How to (safely) use SEO in press releases

new-google-search-home-page6Let’s talk about the mystery machine taking over the way the world does business (heck the way the world does life.) Raise your hand if you immediately knew I was referring to Google!

Google recently changed their link schemes document, aka the way their search algorithm ranks content online. This means they have gotten smarter (yes, it’s possible) about the content they are displaying, and the newest update on their policy points specifically to press releases.

Here’s the bad news: Google can now tell when your press release is stuffed with key words or hyperlinks to increase your search results; therefore they will penalize your release by placing it lower in the search results. Not to worry! The key to circumventing this issue is, in its simplest form, creating quality content in your press release that highlights your service or product in the natural way you would write. See, that was simple!

A key you must know about Google’s new policy is that they will penalize people who excessively use anchor text to link to content through press releases, especially those distributed on wire services like Business Wire or News Wire, as well as online press release distribution websites like

“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,” claims Google. Using anchor text to hyperlink to your website is not out of the question but you now need to limit links to ones that truly serve the nature of the content that you are writing about.

Please, don’t hear this as a reason to get scared about writing press releases. As PR professionals, this actually provides us more freedom to do what we are meant to do – tell relevant stories about clients that are educational and engaging – without  without having to worry about robot algorithms and getting the keyword recipe right. Follow these simple guidelines to make sure that your press release (aka your relevant, juicy, quality information) gets in the right hands through the Google search engine.

  • Press Release SEO Tip 1: Google and readers are looking for quality information so keep your content lean, get to the facts and don’t stuff it with unnatural words or writing for the sake of “searchability.” This information will likely be shared more and the more often your content (and links) are shared, the more value Google will give to your links and website.
  • Press Release SEO Tip 2: 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. A wire service like Business Wire will automatically do this for you, so you don’t have to learn anything about HTML coding.
  • Press Release SEO Tip 3: Limit the links you use to ones that truly add and serve your content: a good rule to follow is 3-5 links per release, or about one link for every 100 words.
  • Press Release SEO Tip 4: Anchor text is not completely out of the question! Some suggested anchor texts that are safe to use are: company/client name, social media handles, or event names.
  • Press Release SEO Tip 5: One time is enough: don’t worry about linking to the same site multiple times in your release.
  • Press Release SEO Tip 6: Consider adding multimedia such as video and pictures to your press release to dramatically increase the likelihood of it getting looked at and readers staying engaged with what you are talking about.

Don’t let this information scare you into thinking you have to revolutionize the way you write press releases. Focus on quality, honest content that isn’t chock full of anchor text and hyperlinks and your release will be well accepted by readers, reputable reporters AND Google.  The pressure is off to impress the machine and the pressure is on to impress readers through your valuable messaging.

Happy writing, PR pros!

This blog post was inspired by a previous guest blog post by Erika Shuckie of BusinessWire regarding the same topic that can be viewed here.

About Theresa Grillo: Theresa Grillo is a PR associate with Dave Manzer PR and Marketing, which was founded as a tech PR firm in Austin for tech startups in 2009. Theresa specializes in helping startups and emerging growth technology and consumer companies with their communication and media outreach needs. For more information about Theresa or PR over Coffee, email us at info(@) or tweet to @PROverCoffee.

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