NoFollow Links in Press Releases? How To Revise Your Press Release Strategy

Recently, Google took the position that press releases were simply link schemes, advertorials for a business. Therefore, all links in press releases should have the nofollow attribute added to the links, so that the press release does not pass any SEO (Search Engine Optimization) value to the website it’s linking to. Take a look at the video.

In the video, according to a recent Search Engine Land article, “Throughout the video, John Mueller equated press releases to advertisements. It was specifically asked if all links in press releases need to be nofollowed or just “links with optimized anchor text” in press releases need to be nofollowed.”

This is actually a surprising position that Google is taking. But I have a suspicion as to why they are wanting us to put nofollow links in press releases now. As you might recall, in January, 2013, Google said that “links in press releases don’t benefit your rankings”. But, as it turns out, some SEOs challenged that: and they proved that links in press releases really DO benefit rankings.

Couldn’t Google just search the page for the word “press release” and the standard city and date that’s put at the beginning of the typical press release format and literally discount the links in that press release? Well, uh, apparently not. Looks to me like Google couldn’t technically do that for some reason (perhaps it would take too much programming to change the algorithm to do that). So, at this point, we’re now seeing Google take a different approach when it comes to press releases: tell us, the website owners, to put nofollow links in press releases. That’s just “easier” for Google, so they’re asking us to do that instead of changing the algorithm (which they should do).

Personally, I believe that proper press releases are NOT advertorials, and, when done correctly, should be counted as part of any search engine algorithm. The proper press release should be newsworthy, and should not be written as a advertorial for a company or website just to get some sort of “SEO benefit” from it. I have to admit, though, that there are a lot of SEOs out there who have “gamed the system” so to speak and just ruined the whole press release industry. In fact, I also blame all of the spammy “press release sites” that have been put up over the years, just to take someone’s money to post a “press release” on the website. I’m not talking about legitimate press release distribution sites here, like, PR Newswire, and Marketwire. It’s the “free press release” sites and those who charge a minimal amount to post your press release. The sites that have absolutely no editorial system in place.

Couldn’t Google do their job, though? Figure out which press releases sites are legitimate, which ones have editors, and count those links: instead, Google has to put out a blanked statement saying that all press releases are advertorials? Doesn’t seem right to me. But I digress.

So What Do We Do Now?
That’s a good question. Now that press releases are supposed to now have the “nofollow” link attribute added to all links, is it still worth it to write a press release and submit it to sites like PRWeb, PR Newswire, MarketWire, and PR Leap? Sure. I would not change your press release strategy at all. Not one bit. But, I would use the following “tips” and “tricks” in order to make sure that you get a huge amount of value from any press release that you write and have distributed.

– Only issue a press release that contains newsworthy content. I know it may be hard to do, but go back to the basics: is there the potential that a real news site is going to pick up your news? Is it news? Or are you just doing it for SEO value?

– Submit and distribute the press release using only legitimate press release sites. Use the big ones, such as PRWeb, PR Newswire, MarketWire, and PR Leap. Those are the sites that the major news agencies troll for news. I wouldn’t even messs with the “free ones” now. You might want to still set up a PressDoc for your company, that still does have some value.

– Hire a good press release writer. The actual journalists and editors reading through thousands of press release headlines can tell the good ones from the poorly written ones. That’s what they do for a living. They can spot great headlines a mile away: and a good press release writer will know how to write a headline, not just stuff it with keywords.

– Take the time to get to know the news media. You have to do your homework. Don’t just expect to get a press release written and blindly send it out to news sites. It doesn’t work that way. Make a list of the top media sites in your industry, as well as bloggers. Contact them ahead of time to make sure they’re the proper person to send news to when you have news to report. Bloggers really like to receive press releases, just like news agencies. If you get a blogger to write about your news, the SEO value may be more than what you get from a mention on a news site (which will probably not include a link).

– Use traditional Public Relations (PR) tactics to get your news in front of the right news media pros who will write about your company news. If you don’t know those tactics, then do some additional research. Looking for a great book about how to get free publicity? Try Jeff Crilley’s book, Free Publicity: A TV Reporter Shares the Secrets for Getting Covered on the News. Jeff was a reporter in Dallas on Fox for many years, and shares his views on how to get free publicity.

Certainly these are only a few tips to get you started. But as we realize now that we are not going to write a press release and include a few links to our website and get tons of SEO value from it, we have to go back to the basics: why are you even writing a press release? Is it news? If so, great. If not, then don’t even bother: you won’t get the SEO value you once did, and most likely no news agency or blogger will pick up or mention you in their news story.

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