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Press releases have long been known to be an invaluable tool in increasing your profile both online and in the real world.
When search engine algorithms began to evaluate press releases as part of their rankings, their popularity exploded. People see SEO-friendly press release as a quick way to get backlinks and up their authority.
Unfortunately, for many legitimate press releases out there, the flood of low quality, and link-spam press releases forced the search engines to take action. As always, that action was imperfect and required people to adapt their practices to it.
In 2013, Google came up with penalties to deter people from creating a purely SEO-friendly press release. These penalties could force people to take down press releases to recover their rankings, or simply penalize their rankings each time an offending release was issued.
These new linking parameters have been around for over three years, but there are still many companies out there that don’t know how to adapt press releases to fit within the new rules. As such, trying to get more coverage may be doing them more harm than good.
Google Guidelines can be pretty stodgy, so here’s the TL;DR version.
Google gives the following extract as a bad example of a press release for example.com:
As you can see, that’s 5 links to the homepage in two sentences. And all of them use wedding industry keywords.
Now, linking back to the homepage has always considered as best practice. It’s worth pointing out that “More is better” doesn’t apply to back linking. A slice of cake is nice, but stuffing the whole cake down can be horrifying.
The same goes for link stuffing.
Even if you don’t see the absurdity of the example yourself, you’ll just have to trust me: Google hates it and will punish you for it. Don’t do it!
Any press release with a high volume of backlinks will be penalized for being ‘unnatural’. Google is doing this to punish those who are trying to manipulate algorithms for an unfair advantage and to improve the quality of the content presented to their end users.
In this article, we’re going to make sure you’re fully equipped to take full advantage of the opportunities press releases can provide, without falling into the punishing pitfalls.
So, without further ado…
The clue is in the title: Press Release. It’s a release of information to the press. As such, it needs to be newsworthy.
Fortunately, with so many niche blogs, public interest magazines, and specialist websites out there, what qualifies as news is now more diversified than ever.
Also, with 24-hour news services, local news services and a move to try and find an alternative to sensationalist “if it bleeds, it leads” storytelling, journalists are genuinely looking for interesting and unusual stories.
By now you might be thinking, “I came here for SEO press releases! I just want to improve my rankings on the down low!”
Well, that’s one ambition, and I don’t blame you for having it. But imagine if even one legitimate news source picked up your story and put a little post together about it. Imagine the leads and authority backlinks you’ll get then.
It’s worth putting in a little time to make your news seem legitimate. Journalists have a nose for interesting facts that capture the attention of readers and boost engagement, so you want to give them what they want.
The upside is that if you do, you’re also exponentially less likely to be penalized for trying to cheat the system.
So, what makes good news?
New And Noteworthy
Nowadays, a thousand new things happen everyday. New has become diluted as a reason for people to sit up and pay attention. As a result, you want to try and make your topic noteworthy. How is the new thing going to change the industry or solve a problem for consumers?
If you’re a company that sells toothbrushes, and you want to point out that brushing prevents tooth decay, find a new angle and you present this well-established fact for the first time.
The new perspective there for you as a toothbrush seller is the money you’ll save on your kids’ dental work if you buy a proper toothbrush.
Storytelling, Not Hyperbole
One of the most common pitfalls people fall into when writing a press release is going into the over-promotional mode and it ends up feeling like a Chuck Norris facts page. You don’t actually need to lie or exaggerate facts in press releases. This is the amateur way of trying to make your product seem newsworthy. Instead, craft a compelling story.
These 2 videos are the perfect example of storytelling:
How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek
GoPro: Introducing Karma
They tell you WHY they created the product, and that answers most all conceptual questions you could have while making the product feel exciting. You can do that in a press release.
In purely practical terms, press releases containing more than 3 links will be seen as primarily produced for the purpose of link building, even if it isn’t true. As such, you should limit yourself to no more than 3 links.
If you can manage with 2, then you’re golden.
What’s more, your links should be purposeful. A great tactic is to offer a call-to-action within the press release or name-check the new product or service with a backlink so that people’s natural curiosity will cause them to click.
If you want to see how this is done, check out SEOPressor Connect latest press release at MarketersMedia.
You can also notice how we point out that the product can be downloaded for free at the link.
Here’s another common pitfall. Because people are eager to rank for their keywords, they tend to make their keywords and anchor text the same thing. This actually does more harm than good, as it’s a clear red flag that your press release is there for link building and not for legitimate purposes.
You’ll notice that the links in our blog posts are never made on keywords, but naturally in the text. This is a much stronger strategy for ensuring your backlinks and keywords are preserved without penalty.
An obvious link is in the boilerplate of your press release, where you can invite people to visit the site for more information. If someone has made it to the end of a press release, chances are they’re engaged enough to want to find out more.
A strong way to still get the best benefit from your anchor text is to use your company name. This makes it clear where the link is headed but makes it easier for impulse-clickers to find out more information without having to be invited to do so at the end of the release.
Here’s a good example from Evernote‘s press release:
This might seem like heresy. “But that’s the whole point! To get SEO backlinks” you cry.
But what is the end game of SEO? To get human beings to your site.
