How to Use Press Releases for SEO

Ashley Peterson

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 principally to gain backlinks, rather than for sharing news topics.

Before You Start

Before you start writing, submitting, or sending out a press release, there are two important questions to ask:

  1. 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.”
  2. 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 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. You can also get direct value from the link of the press release site.

That said, the real gold of a press release lies in the indirect value it generates. If your press release is unique, eloquent, valuable, and attention-grabbing, then 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, etc. from all of these outside sources, not just from the submission site.

Other SEO benefits that come from a press release submission include:

  • Natural links from outside sources (i.e. the stuff that builds back links and site authority)
  • Brand Visibility
  • 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 for optimizing a press release for SEO. Your press release should have at least one keyword target, and that keyword should be used in the headline, first paragraph, and one anchor link. At the same time, do NOT stuff your press release with keywords – Google 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 or SEMRush
    • Find specific keywords as well as long-tail keywords
    • Think about keywords in the context of users, not search engines. i.e. Consider what people might actually be looking for, not what Google wants to see.

Overall, a press release should contain targeted content. This is what makes it useful and valuable to not only the public, but also to your company!

What about Anchor Links in My Press Release?

Anchor text and links contribute to 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. Do not go overboard 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.
  • 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).

What are the Best Companies to use for a Press Release Submission?

There are a number of different companies providing quality packages for press release online. As with anything, there are pros and cons to any selection, and the best selection will vary depending on your unique needs.

Furthermore, each company will also offer different levels or packages for your submission. Depending on your needs, different packages will work better or worse, so it is important to research all the options before paying.

Bearing all that in mind, there are many good companies to choose from, and multiple online lists provide details of the top solutions. Here are a few great options that we have had good experiences with over the years:

Summary – Do Press Releases Still Work For SEO?

Despite the discussions all over the internet, a press release can still have SEO value and be part of your 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! Seen from this point of view, they can definitely still “work” and help with SEO.

Just remember, here is a handy checklist and summary to determine if it’s worth doing a press release:

  • Is your content truly newsworthy?
  • Is your submission going to be valuable to readers?
  • Are you willing to use a respectable, value press release distribution company?

If you answered “Yes” to all of those questions, then you’re probably safe to proceed.

As stated in Forbes, “Press releases are still beneficial for SEO, 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.