IIWPRIf you follow developments in SEO, you’ll know that Google is clamping down on unnatural links in a big way.

We think it’s a good thing. Fewer unnatural links inevitably means a focus on relevant, useful links: ones readers find useful.

Some of our clients are understandably confused. What constitutes an unnatural link? Why are press releases are seen as risky post-Penguin?

Let’s look at unnatural links, press releases and how to avoid Google’s wrath.

Unnatural Links in Press Releases

First, let’s define an unnatural link as Google sees it.

An unnatural a link is a link that’s doesn’t serve the human reader. It has no editorial value, in other words. Normally, the link will have been inserted purely to pass PageRank or manipulate search engine rankings.

You can easily pick out an intentional, unnatural link. The anchor text for the link is a very obvious keyword. There will often be multiple links with very similar keywords all on the same page.

Google’s not keen on any form of manipulation, so it considers these links to be a form of spam.

This trend for keyword anchor text has become rife in press releases. But the press release itself isn’t the problem. The keyword anchor text is the problem. The press release has just become a vessel for those links.

How We Write Press Releases

When we’re asked to write a press release for a client, we have a number of priorities.

  • Quality content. As with all website content, the press release needs to be worth reading. That means it should be about an actual news story.
  • The right angle. Rather than focusing on link building, we need to focus on genuine news that’s ‘shareable’ so we get genuine inbound links.
  • Minimal outbound links. We use rel=nofollow on most (or all) links in the press release, particularly if they could be misconstrued as being spammy.
  • No keyword links. If a client wants to link keywords, we explain why it’s outdated and find alternative methods.
  • Natural headings. Use of keywords only where it makes sense. (This is a good principle to follow in all SEO copywriting projects anyway.)
  • Quality distribution. We only use one paid site to distribute our press releases. It may not be cheap, but the days of the free newswire are almost over, and any company that’s serious about their release will be happy to pay.

As you can see, the SEO value is still there, but the focus is reversed. No keyword links, no link spam, but a focus on quality and readability in order to generate authentic backlinks.

How You Can Support a Press Release

As part of our press release writing service, we handle submissions and corrections, so the client doesn’t need to do anything else once they’ve signed off the written content.

However, there are some additional tactics you can use to support our writing:

  • Post the release on your website. All of your social links should point there.
  • Use a good photograph. Don’t use generic photos of people in suits; they don’t fool anyone. iStockPhoto is cheaper than you might expect.
  • Share your press release. Treat it like a blog: spread the word on social media. Experiment with automation services like Buffer and IFTTT.
  • Plan fewer press releases. Invest more time and money in the quality of each one.
  • Pick genuine news. Press releases should be interesting, so have a target audience in mind.
  • Publicise your release. Work hard to get backlinks: don’t wait for them to come to you.
  • Embed clear sharing links. Make sharing easy and quick. We like Digg Digg for WordPress: it’s free.
  • Check the speed of your website. If you’ve never done this before, a quick PageSpeed test is a good place to start.

Final Points to Remember

Press releases aren’t just an SEO tool. They are best used when you have something genuinely exciting to announce, and the backlinks can be very valuable if the quality is there.

Over time, press release sites and wires are likely to clamp down on unnatural links in order to preserve their own authority and rankings. It’s better to get in ahead of the curve and change the way you think about press releases now.

If you hire us to write a press release, make sure you have some additional strategies in place – including organic, natural link building – to back up your investment.

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Claire Broadley

Technical writer, blogger, and editor at Red Robot Media
Claire Broadley is a freelance technical blogger for Red Robot Media. She works on technical and business blogs. If you'd like Claire to write for you, contact Red Robot Media now.