Not too long ago Google made the rather surprising announcement that press releases should no longer be considered a viable part of a sound SEO strategy. As with many of Google’s pronouncements, this was met with considerable confusion on the part of webmasters and SEO professionals.
But as is so often the case when Google announces a sudden shift in policy, nothing is entirely cut and dried. Digital press releases are still an effective tool for businesses and websites who are trying to market their brand and increase their online visibility.
Press releases are alive and well for SEO purposes, but the rules of engagement have changed.
Press Releases and Link Building
With the release of Google’s Penguin, the search engine giant made it perfectly clear that they were going to be cracking down on aggressive link building schemes. In the past, press releases and link building worked hand in glove. As always, wherever there is an opportunity for link building, abuse and black hat SEO tactics are sure to follow. It is really this aspect of the digital press release that Google is targeting.
The major players such as PRNewswire and PRWeb now “nofollow” all in-body links. While this links will not pass any rank value to your link targets, they will still add value to your overall link profile. Using variations of your brand name is best, with only 2-3 links in your release. And if you have a Penguin penalty, increasing your link profile with branded links is a must.
The Importance of a Focused Message
With the focus away from links in press releases, the importance of a clear and focused message becomes even more vital. Before you put pen to paper, or fingertip to keyboard, take a moment to think about your target audience and the message you wish to convey. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Who is my target audience?
- What information am I trying to impart?
- How can I gain the trust and interest of my target audience?
- Is my topic real news or press worthy?
Remember, people want specific information that is easily digested and that offers distinct informational value. Moreover, search engines reward it. Yes, even without the benefit of links it is still important to consider how Google and other search engines will index and rank your content.
Solid copy that offers valuable information to your audience will get more attention on blog sites, news sites, and social media. Also, keep in mind that most press release sites now take full advantage of the “News Keyword” meta tag. Google News, Yahoo News, and others will crawl this meta tag and could give your press release an initial pop. Consequently, it will get more attention from the search engines themselves.
The Use of Keywords?
In the past, it was common to load press releases with keywords to attract the search engine’s attention. But search engines have become highly sophisticated, and this tactic will not do any good these days. Let old habits go, and concentrate on creating unique and engaging content that will appeal to an audience of real people. Don’t try to write for the search engine bots, that’s the type of optimization that Google doesn’t like.
Stand Out With Multimedia
People are visual by nature, and tend to more easily learn and absorb information through photographs and videos. Including these types of media in your press release will make it more engaging for your target audience on a visceral level. It’s also been shown that people are much more likely to share interesting content with a visual component. Again, these social media shares are important. They not only help to spread your message, they can also have an impact on how search engines will index and rank your press release.
Share Your Press Release via Social Media
Once your press release is prepared, it is important to get the ball rolling by sharing it on various social media platforms. Ideally, you should already have accounts on a number of social media outlets which you are currently using to develop your brand.
Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ are powerful engines when it comes to promoting your brand, and increasing your online visibility. When your press release is shared via your social media connections, it indicates to Google that your content offers recognized value to the end user. Subsequently, it has a better chance of gaining traction in a given search result.
The rules for press releases and SEO have definitely changed, but that doesn’t mean that the press release itself is dead. Now, when you create a press release think less about optimizing it for the search engine, and more about optimizing it for the public at large. In many ways these changes are simply returning the press release to its original, non-digital, condition. And that may result in a cleaner, fairer, and more rewarding playing field for all concerned.