Press Release, SEO, and Google’s Ever-Changing Search Algorithm

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Press Releases for SEO

Can writing and distributing a press release improve your SEO?

Yes it can, but only if you write it correctly and don’t try to use it to game the SEO results.

Here are the key mistakes that people are using when they are trying to use press releases for SEO:

  1. Writing press releases purely to try to improve their SEO, as opposed to writing press releases to hopefully get the media to pick up and run their story
  2. Trying to stuff their press releases with keywords to improve their SEO rankings
  3. Trying to add multiple links to their press releases, to increase their link count
  4. Using the same link anchor text in all of their press releases to game the search engine rankings
  5. Distributing their press releases to junk press release sites
Sending Press Releases Yourself

Instead you should use the following

Press Release SEO Best Practices

  1. Do keyword research, identify the one phrase you want your press release to rank for in the search engines and include that once in the first couple of hundred words.
  2. Link to your website one time using your URL as the anchor text.
  3. Add 1-2 more links using appropriate anchor text, but make sure your press release distribution service uses nofollow for those links.
  4. Don’t try to cram keywords into your copy. Just write naturally.
  5. Focus your press release on getting picked up by the media, not on getting SEO for your press release. 
  6. Choose the right company to distribute your press release, one that understands and abides by the rules for press release SEO.

Our best advice: write a great press release, focusing on getting picked up by the media, and the SEO will take care of itself.

Don’t Focus on SEO for Your Press Release

If you are worried about how Google’s latest search algorithm will affect your press release, and exactly how to change your writing technique(s) in the face of Google’s SEO changes, stop right now. Many people obsess about this and spend loads of time adjusting their practices to fit what they read is Google’s latest change. Most of this time is completely wasted. And Google is tweaking their search results constantly!

First, no one outside of Google really knows the details of their search algorithm.

Second, since Google is constantly adjusting their results, any sort of practice that you might follow in response to your supposed knowledge of Google’s search algorithm can only be considered a technique (as opposed to a principle), and as such will only work (if it works at all) for a short time.

I have long believed that instead of spending (wasting) effort chasing down the latest SEO techniques, you should instead concentrate on publishing press releases with great content. You will create higher quality content over time, and Google will figure that out.

Here are some of my thoughts from years past:

Is Panda – or any other Google Change – the End of the Press Release? (Spoiler Alert: No)

It seems that Google is doing more than just keeping us on our toes these days. Many of the changes they are making to the algorithm are making it seemingly impossible to climb search rankings (although, there’s still no substitute for good old fashioned hard work and content production). After all, article syndication is basically dead, guest blogging took a huge hit, and keyword usage and link building as we know them have changed forever. What next?

panda updateWell, with the Panda update in February of 2011, many people believed that Google had targeted press releases as their next “victim.” Post Panda, many well-known press release sites found themselves buried alive in the search rankings, seeing their good names essentially disappear.

So Are Press Releases Dead?

Does this mean press releases are no longer valid? Should you quit writing them altogether and remove them from your marketing plan? Well, not so fast there, Chicken Little. The end of press releases is not upon us. The fact is, they’ve been around for over a century and they aren’t about to go down without a fight.

And truthfully, they don’t need to. See, Google isn’t targeting press releases in and of themselves. What they’re targeting are press release publishing sites that were essentially link farms, allowing people to pay to drive up their link count, and Google hates when people do that.

In other words, Google is fighting against crappy press releases, press releases which exist for two purposes: 1. To get links to their site, and 2. To try to rank in Google’s search results. Those kinds of press release are just another form of crappy, thin, spammy content.

Don’t believe me? Well just check out this link here. Google still puts out their own press releases on a regular basis. Why? Because they have their purpose.

It’s Time to Get Back to the Press Release Basics

I don’t think Google is the big bad dictator that some people think. I also don’t think that they are trying to penalize people who have legitimate businesses that wish to promote them in legitimate ways. They just want to make sure they are providing users with the best content possible.

Where does that leave press releases? Well, I think Google wants to make sure they are being used for their original purpose—to get REAL news in the hands of people that will share it with the general public. Reporters, bloggers—you know.

If You’re Writing Press Releases for this Purpose, Stop It!

In order for that to happen, you need to make sure that you are only writing press releases when you have real news to share. You’d think that would go without saying, but I know for a fact that there are still people out there who have a plan to write a certain number of releases per week, regardless of if they are newsworthy, to try and use them solely for link building. If that’s you, stop it!

