The following post was contributed by You Mon Tsang, Senior Vice President, Product Management at Vocus, Inc.
Last week, Barry Schwartz at SearchEngineLand.com alerted the search marketing community of changes in Google’s link schemes document within their Webmaster guidelines. The update provides new examples of linking practices that Google now considers to be manipulative:
• Large-scale article marketing or guest posting with excessive anchor text links
• Native advertising where payment is exchanged for links
• Over-optimized anchor text in press releases distributed on other sites
Anchor text is the “visible, click-able text in a hyperlink”. Anchor text has long been a signal to search engines hinting to the context of the site behind the link. So, with these few lines of text, the question begs, did Google just kill the press release? Let’s take a closer look.
The fact is these updates make perfect sense. Over the past few years anchor text abuse has been running rampant, and paid reviews remain an issue in many industries, especially eCommerce. The crack-down on overly optimized anchor text throughout the web isn’t actually new. In April 2012 Google made changes in how they process anchor text relevance. Following closely is the infamous Penguin update which focuses on over-optimization and webspam.
Google’s link scheme guidelines page provides a perfect example of the type of over-optimized use of anchor text:
Most examples are not as egregious, yet the site owners fixated on perfect anchor text links (the phrase used in the link exactly matches the keyword targeting of the page that is being linked to) usually get themselves in trouble with Google by also using link networks and comment spam. Recently, press (news) releases have become an avenue for these same site owners in an attempt to further build their link profile with exact-match anchor text. The problem with that tactic is links in news releases have long been ignored or removed from the PageRank algorithm.
Here at PRWeb, we’ve been monitoring this link abuse for quite some time now, and what we’ve seen through internal research is likely consistent with the greater web community. The “bad actors,” those site owners that use overly optimized anchor text on low-value link networks, have recently been attempting to unnecessarily stuff news releases with anchor text pointing back to their sites. Even before Google made this change, we recognized that these bad actors exist and continually work to rid our network of these schemes through our editorial guidelines and reviews.
But, is the news release dead?!
Of course not. News releases have always been about news, not links. Every business has news to share. A news release provides a simple and effective way to amplify their message. Branded news releases are not only great for telling your story, but are great for reputation management. As the search results evolve from 10 blue links to more robust displays of information, it’s important to represent your brand well in search engine results pages (SERPs). Releases will always be strong brand signals and provide validation for potential customers who research a company. However, with this new update from Google, PRWeb has already added rel=nofollow attributes to all distribution links from PRWeb.com to protect our customers from any adverse effects from these bad actors.
News releases and their syndication networks today, more than ever, are critical to sharing that message. PRWeb was the pioneer in Search Optimized news, and as always, PRWeb will continue to adapt, innovate and move forward to bring the PR and Marketing community great visibility for their valuable content. In light of these changes, we’re taking the appropriate measure to ensure our news releases are compliant with Google (and Bing’s) Webmaster guidelines. These measures will be reflected throughout our distribution network to continue helping brands amplify their message.
The Future of the News Release
News releases will continue to be a valuable asset for media outreach and Search Marketing. This change only underscores what search experts have been saying all along: news releases themselves have no direct effect on your SEO. We’ve always maintained that for a news release to be valuable it must provide timely, newsworthy and targeted content. Period.
PRWeb reaches your audience and makes your news visible. Our distribution network contains over 500 partner sites,tens-of- thousands of media outlets, journalists and blogggers, and unparalleled social visibility. In fact, we recently just added Twitter Cards, Google+ Authorship tags, and additional social markup to make sharing content across Twitter, Google+, Linkedin and Facebook better than ever.
And, when that network (or a casual reader of news content) picks up your story and writes editorially, your site can still realize significant SEO benefits. SEER interactive wrote a great post outlining how they made a real impact for a client through this down-stream, journalistic approach. We’ll say it now, and we’ve said it before, SEO happens when your great content has strong distribution and gets noticed.
What should you do now? What you’ve been doing all along: Write naturally, link to quality content, and let us help you deliver your news.