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Google: press release links won’t help SEO (in certain instances)

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 2nd January 2013

Google guru Matt Cutts clearly found it hard to enter fully into the festive mood this Christmas as he was busy posting away in one of Google’s product forums about the value of links in press releases. ON CHRISTMAS DAY!

All work and no play? Well, maybe. But, whatever his motivations, now we are back at work recovering from Xmas excess, his post needs careful attention:

Note: I wouldn’t expect links from press release web sites to benefit your rankings, however.

Now, before everyone wades in, it is worth adding a few caveats (and/or read the whole forum thread in its entirety). Matt isn’t saying that press releases don’t help. He is saying that links in press releases, that are then posted onto newswire or press release distribution sites, won’t have any impact on search engine ranking positions.

The end of links?

Google’s Head of Webspam is confirming what many digital experts have long suspected, that Google has significantly diminished the ranking effect of links from press releases (or indeed other content) on less valuable sites.

In the good old days, writing a few press releases, adding in relevant links and then spewing them across the web had a definite impact on rankings. But, some of Google’s latest search algorithm tweaks – especially the Panda and Penguin updates – have seen a decline in the effectiveness of backlinks and duplicate content. Something that widespread press release distribution clearly contributes to.

What can be done?

There are two key points to make:

Firstly, Google has diminished the effectiveness of backlinks on low authority sites. But content itself, distributed in the right places still has value. And, of course, links are still important and relevant in press releases because they will help your target readers (be they journalists or other influencers) find more information if needed.

Secondly, press releases are still an important and valuable way to attain the types of links that Google still appreciates. These are links from high quality media sites with authority around relevant subject areas that have been around for a decent amount of time.

Let’s all add some value in 2013

Fundamentally, it is worth remembering exactly why Google uses links (and indeed any other ranking signal) in the first place: a way of working out how valuable others think your site/content is. If you try and artificially create a suggestion of value, then you’ll become unstuck. And that is exactly what the Panda and Penguin updates have taught us.

Create great content (including press releases that say something interesting) and you will get the links, content distribution and social sharing that Google values so highly.

Danny Whatmough