Reasons to Write a Press Release

Here are some examples of when you might want to write a press release:

  • You’re putting out a new product
  • You won an award and want to announce it
  • You hire a new employee
  • You are hosting an event
  • You’re sponsoring an event
  • You’re running a special sale

Remember, press releases have been around forever. They’re a tried and true method for sharing news. Don’t let Google scare you—but do let them make you a bit more cautious and thoughtful about your marketing and content efforts!

Keyword Targeting in Press Releases

Unless you’ve just woken up from an incredibly long sleep…I’m talking a Rip Van Winkle sleep that’s lasted for years…you know that the face of SEO has changed greatly in recent times. Google is constantly making changes to improve its user experience.

keyword buttonFor those of us who have to consider SEO in the work we do, we’ve had to stay on our toes to make sure we’re still doing the right things to maintain our search engine presence. Needless to say, a lot has changed over the years, and if you haven’t kept up, your search rankings probably aren’t so great. In fact, if you’re still using outdated SEO methods, you might actually be getting penalized for your tactics.

SEO Used to Target Keywords

It wasn’t all that long ago that SEO was all about keywords. Whether you were creating content for your website or writing a press release, you always had keywords in mind. You’d include specific keywords in the title, subtitles, and throughout the content wherever it made sense to fit them in. By doing so, you’d hopefully turn up in the search results any time someone searched for that word or phrase.

But times have changed, and no longer does the old method of keyword targeting gets results. These days, if all you’re focused on is keywords, you’re wasting your time. Creating tons of keyword-stuffed content won’t do anything besides send a huge red flag to Google that you’re trying to manipulate your rankings, and that will do much more harm than good.

A New Approach to Keyword Targeting

After the Hummingbird update in September 2013, Google made one thing clear: it’s not about keyword matching anymore. Instead of producing search results that only match the phrase the user entered, Google is now trying to produce results that focus on the user’s intent.

For example, if someone in Los Angeles enters the search query “Italian food” Google won’t just turn up websites that use the phrase “Italian food.” Instead, it will provide results that include local Italian restaurants in Los Angeles, because chances are, that would more likely be what the person is looking for.

The Best Press Release SEO

What does all of this mean for keyword targeting, particularly in press releases? It means that rather than saying, “I need to create press releases that have these specific keywords in them,” you should be saying, “I need to create press releases that give my audience the information they’re searching for.”

This article at Search Engine Land really puts it best, “Instead of: How do I rank for this query? Think: How do I best answer the questions my users have?

In other words, don’t obsess over keywords. If anything, obsess over creating interesting, unique content that meets your target audience’s needs.

The Importance of Diversifying the Anchor Text in Press Releases

Once upon a time, choosing anchor text (the words contained in a link) was easy enough. You simply chose the keywords you were targeting, and linked them. How much easier could it get? However, it has become clear over the last few years that Google is penalizing link builders who use the same anchor text over and over.

With that in mind, it’s important that you vary anchor text in all of your link building endeavors. That includes press releases posted on the web.

colorful artistic crayonsLinks in Your Press Releases

OK, you’ve heard what I’m saying and you’re publishing press releases in a more traditional sense. You compose them and post them on the web in hopes of attracting a reporter or a blogger who will put your news out for the world to see. And that’s fine. However, whether you like it or not, the links you put in your press releases will affect your site.

Maybe you don’t care to try and raise your rankings. That’s fine. But do you really want to purposely hurt your rankings? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone openly admit to this. It would be foolish. But if you don’t diversify your anchor text, that’s what you’re doing. In other words, by using bad link building techniques with anchor text, you can actually drop in Google searches. So it makes sense for you to follow good anchor text practices, regardless of your purpose for posting press releases.

How can You Vary Anchor Text in Your Press Releases

So you know you need to diversify the anchor text, but the question is how? Here are a few tips to help you out.

  1. Forget the keywords. It’s time to deprogram ourselves to keyword usage. Not only do we need to stop cramming them in all areas of our press releases (titles, summaries, etc.), but we also need to disregard them when choosing anchor text. The idea is to pick anchor text that makes sense. It’s all about what flows naturally.
  2. Go long tail. If you are intent on keywords, go long tail. Let’s say your keyword is flower delivery. Well, if you go long tail, then you get more specific. So instead of making your anchor text flower delivery, you might choose flower delivery for an anniversary. Something longer and more specific. This will inevitably bring you more targeted traffic anyway, as you will rank higher in searches for terms more specific to what you actually do.
  3. Use the actual URL. Sometimes you may just want to actually type the URL out. After all, that probably makes the most sense, especially if you’re telling reporters where they can go to get more info in a press release. However, if you’re looking to link to a specific page deep within a site, you likely have a messy URL that you don’t want to waste space with. In that case, choose something else.

