The concept behind press releases is that they should be used to share newsworthy content with interested parties. Press releases can also be used to complement your existing SEO strategy which may already include a social presence, blogger outreach programs, blogging, or content marketing.
That being said, press releases today no longer hold the same SEO value they did several years ago, as Google started recognizing that some companies were using them to gain backlinks, rather than sharing news topics.
Before You Start
Before you start writing or sending out a press release, there are two important questions to ask:
- Do people outside the company need to know about the topic?
- Recall the saying from growing up: “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.” Keep this in mind for press releases as well — “If you don’t have anything newsworthy to say, don’t write a press release at all.”
- Is a press release the best way to share the topic or information?
Once you can move past these two questions with the right answer (hint: the right answer should be “yes” to both questions), the next step is to start writing!
What Are the SEO Benefits of a Press Release?
Simply put: the biggest SEO benefit of a press release is indirect value!
In today’s SEO world, press releases will provide more indirect value than direct value. Direct value comes when the press release URL itself is ranking in search engine results pages (SERPs), which is possible, albeit rare. For example, a press releases that appears in the “News” section of a Google search can drive organic traffic to your website, generating buzz and brand awareness.
The real gold of a press release lies in the indirect value. If your press release is unique, eloquent, valuable, and attention-grabbing, a newspaper, media outlet, or other blog is more likely to pick it up and champion it. When they do so, your company gets that golden link, mention, citation, buzz, referral traffic.
Other SEO benefits that comefrom a press release include:
- Natural links from outside sources — builds back links and site authority
- Brand / Name recognition
- Referral traffic
Who Should I Write the Press Release For?
As is the case for most forms of content writing, write your press release for people, not machines or search engines. You want your press release to be interesting, useful, and valuable. If a press release is not considered newsworthy, it can work against you and your SEO strategy.
What about the Role of Keywords in My Press Release?
Proper keyword research and selection is important to optimizing a press release for SEO. Your press release should have at least one keyword target. At the same time do NOT stuff your press release with keywords. Googlebots will penalize you for this. Some important things to keep in mind while doing keyword research:
- Utilize online keyword volume tools, such as Google AdWords Keyword Tool
- Find specific keywords as well as long-tail keywords
Overall, a press release should contain targeted content. This is what makes it useful and valuable to not only the public, but to your company!
What about Anchor Links in My Press Release?
Anchor text and links hold a portion art of a press release’s indirect value discussed above. However, it is highly important to be careful with links and anchor text in your press release.
Why be careful?
Less is more. Let me say that again, do not go over-board with hyperlinks and anchor text in your press releases. Use only 2-3 links for every 500 words of text in your press release. Since press releases should be kept between 400-600 words, this means 2-3 links of anchor text for the entire press release. Using too many links makes the press release seem spammy and gives search engines a reason to penalize or block it from SERPs.
Some other important points:
- “Nofollow” all backlinks in press releases in order to avoid penalties by Google. This requires that each link’s <a> tag contain the rel=”nofollow” attribute. If using nofollow links makes you hesitant about putting out a press release, then you’re doing it for the wrong reasons.
- Canonical tags should be utilized in the event that large chunks of text from your site will be pasted right into the press release, or you plan to place the press release directly on your site or blog.
- Ideally you should use your primary keyword target in the anchor text of your first link because this first link carries the most weight.
- Best practices suggest linking from keywords, rather than catchphrases like “click here”, “more information”, “learn more”, or from descriptive language (e.g. sounds, smells, tastes).
Despite the discussions all over the internet, a press release can have SEO value and be part of your 2015 SEO strategy. The biggest factor is that the press release itself has merit and provides value to readers. This will ensure others pick it up, giving you backlinks and referral traffic!
As stated by an article in Forbes, “Press releases are still beneficial for SEO in 2015, but their power and their nature are in the middle of a transformative shift.” Therefore, press releases should not be your top priority but rather an addition to the rest of your holistic SEO strategy. If other areas of your SEO strategy are ironed out, press releases will help boost your authority.