Are press releases still useful for SEO?
Stephen McCance April 22, 2014
Distributing press releases online has traditionally been a popular way of building links for SEO but, whilst this used to be effective, a recent release by Google has seemingly deemed many of these links to be spam and, subsequently, many sites previously employing this technique have now been penalised. So why has this happened? Are all press release links really spam or can they still be useful as part of an SEO strategy?
When distributing anything online, including press releases, it needs to be in keeping with what your business does and also be useful to the reader. If the story you are distributing is genuine news and has a benefit to the audience in some way, then placing it on sites that are related to the topic, perhaps an authority on the subject, would still be classified as a good link for SEO, provided some best practice guidelines are followed. Below are some good guidelines to follow when employing this technique to ensure you aren’t attracting spam to your site.
Regardless of what you may read from various sources around the web, its no longer a good idea to over-fill your press release, or article (or whatever else you may be distributing) with keywords. If you are writing about something that is genuinely relevant to a) your business and b) the website you’re placing it on then keywords will naturally occur in the copy. All keywords within the copy should be naturally occurring and placed throughout the text. Keyword density is a big factor in whether the search engines read your article as useful or spam. If you find yourself having to force keywords into your release or you’re struggling with the correct keyword density then stop writing and think about employing a different technique, or talk to an SEO professional who can advise on up to date best practice.
Anchor Text (and Keywords again!)
Links using anchor text that contains keywords you are trying to rank for used to be considered good practice, but if you’re still doing this in today’s SEO age then you really need to review and revise your strategy. Anchor text links are now an indicator to search engines that you’re trying to force them to place importance on certain keywords, and in a world where everything needs to be considered natural and user-centric, they don’t take kindly to it. Anchor text keywords should, therefore, be mostly branded terms, predominantly coming from a profile or author section. You should also be limiting the amount of links coming from one piece of content, ideally no more than one.
If you’re not sure on the correct keyword density, consult an SEO professional as search engines are becoming increasingly sophisticated at detecting content which has a poor experience to the end user so getting the balance wrong could be detrimental to your online presence and SEO strategy.
To make your release more user-friendly and engaging, you may want to consider including alternative content other than just text. Images and video content are an excellent way to improve engagement with your press release, which is the ideal way to get it seen by more people as they share it around. Any links placed in the press release will also increase in value the more the content is shared. When adding other forms of content to articles and releases, you will need to ensure that the proper SEO best practices are followed when adding them, including relevant and descriptive Alt tags for your images and embedding videos using video SEO techniques. If you’re unsure of the correct methods of making other content SEO friendly then consult an SEO expert for advice.
With links within releases providing more value the more they are shared, social media is increasingly coming into play in SEO and should now be an integrated part of any SEO strategy. Ideally, the very minimum you should be doing on social media is to post out the press release via all social media channels that are relevant to your business, at very least Facebook and Twitter. You should have already identified which channels are most appropriate to your business and should be active and engaging on those channels as much as possible. Announcing news is no different.
One of the most important things to consider on news releases is now not to duplicate any content. Duplicate content is extremely detrimental to SEO and should be avoided at all costs. Where your release is going to be place is, therefore, of paramount importance. Try to write dedicated articles and releases for each website you would like your news to be distributed on so as not to duplicate on various websites. There are other, more advanced, ways of ensuring you don’t end up being penalised for duplicate content issues and an SEO expert should be consulted if you want to employ those more advanced techniques.
In short, press releases shouldn’t be used solely for SEO purposes. When they are used as part of a genuine news release or story that will be of value to users, then press releases can be a good source of links and traffic, meaning they can still provide value in SEO. If in doubt about whether your content strategy complies with the most up to date SEO practices then ask a professional.