to fly home and speak is kind of the cat’s meow.)

During one of the group meetings, we got to talking about search engine optimization, from a content perspective.

One attendee said his organization has really good search engine results from creating – and distributing – news releases online twice each week.

I’d be a terrible poker player because I’m pretty sure I cringed when he said that, which led to a larger conversation about the role of SEO in content development.

A couple of months ago, we talked in this very place about the recent changes at Google, as they relate to news releases. In fact, ZDNET called for the death of PR firms because of it.

As a quick reminder, in early August, Google announced using links in news releases to increase one’s search engine results violates their Webmaster Guidelines and they will begin to penalize the sites that practice this method.

Write News Releases without Penalty

This means any news release that has keywords listed multiple times, keywords as anchor text, or links not listed as “nofollow” will be penalized.

But what does this mean to you…and to my new friend who has a strategy to distribute online news releases twice each week?

  1. No keyword stuffing. An old SEO trick, keyword stuffing meant a web page was full of the same words or phrases over and over again. This told the search engines to look at that page as an authority on the topic. During the past several years, though, Google has penalized web pages that practice this method. Now they’ve turned their eyes to news releases and will penalize you for doing the same. An example of keyword stuffing is something like the following with the keywords in italics. “Many organizations offer wellness programs to help employees reduce healthcare costs. When employees practice good wellness, including exercise and healthy nutrition, the programs offered from insurance companies are less expensive. If you want a healthy team, consider a wellness program.”
  2. No duplicate content. Most news releases are distributed on the wire, which means it’s possible to have the same release – with the same, exact copy – posted in multiple locations across the web. This could mean the release is on your own website, as well as on many news websites. This is now against the rules. What that means for organizations such as BusinessWire and PR Newswire is they likely will create “nofollow” links in your releases and link to an original article so the search engines don’t consider it duplicate content.
  3. Ban the links. When you create web copy, the general rule is you want to have one external link for every 100 words. This rule stands for web copy, but not for news releases. If your release has lots of links and follows that same rule, your site can be penalized. It’s best to create your release with “nofollow” links so the search engines don’t view it as gaming the system.
  4. “Nofollow” links. A “nofollow” tag is something you add in the HTML code when you create the link in your release. What this does is tell the search engines not to visit the site you’ve linked to, but it provides the journalists who receive the release more information about your organization and its products or services. When you link to a site in your release, make sure to add “rel=”nofollow”” at the end of the hyperlink. For example, <a href=”” title=”Spin Sucks” rel=”nofollow”>Visit Spin Sucks/a>.
  5. Anchor text. Anchor text describes the copy you use that you hyperlink to something else. For instance, in my example above, if I linked to a page on Spin Sucks on the wellness program text, Google would see that as spam because nothing we do here is about healthcare, insurance, or benefits. The general rule is to use anchor text that isn’t a keyword and to make sure you always follow the “nofollow” link advice above.

Google hasn’t killed the news release – or PR firms, for that matter. Their goal is to bring the very best experience when you search on the web. Your goal, of course, is to generate more awareness.

If media relations is done well, you’ll worry less about what to put in your news release and more about the relationships your firm or team are building with journalists on your behalf.

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Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

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