Editor’s note: “Ask an SEO” is a weekly column by technical SEO expert Jenny Halasz. Come up with your hardest SEO question and fill out our form. You might see your answer in the next #AskanSEO post!
Today’s Ask an SEO question is from Steven S. of New York City. He asks:
Are press releases still good for SEO, and is it a good investment to pay for services that distribute them?
This, like so many questions about SEO, doesn’t have an easy answer. It helps to have information on the history of press releases and what they were used for, as well as how they were once abused for SEO.
A (Brief) History of the Press Release
Historically, the press release has always been a means to an end. Press releases were used as a way for companies to let journalists know about big events, such as winning an award, launching a new product, or winning a significant contract.
The idea behind the release is that it would be sent to many different news media outlets and hopefully one or more of them would have a journalist contact the company for more information – to write a story about the event or advancement or to interview someone at the company.
As technology caught up, “newswire” services were created, which would syndicate these press releases much more widely than they had been previously. In many ways, this was the beginning of the information overload that we all face today.
In the last decade, as everything went online, so did press releases. It became super easy to syndicate those press releases out across hundreds of sites quickly, and the concept of the newswire moved online.
It also became easy for companies to write press releases. They started writing them for everything – from every new employee they hired to changing the color of carpet in their break room (yes, I seriously saw this once).
Press Releases = SEO Power
Enter SEOs, and they realized that every time a press release is issued, it results in a link back to the company being syndicated to hundreds of media outlets.
Since links to a site are a measure of its relevance, SEOs discovered that if they controlled the text of that link, it could result in dozens of “highly relevant” links pointing to the site using the site’s primary keywords.
As SEOs are wont to do, they overdid it. Pretty soon Google started penalizing sites that did this, as well as sites that carried these links.
Fast forward a few years, and now most of those “newswire” sites that list press releases use nofollow links, which make those links ineffective for SEO.
Do Press Releases Help SEO Anymore?
However, press releases still continue to serve the same function they have always had; they’re a great way to get the attention of journalists.
So if you have done something noteworthy (changing the color of your carpet does not count), using a press release and a newswire amplification service to distribute it is a great way to generate interest. That interest can lead to stories, interviews, and ultimately attention and links.