Five don’ts of writing press releases, with SEO in mind

When Google Inc. announced it was changing its policies on putting links into news releases back in August, the PR and marketing world collectively shuddered. Basically, any news release that has keywords listed multiple times, uses keywords as anchor text, or uses links not listed as “nofollow” will be penalized by Google, writes Gini Dietrich of Spin Sucks.

And while that might seem innocuous, that can be hard when some marketers are using press releases to boost their search optimization rankings.

Dietrich put together a list of five different ways to avoid getting hit by a penalty from Google, with marketers and PR people in mind.

1. No keyword stuffing.
One of the easiest ways to boost search engine optimization (SEO) is to use a Web page where it repeats certain words or certain phrases over and over again, which tricked search engines into thinking that site was an “authority on the topic,” Dietrich writes.

However, Google won’t allow Web pages to do it, and now press releases doing this will also suffer a penalty.

2. Don’t use duplicate content.
Right now, news releases are typically distributed over the wire, meaning you can have the exact same news release in more than one place on the Web, including your own Web site. However, Google will no longer allow this, meaning sites like BusinessWire and PR NewsWire are probably going to put “nofollow” links into the releases to avoid search engines deciding their content has been duplicated.

3. Try to avoid using links in press releases entirely.
While the rule of thumb is that web content can have one external link for every 100 words, this doesn’t apply to news releases. So if your news release does follow the 100-word rule, it may still get penalized, meaning it’s better to add “nofollow” links into releases to avoid trouble with search engines.

4. Use “nofollow” links.
By adding a “nofollow” tag into your HTML code in links in your press releases, search engines won’t send reporters to the site in the link. Instead, it gives them more information on your organization and on your products and services.

5. Avoid using anchor text as a keyword.
Anchor text is the copy that goes around hyperlinks. However, if it links to pages that aren’t directly related to those hyperlinks, Google may perceive that as spam. So marketers should stick to using anchor text that doesn’t rely on keywords, and they should ensure they always stick to “nofollow” when putting any links into their releases.

While all of these rules might seem like a lot of hassle, making it more difficult for marketers to do their jobs, Dietrich has a different opinion.

“Google hasn’t killed the news release – or PR firms, for that matter. Their goal is to bring the very best experience when you search on the web. Your goal, of course, is to generate more awareness,” she writes.

“If media relations is done well, you’ll worry less about what to put in your news release and more about the relationships your firm or team are building with journalists on your behalf.”

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Candice So
Candice So
Candice is a graduate of Carleton University and has worked in several newsrooms as a freelance reporter and intern, including the Edmonton Journal, the Ottawa Citizen, the Globe and Mail, and the Windsor Star. Candice is a dog lover and a coffee drinker.

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