Bottom line, you need to keep up with all the changes that are being made with the search engines. And with just a little tweaking of your anchor text, you can get the most out of your press releases.

Keyword Research has Value in Press Release Writing

So the days of writing a press release for the sole purpose of SEO have come and gone. Easy come, easy go, as the saying goes. No longer is it advisable to craft a press release for the simple hopes of getting a little link juice out of it. For shame.

Typewriter KeywordsBut I would argue that it was never advisable to do so.

The truth is that, even when Google may have been giving you something for those links, just churning out garbage releases to get a backlink always was a shortsighted plan. In my opinion, it did more harm than good. Not only did it help pollute the internet with so many crappy press releases that it’s gotten difficult to sift through the garbage, but it also watered down many companies’ messages and strained relationships with reporters (who would take a company seriously that posted weekly press releases dealing with the same non-news topics?).

But of course, that doesn’t mean the press release is dead. It just means we need to get back to the basics and write solid, newsworthy releases for their original intention—to get the media to pick up on the stories and share them with the world.

However, be careful to note—that doesn’t mean we throw all the SEO best practices we have learned out the window when we write press releases. We’ve acquired some tools and tricks over the last few years that still have merit. Tips and tools that can help us.

Case in point—keyword research.

Keyword Research for Press Release SEO

If You aren’t Researching Keywords Before Writing Your Release, You Should

I know, I know. It sounds…contradictory. In one breath I say you should not be writing press releases for SEO, but then I say you need to do your keyword research first, a fundamental step in writing for SEO. Understand this—just because SEO isn’t your goal for press release writing doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be following best practices. And current best practices still dictate that keyword research is important.

However, keyword research, the way we should be going about it, has changed over the years. This Moz post does a great job of explaining that. In short, the days of finding an individual keyword and optimizing all around it are over. Google now targets concepts more, ideas surrounding keywords. So a keyword is simply a starting point. Google wants to try and figure out what sort of content a person might be looking for when searching for a particular keyword.

So for example, if you search “fix drainage issue in backyard” Google may think you are looking for a local company that can handle that for you, so they may send back a list of them. Or perhaps you are looking for info on installing French drain systems (a common fix), so they may send back info on those. They are trying to match search with intent.

Long-Tail Keywords

What does that mean to you? Well, you really need to think about long tail keywords that make sense for the story you are providing. What phrases and terminology would someone use who is searching for information like your news event provides?

Once you figure that out, make sure you use those terms in your release.

Does that mean searchers will come across your release? Probably not. However, it will help focus your writing and in turn will help those writing about your news focus their keyword terminology. Then their articles about your news will get found, giving you the media attention you want.

Does Keyword Density Matter in Your Press Releases?

Once upon a time, search engine optimization used to be all about keywords. Pretty much all you had to do to get something to rank was pepper it with the right keywords, and you were all set. This applied to press releases too. You’d simply put the keywords you were targeting in the headline, body, and backlinks, and you could fairly easily grow your search engine presence.

Back in those days, the term “keyword density” used to get thrown around quite a bit. The theory was that you should use the target keyword on a page a certain percentage of the time in order to get the best results. You wanted to make sure you included your keywords in your content, but you also had to be careful not to include them too much or else your page might be considered spammy.  SEOs would claim there was a magical keyword density (usually around 3%) that would get you the best search engine rankings.knowledge & research

Of course, times have changed. The fine folks over at Google saw how easily people were gaming the search engine, and they took steps to improve their algorithm and thus improve the quality of their search results.

These days, SEO is about far more than just keywords. Keywords have taken a backseat to a range of metrics, including social cues, like trust and authority. That’s not to say that you should ignore keywords altogether, but the point is that there are a lot of other things to consider in your overall SEO efforts.

Keyword Density doesn’t Matter – just Write Naturally

All that being said, it shouldn’t surprise you to read that keyword density doesn’t matter in your press releases. You shouldn’t give it a second thought. Yes, you can include keyword-rich anchor text in your links or even include a target keyword in your press release headline if it fits logically, but other than that, there’s no reason to fret over making sure to include a certain number of keyword mentions in your releases.

Instead, focus on what’s really important – telling good stories that people care about. If your press releases are newsworthy , feature interesting angles, and get sent to the right places, they will eventually get noticed. And as your stories get spread around naturally, your web presence will begin to grow in a way that’s more sustainable in the current search engine landscape.

