How Press Releases Have A Negative Impact on SEO

using unnatural links negatively affects SEOIf you’ve written and distributed an online press release, you’ve probably taken some additional steps to optimize your content for higher SEO visibility, much like you would with any other form of digital content. The kicker? You might be unintentionally violating Google’s guidelines and tanking your search visibility.

Earlier this year, Google quietly updated its Webmaster Guidelines Link Schemes document, which highlights the types of linking that can negatively impact search results. One tactic to avoid? Placing “links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites.” Google describes these “unnatural links” as “links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page.”

So what does this mean in practical terms? Let’s take a look at an example from Google:

“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.”

Other examples of unnatural links include text advertisements that pass PageRank, advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank and links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites. I don’t know about you, but I hate those.

Here’s the kicker. When you’re considering what links to include in a digital press release, it’s key to understand the difference between navigational links and transactional links. Bruce Clay does a great job explaining that in his post: Press Release understand the difference between navigational links and transactional links.

Bruce Clay explains this nicely, “Navigational links use anchor text of a domain name or a company name or ‘click here,’” writes Bruce Clay. “They point to an entity. Transactional links use keywords in the anchor text, passing some additional information in the link.” For more on this topic, read Four Experts Weigh in After Google Calls Foul on ‘Optimized Anchor Text’ in Releases.

Continuing to stuff your press releases (or guest posts, for that matter) with keyword links will likely have a negative impact on your SEO. So please, just stop it. It’s spammy, it makes you and your company look bad and if any marketing or PR guru is telling you to do this, or if this is a tactic they are doing for themselves, they’re giving you bad advice.

The way forward is to be real. Add natural links in your content, press releases or otherwise, which lead to useful, contextually relevant information your website or elsewhere, not as a way to improve your search rankings. Those days are over. Think of linking as providing value to your readers. Period.

One thing’s for certain: with Google around, things are never boring. On the heels of the latest announcement about keywords not provided, there’s no doubt that SEO professionals and marketers will need to change the way they work, which is not a bad thing. The focus in the future will center on page quality and good content, rather than keywords.

And as a final note–if it’s not news, it’s not worthy of a press release. The sheer numbers of people using press releases as “fake news” in an effort to game Google is part of what led to their demise. What do you think?

Photo Credit: Sean MacEntee via Compfight cc

  • Holly McIlwain

    Thank you for the excellent examples of how we need to change the way we are linking for guest hosts and press releases. I had no idea these links were so damaging to ranking. It all points to being more genuine and less spammy.

  • vicshoup

    I thought most services like Business Wire would strip out all the links before distribution anyway. I tried gaming my SEO a while back with this kind of linking, but it never worked because the links never made it through.

  • ShellyKramer

    That’s the thing about online press release distribution services – some strip out the links, some don’t. But in any event, it’s not “news” and it’s a great thing (IMO), that Google isn’t allowing it any more.

  • ShellyKramer

    And that’s a good thing, isn’t it, Holly :))

  • http://blog.digitalinsights.in/ Harsh Ajmera

    I am always scared of getting penalised by Google, so always keep a track on latest SEO updates. This is really insightful, thank you so much @ShellyKramer:disqus

  • http://www.toprankmarketing.com/ Lee Odden

    All major news release distribution services now add the “no follow” attribute to outbound links so the use of anchor text or not is moot. Any content or media can have a negative impact on SEO if its use violates Google’s quality guidelines. Press Releases are not unique to that.

  • ShellyKramer

    That’s my point, Lee. “News” releases that aren’t news aren’t quality content. If I failed to deliver that message, I failed in general.

