Google has changed the rules for search engine optimization (SEO) for online press releases – again. Although the top-secret algorithm that powers the search giant’s search results remains top-secret, the company has announced some changes in the way online press releases are treated, and those changes will affect how PR pros and small businesses should write press releases
Don’t panic — publishing a press release through MyPRGenie will still yield all of the benefits it always has. In fact, it can be argued that Google’s latest changes make them even more powerful because the changes will discourage press release spammers. But the new algorithm does require some changes in press releases writing, especially at least if you’re among the majority of MyPRGenie users who publish frequent (once a week or more) press releases for SEO purposes.
Google’s new change, dubbed the Penguin 2.0 algorithm, is already in effect. The Search Engine Land blog reports that optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed through services like MyPRGenie have been added to the examples of over-optimization – that is, what not to do. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t use press release distribution services, or that you shouldn’t include hyperlinks in the press releases.
It simply means that those who spam the system with too many poorly written press releases will face penalties, while those who use press releases and keywords correctly will continue to be rewarded with higher page rank.
What Google Changed
Google’s changes focus on two things when it comes to the anchor links in online press releases (or articles):
- Anchor text links should be no-follow. This is an internal SEO change that many (if not all) of reputable SEO companies have already made. Google uses inbound links in its algorithm for site and page ranking. From now on, anchor text links in press releases will no longer help SEO.
- Anchor text links should not contain keywords. Overusing keywords has always been on the “don’t do this” list. But the Penguin 2.0 changes mean that you should take care in press release writing not to overuse anchor text, and that Google will penalize you for using keywords as anchor text. Using natural language anchor text such as “click here” or “read the whole story here” is still fine.
For most businesses, SEO isn’t the primary purpose of distributing a press release. Google has always been clear about its goal of providing the most relevant search results possible. Because of this, a high value is placed on earned media and links.
PR firms and small businesses have always used press releases to gain the attention of industry influencers, bloggers, and journalists. Over time, however, some SEO firms began to recognize their power as well, publishing aggressively keyword packed press releases and “stretching” the definition of news to suit their needs.
The abusive publishing practices of these companies caused the most recent change in how Google treats press releases. The goal is to shut down the practice of distributing press releases solely to “game the system” into allowing a site to rank higher because of how often the company publishes press releases instead of the quality of media outlines picking up the company’s releases.
Create SEO & Follow the New Rules
Press release publishing is still a great way to gain visibility online. Here are three rules to follow for great SEO without running afoul of Google’s new Penguin 2.0 rules.
- Deliver Quality News – Go back to the basics, and focus on delivering a newsworthy story that the media will want to share. It’s links and shares from reputable third party sites that Google is looking for, and that is (after all) why they’re still called “news releases”.
- Limit Keyword Linking — If you are aggressively targeting a handful of keywords, don’t use them as anchor text in a press release or article. Instead, link back to the company website using natural phrases that are part of your news story. For example, if the press release is promoting a webinar on social media marketing, and social media is your primary keyword, don’t use it as anchor text in a press release. Instead use “register now” or “webinar”. Also, consider linking to other content in such as a Google+ profile, a blog post, or a published article in addition to your website.
- Optimize Your Entire Release – If making the switch to no-follow links sounds like the end of your SEO strategy for press releases, then you may be overlooking valuable SEO opportunities elsewhere in the press release. It’s still a good idea to include a keyword in the title and subhead (summary) of the release, and to sprinkle them naturally throughout the body of the release.