Do the words “press release” and “search engine optimization (SEO)” belong in the same sentence? Some marketers and SEO strategists would say the answer is a resounding no.
After all, a press release is primarily a pitch to reporters, bloggers, and other content creators (i.e., humans) explaining why your company’s news is worth talking about. This is true whether you’re launching a new product, spotlighting a new hire, or even managing a public relations (PR) crisis.
It’s purpose-built to convince members of the press to amplify your message — not to win over search engine bots or rank #1 on Google (though that doesn’t hurt).
There’s also the fact that Google created specific rules in 2013 to weaken the SEO power of press releases following some questionable link-building tactics. (We’ll cover that later.)
So, is press release SEO a lost cause? Not at all. Press releases and SEO are intrinsically linked, and optimizing your press release for both humans and search engines can do wonders for your overall marketing strategy.
Let’s talk about why Google stopped valuing links in press releases, how you can still boost SEO with press releases, and steps to make a press release SEO-ready.
When press releases went from paper and newswire services to digital releases and massive online distribution systems, website owners and SEOs quickly caught onto a new opportunity: press release backlinks.
Backlinks are one of the many ways that Google understands which sites and pages are credible, popular, and authoritative. In fact, Google has outright stated that the number and quality of a site’s backlinks are one of its top 3 ranking factors.
The more helpful, relevant, and engaging a page’s content is, the thinking goes, the more people will naturally link to it, and the higher Google will rank that page in search results.
This holds up in the real world. An industry-wide study by Backlinko found that the #1 Google result had nearly four times as many backlinks as the other page one results.
You can probably see where this is going. Before 2013, press releases were a backlinking goldmine. Anyone could write content stuffed with keywords and links back to their websites, use a press release distribution service to syndicate it to news sites, and generate hundreds of backlinks.
Although some teams used new releases as a source of legitimate links, others exploited it. They could create press releases that weren’t newsworthy, well-written, or even aimed at the journalists reading them — but still “earn” valuable backlinks from trusted media outlets. In effect, press release SEO became a way to game the system and build authority with spammy, low-quality content.
To clean up the mess, Google took a hard stance on links in press releases in 2013. They equated press releases to advertisements and decided that press release links should be “no-follow,” which means they don’t pass any backlink value to the site.
Some marketers and SEOs were shocked to see press release links on Google’s list of link schemes, where they document tactics used to potentially manipulate their PageRank algorithm or search engine results pages (SERPs).
Not only did press release links become SEO neutral, but if publishers didn’t set them as nofollow links, they could violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Other search engines as well as major newswires like PR Newswire, PRWeb.com, Marketwire, and PR Leap followed suit.
In the aftermath, many SEOs decided that because press releases had lost their “link juice,” they were no longer an effective SEO tool. However, there’s good news — press releases do have a role to play in your SEO strategy.
It’s true, press release links don’t directly improve your SEO efforts. But they can make a difference indirectly. Take a look at some of the SEO benefits of creating and sharing effective press releases.
Links from authoritative domains aren’t exactly easy to come by. If you write a standout press release, you’ll grab journalists’ attention and raise the chances of your story being picked up by trustworthy organizations. When this happens, your press release transforms into a fresh piece of content — like an original news article, blog post, social media post, video, or podcast — and gains a second life.
Unlike press release distribution services, media organizations typically use “dofollow” backlinks, which pass link equity. That’s because they’ve put the time and effort into vetting your company’s information, seeing where it fits into their content strategy, and determining why it’s relevant to their readers. They’re comfortable putting their editorial weight behind a link to your site, and your site wins a valuable backlink.
Google places a ton of emphasis on content quality. Defining “quality content” isn’t a short conversation, but it boils down to a few overarching factors like the following:
When you submit a high-quality, SEO-ready press release for distribution, you’re increasing your potential for organic traffic. As content inspired by your press release circulates through larger and larger news and social networks, your company reaches a wider audience. Interested readers will click into your site and possibly stay to explore different pages, netting you fresh leads, potential customers, or new community members. (And if they really like the content, they’ll share it and generate more organic backlinks and referral traffic for your site.)
Another overlooked benefit of an SEO-ready press release is that you can reuse it to create a high-performing piece in less time. The best press releases are generally 300 to 400 words long. So, you can simply shrink or expand your press release content to create a new piece of short-form or long-form content. You’ll have already conducted keyword research, identified relevant internal links, and landed on an eye-catching angle for your content marketing efforts.
Although the rules of the game have changed since press releases first went online, they can still be a valuable asset to your digital marketing and SEO strategy. For expert guidance on optimizing the rest of your content, schedule a consultation with us today.