Changing the Way You Think about Link Building with Press Releases

For years, we’ve been talking about how press releases are a great tool for link building. By including a couple of backlinks with keyword-rich anchor text in your online press releases, you could easily build a nice link portfolio which would be very helpful in boosting your search engine rankings.

building puzzleThis was an effective tactic for years, but like every other SEO and internet marketing tactic, it got abused and ruined by spammers. The quality of most press releases declined drastically, and the internet was littered with crappy, unimportant press releases that were filled with links.

Of course, Google responded by updating its algorithm to crack down on websites using manipulative link building practices. As a result, many free press release directories went by the wayside and using press release distribution solely for link building purposes became futile.

That brings us to today. Are press releases still useful for link building?

Should you Even Bother Distributing Press Releases Online Anymore?

The answer to both questions is a resounding yes. That is, of course, if you go about it the right way.

The fact is that you have to change the way you think about link building with press releases. In the past, it was all about making sure each press releases included a few backlinks with keyword-rich anchor text to various landing pages on your website. Whether or not those links were actually relevant or added value to the press release didn’t matter. It was all about just getting those links.

Add Links to Add Value to Your Press Release

These days, stuffing your press releases with links isn’t going to cut it. Now, you should only really put links in your press releases if they are relevant and useful. For example, if you mention a study in your press release, linking to that study would be useful and it would add value for the reader.

A good rule of thumb when placing links in your press releases is to ask yourself, “What’s my main reason for adding this link?” If your reason is strictly to drive traffic and to increase your search rankings, that’s not good enough. If the link doesn’t make the press release better, it probably doesn’t need to be there.

Now, you might think this means that press releases are no longer good link building tools. I wholeheartedly disagree. Keep in mind, the whole point of Google’s algorithm updates is to reward sites creating quality content. So, if you’re creating high quality press releases that naturally earn links because people find your stories useful, you will be rewarded with better search rankings. The key is to make your press releases worth sharing. It’s all about quality.

The days of taking shortcuts for link building with press releases are gone. But with the right approach, you can get better results than ever before.

3 Reasons Press Releases Help Your SEO

Some people shy away from link building via press releases. Others don’t even realize the opportunity is there. But the truth is press releases offer a great opportunity for getting some decent links. Here are three reasons you need to use your releases to build links.

LINK BUILDING Tag Cloud (search engine optimization seo)1. Other News Sites Often Pick Up Press Releases.

What’s the fundamental purpose of a press release? To get media attention. Quite frankly, this is easier than ever nowadays. Why? Because the internet has created so many news outlets with blogging networks and the like. Write a good release with real news and someone is bound to pick it up.

The result? More people hear about you and your news, and you earn a lot more links in the process. Makes sense, right?

And once these reporters and bloggers learn who you are, you have your foot in the door to contact them later about other interesting story. Your release could be the first step to a long, fruitful relationship.

2. Achieve Greater Link Diversity.

We have all heard the old saying, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” As trite as it may be, there’s no denying the validity of the statement. It applies to all walks of life. For example, you certainly don’t want to pour all your investments into a single stock. Sure you could make big money, but the risks far outweigh the benefits. Such is the case with link building.

SEO guys who put all their eggs in one basket typically did so with article marketing. They identified their keywords, composed thousands of articles around them, and spread them over scores of article syndication sites. And it used to work. But like most investments, it eventually took a turn for the worst. Google devalued the links and rankings plummeted. Those who put all their eggs in that one basket suffered—and some are still suffering.

That having been said, it’s crucial that you diversify your “link portfolio.” And one great way to do this is to use links from press releases. Now, there are some detractors that claim press release links no longer work. But it simply isn’t true. In fact, in one recent study, Jon Hogg proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that these links can have a very real and positive impact.

So don’t listen to the detractors. Press release links are still valuable. The key is to get your releases on reputable sites.

3. Press Release Links can Drive Traffic.

Of course, links aren’t all about rankings. What you really want is traffic to your site. And anytime someone reads a press release by you that they deem interesting, they are compelled to click links to learn more about your company. But guess what? If you aren’t posting press releases, you lose a potential avenue for those interested in your company to find you. Worse yet, if you are posting releases but not taking advantage of the opportunities to link, then you have missed opportunities.

This article is written by Mickie Kennedy, founder of eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. Grab your free 160-page copy of the Big Press Release Book – Press Releases for Every Occasion and Industry here:

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