At a recent meeting I regularly attend with a group of business owners, we addressed the topic of search engine optimization from a content perspective. One attendee said his organization has really good luck increasing its search engine results by creating—and distributing—news releases twice a week.
I'd be a terrible poker player because I'm pretty sure I cringed when he said that, which led to a larger conversation about using news releases to increase an organization's search engine results.
In early August, Google announced that using links in news releases to increase your search engine results now violates its Webmaster Guidelines, and it'll begin to penalize the sites that practice this method. This means that any news release that has keywords listed more than once, keywords included as anchor text, or links not listed as "nofollow" will be penalized.
Rules To Follow
But what does this mean to you ... and to my new friend who has a strategy to distribute news releases twice each week? These four do's and don'ts will help you create press releases that pass the guidelines:
1. Don't keyword stuff. An old SEO trick, keyword stuffing meant creating a Web page that was full of the same words or phrases over and over again so the search engines would look at that page as an "authority" on the topic. An example of keyword stuffing is something like the following with the keywords in italics:
"Many organizations offer wellness programs to help employees reduce health-care costs. When employees participate in wellness programs, including exercise and healthy nutrition, the wellness programs offered from insurance companies are less expensive. If you want a healthy team, consider a wellness program."
During the past several years, Google has penalized Web pages that practice this. Now it's going to do the same for the news releases you distribute on the Web.
2. Don't include duplicate content. Most news releases are distributed on what's called the wire, which multiple organizations grab content from. That means it's possible to have the same release—with the same, exact copy—posted in multiple locations across the Web, including on your own website, as well as on many news websites. This is now against the rules. What that means for organizations such as BusinessWire and PR Newswire is they will likely create "nofollow" links in your releases and link to an original article so the search engines don't consider it duplicate content.
3. Don't include standard links. When you create Web copy, the general rule is, you want to have one external link for every 100 words. This rule still stands for Web copy but not for news releases. If your release has lots of links and follows that same rule, your site can be penalized. It's best to create press releases with "nofollow" links so the search engines don't view them as gaming the system.
4. Do include "nofollow" links. A "nofollow" tag is something you add in the HTML code when you create a link in your release. What this does is tell the search engines not to visit your site, but it provides the journalists who receive the release with more information about your organization and its products or services. When you link to a site in your release, be sure to add "rel="nofollow"" at the end of the hyperlink. For example, rel="nofollow">Visit Open Forum.
Google hasn't killed the news release, as many were led to believe, and it hasn't put PR firms out of business either. Its goal is to offer the very best experience when you search the Web.
Your goal, of course, is to generate more awareness. 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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