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Clearing Up The Mystery: Does Google Allow Links in Press Releases?

PHoebe The Cat in the CrockpotIt’s been almost a year since Google revamped its quality guidelines specific to press releases.

Misinformation is everywhere. Many people have taken the guidelines out of context or jumped to the wrong conclusions – even making assumptions based on headlines or partially read articles, then writing posts, updates and tweets that perpetuate the wrong information.

Yikes! Who wants to end up in the hot seat by doing it wrong?

Here’s what you need to know.

1. Can I include links in my press release? 

Absolutely! Just keep them relevant to your press release and use them carefully.

Each hyperlink should add value to the end reader or media in some way. If they are placed with the intention of elaborating on the story you are telling in the release or they provide additional factual information, your links are probably beneficial.

Each link should go to a specific destination so whomever clicks on the link doesn’t have to scout out information; the link is helpful with just a single click.

Here are a few link examples:

  1. Most presses have a quote, right? It is helpful to link the person’s name to a biography on the leadership page of your website, or even their LinkedIn profile. It provides more information about that person and substantiates their expertise relative to the topic of the press release. It makes sense. Linking their name to the company website home page or a generic “contact us” page would not be useful.
  2. If the press release is about a public company, linking its stock symbol to financial information about that company makes sense because it provides more detail about the company to investors. It can be an investor-specific landing page, Edgar filings or something like MSN Money or Yahoo Finance. Linking the stock symbol to the home page of the company would be less relevant and useful.
  3. Linking every mention of a brand name in a press release to the website or product page would be excessive and spammy, but it is useful to link the first mention of a product name to the most relevant website page possible.
  4. The company URL should always be included as an active link in the “About Us” paragraph at the end of the release.

Be sure to use your hyperlinks sparingly, though. If you have more than three links in a press release, it will start to look suspiciously spammy. And if you have three links in one SENTENCE or paragraph? Red alert! Red alert! That ship is going down! You are in very dangerous territory.

One last quick tip on this topic – resist the urge to link a keyword or phrase; instead use brand names or call-to-action terms such as “click here to learn more,” “download the product kit” or “learn more.”

Download this free eBook from Market Wired to learn more easy SEO tactics for a press release – Eight Steps To Optimized Press Releases.

2. Why does Google even care about links in a press release?

Google wants natural, useful and relevant links, and works hard to identify and penalize unnatural spam links. Their goal is to help great quality content rank well, while minimizing content farms and spam, and reduce stolen, scraped content.

If your SEO is integrated in a way that makes sense and adds value, you are generally safe.

Google looks for those trying to game the system through keyword-heavy but quality-poor content, whether it is a press release, a blog post or a website page.

4. Will posting my press release on a wire service help my website rank better?

No, wire services do not improve Page Rank, search visibility or the overall quality score of your website. Google now recognizes syndicated press release sites and discounts their value.

The press release itself may rank for keywords used in the release (especially for words used in the headline and first sentence) or for the product name, but it won’t help bolster your website rankings overall.

In the past, wire services would help a website rank better due to the high volume of backlinks it provided, but those days are gone. Wire services almost universally partner “nofollow” code with the links in their wire press releases, telling search engines that both the original press release posted on the wire service news feed and all press release pick-ups resulting from that wire release should not influence ranking. Therefore, no matter where the link points to, it won’t help that destination page rank better.

Today, press release pick-ups from a wire service are largely automated news feeds and keyword-generated blog posts that pick up a high volume of press releases but have few actual readers. They simply add to the noise online without adding real value. Once Google realized this, it discounted the value of links from press releases. Even before the wire services put nofollow code into their releases, their value had already been negated.

Google knows the difference between a garbage news feed and websites that provide original, quality content that rightfully should help SEO when linking to a website. This is one of the reasons why content marketing has become so popular. It can be of tremendous value for SEO.

The press release on the actual wire service page may rank nicely for keywords leveraged in the release, but the syndicated pick-ups have very little SEO value.

4. What are a few best practices I should follow?

a. The most important best practice you can follow for a press release is to write a high quality press release that revolves around actual news and is well-written. If you write something that is tailored to the reader, not SEO practices, you have absolutely nothing to fear.  Include 2-3 links where they make sense and enhance your news, without being concerned about SEO issues.

b. Invest great care in your headline! If your headline is a snooze fest, what reporter or editor will read the rest of the press release? Very few. They’ll move on to something more compelling without ever having read the body of your release.  Readers will do the same thing. Plus, since the headline is included in Facebook shares, LinkedIn updates and tweets, a poor headline will significantly reduce your sharing. Who wants to share something that makes them look bad? I wouldn’t.

c. Keep your headline under 100 characters and realize it will be cut off in Google search results after the first 65-80 characters. Length matters. When a press release shows up on a search page, Google only shows the first 56-80 characters before cutting it off. Front-load your headline with your company name and any keywords or phrases you might be using. Also, make sure the headline makes sense if it is cut short.

Read more on this topic with this blog post: Press Release Headlines: Does Length Really Matter?

d. Lastly, don’t waste your first sentence. The word choices you make for the headline and first sentence heavily impact SEO of your press release, even if you don’t know the first thing about SEO. (If you do know a little about SEO, then be sure to use your headline as your page title, and your first sentence as your page description.)

Have questions or expertise to share on this topic? Leave a comment!


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