By making your links nofollow, you effectively instruct algorithms not to count the links as they attempt to determine your SEO authority scores.
At the same time, it doesn’t make the links impossible to follow. Instead, they’re still there for the potentially thousands of human users who will see a press release put out on any viable distribution network.
Here’s an infographic to help you understand about nofollow links better.
As such, nofollow links change your strategy with a press release. Instead of doing it to crunch numbers for an algorithm, you now have to generate a premium quality press release that will inform a broad audiences of the unique product offer you have in store for them, and why they should be excited about it.
This was previously known as ‘the point of a press release’, so it’ll definitely do you and your business a lot of good over the long term to master this approach.
To create nofollow links, simply include rel=”nofollow” into your link code. Hey presto! Freedom from penalties.
Press release distribution services help businesses get their announcements out there to a world of big time bloggers, news agencies, and journalists. Press release wires and distribution services will almost always try and make sure your press release is in the best shape to be published without penalties.
That said, not all these services are created equal, and some may put the responsibility squarely on your shoulders for how widespread the publishing is or how bad the penalties may get. As such, it’s worth choosing a distributor responsibly.
That said, if you’re already relying on a press release service like MarketersMEDIA.
They will take care of syndicating a press release to hundreds of influential touchpoints known to professional journalists and bloggers, who will be on the lookout for news to cover.
That doesn’t mean your job is done, however. There are still key things you can do to improve the performance of each release. Namely, get them published on social media so that your followers and fans can help spread the word.
Follow that up by interacting with respondents, educating and informing readers, answering questions, and undermining cynics. These are the things that are going to make you a thought leader in your field and make sure your brand lasts.
This is a crucial step in the process and one that a lot of people will miss if they’re not careful.
Google’s algorithmic updates apply retroactively, which means that overly optimized press release that out there may well be doing damage to your rankings that you aren’t even aware of.
The same is true for any previous SEO approach that is now frowned upon – that same work that might have made you rank in the past will now be an anchor to your progress.
The best thing to do is ensure that you get the press releases removed. Unfortunately, when using major distributors, the sheer volume of syndication can make this next to impossible. An easier tactic is to remove the links from the web, changing them from what they once were so as to break the connection and cease the penalty.
If neither of these strategies work, there is a big red button option. Google offers a disavow tool.
Fair warning: This is an advanced tool and should be used with caution, and even then, only by advanced webmasters.
Press releases were never meant to be used for SEO purposes, they just have beneficial SEO side effects. Thinking of them in this way will help you put your focus where it needs to be for future releases.
A good press release used for the right reasons will perform far better both for its intended purpose and for SEO than a press release that has been created the other way around, with SEO its priority.
Write a press release when you have news. If you don’t have news, don’t write a press release. If you need to get a press release out and don’t have news, create some! Progress is good for your company, and the perception of momentum is as important as really having momentum.
As such, knowing how to market even trivial developments as having major implications, without having to resort to hyperbole, will help you in the long term.
Press releases are a really important part of any business strategy. Best of all, when done properly, press releases can legitimize your business and make people start taking you seriously as a force within your industry. These benefits far outweigh a couple of backlinks.
Your intention with a press release should, therefore, be to generate authentic reads and clicks from real human beings, as well as features and interviews in other media, using the press release as a springboard.
The reason you don’t use hyperbole in a press release is two-fold, but the most important reason is that a press release is designed primarily to inform.
If I tell you the sky is blue, that’s informative. If I tell you the sky is blue because the blue wavelength is scattered by molecules in the air, and that this is part of the Atmosphere’s role in protecting the earth from potentially deadly radiation*, then that’s engagement. You know why, and you know why it matters to you.
*Not necessarily true, by the way, just a hypothetical example.
Don’t try to be entertaining. That’s where hyperbole happens, and you have to think of it like this. You want to identify your first followers. Your champions. Your evangelicals. You want journalists and bloggers to get excited about what you’re doing, enough to want to tell people about it.
If you get excited for them, tell them how exciting it is, they won’t get excited. They want a role to play, and you’ve taken it from them before they had a chance. Let other people get honestly evaluate the value of what you have to offer – if they find it newsworthy, they’ll get excited.
That way, you stand a much better chance of connecting with journalists, media outlets, and even investors. A press release should primarily be about raising widespread awareness of your products.
If you feel like I’ve pulled the rug out from under you with this, and you relying on press releases alone for your SEO, here are some better things you can do to get the same results: optimized keywords, attention-grabbing content, great social media strategy, hashtags, multimedia content. These are legitimate SEO efforts that can create real rewards and expose you to a large audience.
To learn how to make press releases and SEO work well together, you can read our guide to SEO-friendly press release.
If you that all feels like too much work, there are specialist press release writing services like PR Whirlwind that have established relationships with quality local and national news outlets including high-value names like Reuters.
If you don’t know how to send a press release, don’t worry! This SEO press release service can help you distribute your release for maximum effect, and even write a press release for you from scratch to make sure you get all of these bases covered.
Are press releases a part of your ongoing marketing strategy? Leave your thoughts about SEO-friendly press release in the comments below.
Updated: 22 October 2017