By Ryan Malone

How-to-Optimize-Your-Press-ReleaseIn 2013, Google added new parameters to its Webmaster guidelines, indicating that overly optimized press releases may violate linking guidelines and harm search engine rankings for businesses.

Does your business use online press releases to get the word out about company news, products, and services? Read on to find out how Google’s linking parameters have changed and what your business can do to avoid penalties.

Google’s New Guidelines for Press Releases

Here is the example Google gives in its webmaster guidelines to illustrate a problematic press release. This example shows a press release excerpt from a company providing wedding services.

There are many wedding rings on the market. If you want to have a wedding, you will have to pick the best ring. You will also need to buy flowers and a wedding dress.

In the example above, you may notice there are five links pointing to one domain, “www.example.com.”  The anchor text for all five links includes major wedding industry keywords. In the past, using keywords to point back to a home page was an SEO best practice. Now Google is indicating this type of linking in a press release is “unnatural” and warns webmasters and marketers to shy away from these types of links in press releases.

Ultimately, Google wishes to improve the quality of content in its search results. The search engine wishes to promote natural content and demote content (like the example above), which is created solely for SEO purposes.

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Best Practices to Avoid Press Release SEO Penalties

Here’s what your business can do to optimize press releases and avoid Google penalties for unnatural links:

  1. Include Fewer Links: Press releases designed solely for link building or SEO tend to contain three or more links. Limit yourself to one or two links in all future press releases. Use links only as calls-to-action for readers to visit your website or learn more.
  1. Vary Anchor Text: Heavily optimized press releases also use keywords in every piece of link anchor text. Going forward, do not include keywords as your link anchor text. Use your company or brand name as anchor text or use more generic natural language anchor text, such as “find out more” or “click here.”
  1. Use No Follow Links: By adding rel=”nofollow” to your press release link html, you can effectively tell Google to ignore the links in your press releases. This means the links will still work, but Google and other engines will not count the links as part of your SEO “authority.” Here is a quick video showing how to add no follow tags to your links.
  1. Check with Press Release Vendors: Working with a press release distribution service helps to get your announcement in front of influential bloggers and press contacts. If using a press release wire or distribution service, check that your vendor also uses only one or two no follow links.
  1. Consider Removing or Disavowing Old Links: Do you have tons of old press releases that are overly optimized for SEO and pointing to your site? If you can get those press release taken down or those links removed from the web, it may be beneficial to your SEO standings. When links cannot be removed, advanced users of webmaster tools may consider using Google’s disavow tool to prevent old links from harming SEO status.

Use Press Releases Naturally: PR and SEO experts are not advising companies to stop using press releases altogether. News releases are still a great tool for connecting with journalists, media outlets, and investors. Organizations should continue to use press releases to build awareness but not as part of a link building strategy.

Are press releases a part of your ongoing marketing strategy? Please leave your questions or thoughts about press releases and SEO in the comments below and we’ll be happy to respond.

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Ryan Malone

About the author

Ryan Malone is the founder and CEO of SmartBug Media and is a veteran of Deloitte & Touche, Seagate and several venture-backed technology companies. When he's not leading SmartBug and helping clients build high-octane marketing organizations, he's loving his wife and daughters and unsuccessfully learning the guitar. Go Terps! Read more articles by Ryan Malone.