How Google’s Latest Search Algorithm Update Impacts Press Release Distribution

It’s happened yet again, and it will continue to happen. Google has updated their link schemes document. So at this point you’re probably wondering: “what does that have to do with my business?” In the simplest of terms, every so often, Google makes changes to its search algorithm and the way it ranks content online. If you want your content (and, more importantly, your website!) to be found on Google, continue reading to find out why you should care.

When the latest Google update happened, the people in our industry had a momentary freak-out, as it seemed to doom press releases for providing SEO (search engine optimization) value using the wire – as opposed to online distribution websites which have become a popular SEO strategy in recent years.  As more details emerged, we realized that the update wasn’t a death sentence.

Now, I am BY NO MEANS an SEO expert. I do, however, often talk to and read things written by people who do know their way around the SEO world, including Business Wire’s own SEO experts and web developers. Here are the things I’ve learned during my quest for knowledge about Google’s recent changes.

The latest update included language that specifically points to press releases, among other things. This time, the language PR people should specifically be interested in is as follows:

“Creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of our guidelines, including…links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites.” “Creating Links for the sole purpose of SEO on a press release is unnatural. Links should be placed on a press release to enhance the user experience, add information, and be relevant to the content.”

An example of keyword stuffing that they provide is:

“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.”

What that means is that Google will penalize people who use anchor text to link to content through press releases, especially those distributed on outside websites (such as wire services, like Business Wire). You can see why we were worried.

Before you sprint away from wire distribution services, as I said before, this is not an entirely bad thing. The core purpose for press releases (and wire services) is to provide relevant content to those who are looking for it. For example, let’s say you send a press release to a journalist at the Austin American-Statesman, and he writes a story using content within your release. In the text of the release, you included anchor text linking back to your website or blog, which the journalist visited to get even more information to use in his story. His article was an online piece, so he also linked back to your website because he found the information there helpful. Because his link was an outside referral to relevant content, Google sees it as valuable, and therefore, will make it available for search. This external link can also add SEO value and can aid in the ranking of your website. That, my friends, is an example of a legitimate way to build links that point to your website. The goal of earned media should always be the ultimate goal of PR people – to influence others to talk about you and share your message across their networks.

So, what can you do to ensure that your press release is not going to hurt you in the long run?

  • Always provide content that is good quality, relevant and useful to audiences who are going to benefit from it. The more relevant your content, the better chance for it to be shared. The more often your content (and links) are shared, the more value Google will give to your links and website(s).
  • Add a ‘nofollow’ tag to anchor text link, so that Google will not give any SEO value to that particular link. The link will still be a functioning link to your content, but this is a way to avoid the negative fallback of including anchor text. When you use Business Wire, we will automatically do this for you, so you don’t have to learn anything about HTML coding.
  • Do not stuff your press release text with links – a good rule of thumb is 3-5 links per release, or about one link for every 100 words.
  • Lean towards writing the text of your press release for people, instead of writing for the search engine robots. It is widely being communicated that Google now prefers natural language text over copy that is clearly written for the ‘bots.
  • While you should be aware of the risk, do not be overly afraid to include anchor text within your release, as long as it is relevant and maintains the flow of the release. Suggested anchor text can be your company/client name, social media handles, or event names. And once is enough! Do not link to the same thing multiple times.
  • If you are distributing the release outside your owned online properties, make sure to do so with a legitimate and reputable service. There are many distribution options out there, and not all of them will benefit you.
  • From a friend who does SEO at Cabela’s: Use http://www.removeem.com/ratios.php to discover and remove potentially penalizing links that point to your site. Simply type in the URL of your company or client to find out if there are ‘over-optimized links’ that could cause Google to penalize you.
  • Consider adding multimedia to your press release. This will dramatically increase the chances of your release getting looked at, thus starting the natural content discovery process.

This doesn’t change much in the overall scheme of things. PR people need to continue to do their job, which is communicating relevant messages to their key audiences.

In closing, I’ll point back to Matt Cutts, head of the Webspam team at Google, who said in a recent Q&A on nofollow links, “Don’t forget about users other than search engines.” Reaching those “other users” are your most important goal!

To read more from Business Wire on the subject, check out this blog post written by our SEO specialist, John Leung, and Marketing Specialist, Fred Godlash.

About Our Guest Blogger:
Erica Schuckies is an account executive for Business Wire, located in their Austin office. She works with both private and public companies, as well as Public Relations and Investor Relations firms, to distribute their messages to key stakeholders across the globe. She has a background in Public Relations and Marketing Communications, as well as experience in the non-profit and sports/events sectors. Erica is a board member for the Public Relations Society of America Austin Chapter, as well as a regular attendee of PR Over Coffee.

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