This not-so-little recent tweak to Google’s treatment of link schemes certainly caught the attention of the PR industry:
- “Creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of our guidelines.”
Google goes on to call out “links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites” as an example of such a violation.
Given the commoditization of news releases over the years, particularly product news releases, rationalizing the cost of a news release distribution service has increasingly come down to link building.
Effective immediately, this benefit has been eliminated.
I can’t say I’m surprised.
We distributed a news release last year announcing that Steve Burkhart has taken the reins of our North America operation. Most of the value lay in the syndication which included Reuters:
We viewed the three circled backlinks as SEO gold, no different from landing coverage in Reuters, since search engines size up all content on media properties as editorial. This meant the backlinks gained the clout of Reuters and its mass readership.
But I always wondered when this “free lunch” would come to an end.
When I was asked by Mashable back in 2010 on the future of the news release, I shared:
“Looking beyond five years, I could see the algorithms of search engines becoming smart enough to discern whether a backlink comes from syndicated content, which in turn causes it to greatly reduce the value of the backlink. In other words, even if a news release is syndicated on The Wall Street Journal, with all the “authority” that comes with the site, the search engine figures out that it’s nothing more than a republished news release, so scores the backlink super low. If this happened, we would see the volume of news releases significantly decline.”
Fast forward to today –
Google still hasn’t cracked the code in being able to figure out syndicated content from the editorial product, but they’ve achieved the same end result by going after the news release distribution services with the mandate: all links in content must incorporate the no-follow code. As such, the link still works, but there’s no value in search rank.
Naturally, the news release distribution services are singing the “no big deal” hymn from the same book. While a fan of PR Newswire and its push to support communication professionals in a number of ways, it’s inevitable that the number of news releases distributed through services will decrease. Why would you now shell out $500 to $1500 for a weak announcement that will only generate syndicated coverage in fringe media like “Wrestling for Vegan Baby Boomers.”
Given the importance that Google puts on social signals and natural link building, there’s yet another reason for companies to invest in building owned media. We’ve been pushing clients in this direction for some time.
For example, Malwarebytes recently discovered a new form of Ransomware targeting Apple Mac users. Rather than take the conventional route of a news release, we posted the news on the company’s blog, pushed it out through the company’s social channels and targeted select influencers.
More than 30 media properties covered the story. Zeroing in on The Next Web, you’ll see the publication included two links to www.malwarebytes.com as well as embedding the company’s video. Ultimately, we achieved the best of both worlds, the type of media coverage that accentuates the company’s public profile and quality link generation.
Two keys drove the success of this exercise.
The company’s social channels must have enough critical mass. Between Malwarebytes’ blog, FB and Twitter, it has the potential to reach well over 100K people with an important subset of those being influencers. Also, you need to think like a journalist in pulling together information that strives to be useful to the overall industry (not company-centric).
The news release can still be your friend, but its days as a link builder are gone.
Fortunately, other options abound.
Other Posts on This Topic With Different Takes
- Generate Awareness, Not Links, With Press Releases (Sarah Skerik/PR Newswire)
- Google Is Forcing the Reinvention of PR (Tom Foremski/ZDNet)
- 12 Ways to Optimize Press Releases and Avoid Google Penalties (Lisa Buyer/Search Engine Watch)