  • http://about.me/trapolino Christina Trapolino

    Nah – it was crystal clear. :)

  • http://www.toprankmarketing.com/ Lee Odden

    Classic SEO FUD: “You might be unintentionally violating Google’s guidelines and tanking your search visibility”

  • ShellyKramer

    Lee, I’ve been a long time, very vocal fan of yours. I travel all over the country speaking and routinely suggest to audiences that they buy your book, Optimize, because it’s such a fantastic resource. If there’s something I’ve written that you disagree with, that’s cool. But these comments seem more designed to be argumentative than anything else. Which I’ve gotta admit, I don’t get. The point I’m trying to make is simple: Press releases that aren’t news aren’t an effective part of ANY marketing strategy. They are spammy and they could, quite possibly, have a negative impact. I wrote this post because I have a client who is getting bad advice from an old-school SEO firm and is routinely relying on press release mass distribution thinking, mistakenly, that it is good for driving traffic and, as a result, a good SEO practice. I believe that advice — mine — to avoid this tactic in the future, is sound. If you think differently, I’d love to hear about it.

  • http://warrenwhitlock.com/social-media-expert Warren Whitlock

    Never a good idea to be fight Google. I’m sticking withy the same advice I learned 15 years ago… Make awesome stuff and make it easy to find for humans

  • ShellyKramer

    Exactly, Warren. And doesn’t it just make sense? Always amazes me how difficult this concept is for so many to grasp.

  • http://warrenwhitlock.com/social-media-expert Warren Whitlock

    You’d think “content marketing” would explain it. But the trouble is, the people looking for an algorithm to beat Google’s algorithm don’t want to create anything.

    In one space I worked in, they’ve been saying “make content” for a decade. They call comment spam content, they did auto-blogs before that and page generation by the millions before that. When they show me what they are doing, I’ve always said “would you want to read that? Would you want your mother/spouse/kids to read that?”

    I was buying PPC when adsense first appeared. My initial reaction was to disallow anything but Google. Not afraid of my ad on a competitor site, but not wanting to be associated with poor content. The spammers said “yeah, but we’re getting large checks from Google” and quotes about bank robbers going where the money is came to mind.

  • ShellyKramer

    Crazy, isn’t it? Love your bank robbers analogy — so true.

    All the SEO folks who are wondering what they’re going to do to make money these days are getting what they deserve though – although, to be fair, they were doing what was, apparently, sanctioned by the bank robber that is Google. I like it that today it’s less about gaming Google and more about serving up what searchers tell search engines they want and need. How flippin’ hard is it? The same is true for marketers who have been serving up crap that’s wholly brand focused. Better to focus on customers and serving them — a novel idea!!!

  • http://warrenwhitlock.com/social-media-expert Warren Whitlock

    Eric Schmidt said years ago that Google’s objective was to be able to make the “Feeling Lucky” button work. (one best result).

    His speech was on location, way before social signals. So I’d tell people that a “pizza” search needs to be the closest location.

    Now we’ve added “that your friends recommend” to it.

    Next will be context. Ask your phone (we don’t think of it a “search” about “pizza” and it will say “Shelly is on her way to get sushi nearby. Would you like to join her?”

    It will know my location, my food likes, who my friends are and whether you are in the mood for company. It will even know that while I hate sushi, I’d rather see you.. and it may even suggest something more nutritious for me”

    Creepy? Nah.. we will sort out the privacy issues and love it.

  • ShellyKramer

    I agree, Warren. And if I knew you were eating pizza nearby, I’d damn sure come find you.

    Search + Friends is our world now. And everything we (brands) do, should strive to keep that in mind.

  • http://www.toprankmarketing.com/ Lee Odden

    Shelly, I’ve simply pointed out that the title doesn’t match the message. The “scare” of Google penalizing press releases using anchor text links is mitigated for the most part by news distribution services now auto-nofollowing all outbound links from releases. That fact was left out in the post. Of course releases that aren’t news or written purely for SEO purposes are ineffective and a waste of time. While we don’t use them anywhere near as much as in the past, releases that are news can drive traffic and even leads not unlike sponsored content or native advertising. I appreciate that you’re saying you’ve been an advocate, but aren’t blogs designed for dialog, even if people don’t agree? I am sorry if you took my comment personally.

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