Prior to the digital age, press releases behaved in essentially the same manner as they do today, but lacked the accessibility and versatility spawned by the optimization of the internet. Traditionally, press releases would specifically target members of the media in the hopes that they would share it on their respective platforms. The success of a press release was then almost entirely contingent on how many publications relayed the news.
Since the advent of mass media, however, businesses now use press releases as a means to communicate directly with the consumer. In the past, journalists behaved as the middleman in this communication chain. But nowadays, between social media, e-mail marketing and a variety of SEO practices, press releases reach a much wider audience. Businesses also have far more control over the information they are attempting to convey, since the information reaches its intended audience more directly. Before – when journalists were the first line of contact to the masses – news outlets could spin the story however they desired, whereas nowadays, consumers are primarily receiving the information exactly as businesses intended.
In regards to SEO, press releases have developed an element of versatility to them. While their first intention remains the same, being to inform as many people as possible about recent news, press releases can now increase the web presence of businesses as well. Intriguing and original content is key in the world of SEO, so if a press release is both original and hopefully interesting enough to convince people to read it, search engines will reward the business by listing their site on results pages for relevant search queries.
Press releases were an essential part of improving a companies’ web presence for years. But after awhile, businesses began taking advantage of search engines by using press releases solely as a means of increasing their web presence. This was effective method until around 2013, when search engine-behemoth Google caught on, and decided to penalize companies practicing this.
This began with the penalization of unnatural links. In SEO jargon, a “natural link” is anchor text that complements the page it’s on. It generally helps users navigate the web page by enhancing the user experience by routing the user through a maze of helpful pages. Each natural link builds upon the content of the original page by offering additional information intended to maximize the amount of beneficial information to the user. This wasn’t the problem, however. The problem was pages linking an excess number of unnatural links on their press releases. Unnatural links route users to a businesses’ web page solely for the sake of driving up traffic and increasing the site’s visibility on the web. This is an example of a “Black Hat SEO” tactic. These generally provide sites with a short term solution for driving up traffic, which, in time, will get penalized by Google. In 2013, Google finally penalized sites sending out press releases that were over-saturated with links. The only way to do that though, was to penalize any site with pages full of anchor text that was not tagged rel=nofollow. Even if the links were helpful, they still got penalized by Google, as Google’s bots have not evolved to the point that it completely recognizes which links are helpful and which ones aren’t.
One way to prevent your site from the wrath of Google’s penalties, would therefore be to limit the amount of links on a press release. If you use an external paid wire service, such as Business Wire or Marketwire, include very few inbound links or else your press releases will yield few visits via Google.
Another way to combat Google’s penalties would be to only issue press releases when it’s newsworthy. Remember – fresh content is vital in maintaining a quality web presence. You want to try and build a positive relationship with your customer-base, so if you keep inundating them with mundane press releases, they’re going to lose interest.
Since Google updated their policies, many companies have found that their old press releases have gotten penalized, even though they were published prior to Google’s updates. It may be beneficial for you to pull up your businesses’ old press releases and make sure they’re not comprised of an abundant amount of links. If it is, reduce the amount of links on old press releases. They will eventually return to search engine results pages once Google’s crawled them again.
The most important step to take in all of this, however, is to keep producing quality content. Social media can be used to announce more day-to-day news tidbits while, press releases, as previously noted, should be reserved for more intriguing news. It’s Google’s world, so even if you don’t agree with their practices, you’ll have to abide to them if you want your press releases to see the light of day.