For a long time, press releases were a not very well guarded secret for getting traffic and backlinks to websites. There are many free and inexpensive press release distribution services that make it easy to create a press release on just about any subject. As long as it’s written in the format of a news story, you can use it to advertise a new product or service, a current sale you’re running or just about anything.
The problem is that Google is now cracking down on this practice. This should not be a big surprise to anyone who follows SEO trends. Several years ago, article directories took a big hit when Google decided that they were no longer authority sites but content mills. Now Google is setting its sights on other techniques that were, for a while, under the radar. This includes press releases.
The basics of press releases for SEO
Up until very recently, press releases could be used as a way to turn what was basically an ad into a legitimate looking news story. The only rule was that the formatting had to be correct. So instead of saying “Buy my widgets at a discount price today” you could write a press release saying something like “On January 15, Company X will be introducing a new product”!
Press releases distribution services
Press releases can then be distributed by various services, some of which are free. To get wide distribution and features such as hyperlinks, however, these services generally charge a fee. Yet this is still quite reasonable considering the exposure that were possible. Not only was it possible to get direct traffic from press releases, but you could also use them as a valuable source of backlinks!
A very popular press release distribution service is Prweb.com. They currently offer a cool 25% off your first release. They claim that your news will be delivered to over 250,000 opt-in subscribers and more than 30,000 bloggers & journalists.
Google crackdown on press releases
The simple truth is that Google finally figured out that thousands, if not millions of marketers and SEO services were using press releases as a way to build links. This resulted in a huge number of “news stories” on the web that were little more than thinly disguised ads for affiliate and MLM programs and other content deemed low quality by the search engines.
As of now, it is unclear how much of a crackdown Google is enforcing on press releases. One fear that many businesses have is that they will be penalized for press releases that were published in the past. While it’s hard to do anything about press releases that are already on the web, it is possible to rethink future strategies.
My advise is this… it is still questionable if Google is actively penalizing sites that have active links in press releases. However, it would be wise to read the writing on the wall and be cautious about how you use press releases from now on.
Can press releases still be worthwhile?
Despite some of the foreboding talk about press releases, they can still play a positive role in gaining publicity and traffic for a website. What are some of the practices you should avoid regarding press releases in the future?
- Optimized anchor text links
These are the type of links that Google now considered unnatural.
- Overuse of keywords or keyword stuffing
This is another red flag that you are using press releases for SEO purposes.
- Blasting press releases to hundreds of sites
Be moderate and let people share your news naturally.
- Multiple links in a press release
Be focused, and only link to one website in a news article.
What remains if you can’t do these things? The best approach is to look at how large companies use press releases. Even before the days of the internet, press releases were used to get across real information that people would be interested in.
Online press releases can still fulfill this function. If you have something worth saying, a press release can still bring traffic to your website. It’s still acceptable to use links in press releases, provided they are not optimized anchor text links. You can still list your website at the end of the press release, or in the space provided by the distribution service you are using.
When creating press releases, you should still seek to optimize the title and your major keywords. These keywords, however, should not be used excessively. They should be used as naturally as possible.
Press Releases Must Now be Used With Caution
Press releases are not “dead”, but it is clear that they should no longer be considered a safe way to build backlinks. Anyone who has used this strategy in the past should not panic, as there is no evidence that Google is penalizing sites that have used press releases in this manner. It would be prudent, however, to pay attention to Google’s latest pronouncements on the topic when planning future actions.
This is completely consistent with the way Google is behaving towards other link building tactics, from article directories to guest blogging. In all of these cases, it is becoming less and less possible to use a “blasting” approach to link building – i.e. blast out articles, blog posts or press releases to build thousands of links quickly.
If, however, you use press releases, or any other content, to simply convey helpful information you can still gain exposure and traffic by doing so.