Last week I posed the following question to a number of newswires following Googles most recent changes. Some answered and some didn’t. Below is a compilation of their take on the changes. Thanks to Sourcewire, Realwire and PRNewswire for their take on this important issue.
Most press releases are posted on numerous sites to get attention and to promote a business. Google has announced that this is now against the rules. Google doesn’t want to see any unnatural boost to the popularity of a piece of content. Why would PR agencies now use a newswire service?
In short, don’t use a wire that syndicates releases across low quality sites. Duplication of your content is going to cause issues. If agencies have been using this approach with news wires then they’ve been going about it all wrong.
Look for a newswire with strong journalist distribution and one that uses no follow links to avoid penalties. I expect those that haven’t already to start implementing this soon. We did this recently. I’ve put a link to yesterday’s blog update dealing with this below.
Google’s issue isn’t strictly with press releases themselves, or any other form of content for that matter e.g. guest blog posts, it’s with people seeking to use them to gain Page Rank, particularly via keyword optimised anchor text. In fact John Mueller, Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google, highlighted the value of press releases in this interview shortly after the announcement.
“John did make it clear that press releases are still a great way to promote your services and products. In fact, the links you get indirectly from a press release, i.e. those people who find your press release and then write a story on their own and link to you, do not have to be nofollowed. But the links within press releases should be nofollowed.” Search Engine Roundtable
I strongly suspect anyone who’s been using this approach of keyword anchor text links in press releases isn’t likely to have had a great deal of success recently anyway given that, a) any newswire site in question is highly unlikely to be seen as authoritative on the specific topic concerned, b) the volume of content on some of the larger services’ websites would mean that any page rank that passed would likely be seriously diluted, and c) there isn’t much competitive advantage in doing something that anyone can do.
Even if there was a benefit in SEO terms to such a strategy, there’s also a lot of potential for reputational damage if the approach also consisted of producing a poorly conceived and written piece of content, which no one will ever find of interest, and then stuffing it full of keyword anchor text links.
None of this has much relevance to RealWire though. Our focus on providing a professional service has meant that our main clients are mostly the UK’s top PR agencies and freelance professionals, particularly in the technology arena with 19 of the PRWeek Top 40 Technology agencies using us so far in 2013. This type of client base means content quality generally takes care of itself, with our role being one of guidance and assistance to help make their releases the best they can be. Consequently we anticipate our clients will be supportive of our move to implement Google’s nofollow guidance on our site.
Sent me a link to a blog which in short said:
“Let’s be very clear. Press releases have always been about generating awareness.”
Press releases are more than simple SEO tools. Press releases reach journalists, influencers and consumers. The AP, Dow Jones, Reuters and Bloomberg, along with thousands of other major newsrooms worldwide, have feeds of press releases piped directly into their editorial systems. And almost eight thousand web sites, including some of the world’s largest news sites, publish PR Newswire stories. Press releases drive social interaction. They meet financial disclosure. In short, they drive broad discovery of your message. None of this has anything to do with linkbuilding and SEO. This is all about building awareness.
Google is taking aim at a tiny slice of press release distributors with its new guidelines.
While most of the companies using PR Newswire (and our competitors) are doing so to build awareness of their messages, garner media pick up and to deliver their messaging straight to their target audiences, there is a contingent that are issuing press releases for the sole purpose of generating inbound links, and this is the practice Google is discouraging.
Adding no-follow code to the links in press releases will not impact their discoverability — press releases will still be indexed by search engines and the links within them will still be usable to readers. This does not mean that your press releases won’t show up in online searches anymore. The nofollow code simply communicates to search engines that the links ‘within’ the press release shouldn’t be read by search engine spiders and count toward the search rank of the page they’re linked to. (If it sounds like this is an SEO technicality, that’s because it is.)