Last week, we discussed whether or not it’s still worth it to send out a press release, but with a myriad of press release distribution services, which should you use? Especially now that Google has recently updated their Link Schemes to forbid overly optimized anchor text within a press release? Before we delve into that, let’s review the link scheme update, here’s the example Google cites:
When I first read the update, I didn’t think much of it because it clearly targets spammy press releases sent out by lazy SEO or PR agencies. Press release services, however, saw it differently and were quick to change its practices. PR.com, PRWeb, BusinessWire, et. al were all quick to automatically no-follow links within press releases distributed through them. But there are workarounds that do not violate the Webmaster Guidelines (more on that below), there are even a few small press release companies that still allow followed – even with anchor text (we wouldn’t recommend the ladder).
Why Does Google Hate Press Releases?
They don’t hate press releases, they just want you to use them as intended – to distribute news. Google actually has a problem deciphering what’s news, and what’s just a paid press release. They’ve even tried to deter you from using press release services for SEO. Google’s Head of the Webspam Team, Matt Cutts, has long said since 2005 that “the actual content of the press release itself doesn’t directly affect a site.” Further citing that, “For example, on http://www.prweb.com/releases/2005/10/prweb296086.php those hyperlinks don’t help avatarfinancial.com (in Google).” In eight years, have his opinions changed? Nope, six months ago he stated on a Google Forum that, ” I wouldn’t expect links from press release web sites to benefit your rankings.” However, SEO’s have long proved this wrong, most recently by SEOConsult.com, who clearly illustrates that links within press releases do have SEO benefit. They crafted a press release and pointed a link with the anchor text of “sreppleasers” (an anagram of “press release”) to Matt Cutt’s own blog. Results below:
Why do SEOs love press releases?
Simply put, they were an easy and effective way to pay for links… and that’s not even considering if the release is actually newsworthy. But now they’re making the job of an SEO consultant a little tougher. Because let’s face it, it was pretty easy and relatively inexpensive to get links on PRWeb (PR7), PR.com (PR6), 24-7PressReleases (PR6), et. al, not to mention the partners they syndicate with. Oh and the oft chance that you do get covered from a journalist that does actually pay attention to newswires.
But in all actuality, what really changed? Remember that, Google specifically cited “optimized anchor text.”
Barry Schwartz of SearchEngineLand.com reports that in a recent discussion with John Mueller, Google’s lead Webmaster Trends Analyst, press releases have drawn akin to advertisements and recommends that you should no-follow links within a press release, even ones that aren’t overly optimized. Well… that wouldn’t be the first time Google has tried to dissuade SEOs from doing something.
Even after reading the aftermath from various sources, I knew their would be workarounds.
My early predictions:
- The most obvious, allowing a no-followed naked url.
- Allow businesses who use their service to create a profile on their page (Company X’s News Page)
- Allow a link outside of the press release.
Researching & Reviewing the Top Press Release Services
After researching the top press release services, looking for changes in their packages, reading their respective blogs, and scouring their news center for the latest releases to see if they no-follow every link, and I even straight up just asked them, “Do you, or will you have any packages that offer a a link that isn’t no-followed?” Here’s what I found out:
Note: If you’re just interested in companies who offer followed links, jump down to the press release services with followed links section below.
PRWeb.com – Let’s start with the most popular of the bunch. On their blog, they talked about Building the Press Release of the Future, along with automatically no-following links, here are other changes they have made:
PRWeb reaches your audience and makes your news visible. Our distribution network contains over 500 partner sites,tens-of- thousands of media outlets, journalists and bloggers, and unparalleled social visibility. In fact, we recently just added Twitter Cards, Google+ Authorship tags, and additional social markup to make sharing content across Twitter, Google+, Linkedin and Facebook better than ever. And, when that network (or a casual reader of news content) picks up your story and writes editorially, your site can still realize significant SEO benefits.
24-7pressrelease.com – Interesting, on their recent blog post (What’s all this talk about no-follow links? And what does it mean for my press release marketing?) they state, “In order to remain in good standing with Google and follow best practices, we at 24-7PressRelease have immediately instated a policy in which all press release links will be no-follow.” However, each price package shows a new feature that they’ve added:
- Control NOFOLLOW of links (New)
I did however go through many of their latest premium press releases and each and every link was still no-followed. When asked about it, they responded:
We had this previously but have since discontinued it with the recent change with Google.
All links on our site are by default nofollow so it will comply with Google’s new linking standards.
BussinessWire.com – While at first glance, links seemed to be followed (using the MozBar), they’re actually being redirected to a page on their website that is blocked with their robots.txt file. They explain this in their blog post, “Discovery, Not Link Building, is the Objective of Your Press Release.”
What is Business Wire Doing About the Latest Algorithm Change?
Google Webmaster Tools says that to prevent PageRank from passing on anchor links within a press release you can do one of the following:
- Add a rel=”nofollow” attribute to the <a> tag.
- Redirect the links to an intermediate page that is blocked from search engines with a robots.txt file.
When you use Business Wire, we do all of this on your behalf to ensure that your releases get the most online visibility and ranking benefit from our vast distribution network worldwide.
Business Wire uses the “Google-approved” method for carrying links when we activate what we refer to as “smartlinks” in a customer’s press release.
PR.com and eReleases.com switched to no-follow. Even free press release service, PRLog.com switched to no-follow.
Press Release Services that Provide a Followed Link
PRNewswire.com (PR8) – The oldest and perhaps most well known company of the bunch, allows for a followed link in the “related links” section below the press release.
MarketWire (PR7) – Allows a follow link in contact area, a boxed area right below your press release.
MarketersMedia.com (PR3) – While we wouldn’t recommend it, this small press release distribution company has not made any changes and still allows for anchored followed links within press releases.
PRLeap.com (PR6) – Popular for their monthly subscription plan, I wonder how switching to no-follow effects their attrition rate? Nonetheless, they still allow for a followed link in the contact area.
Send2Press.com (PR6) – Allow followed naked url’s and “contextually relevant” anchors. See below for their update:
Last week I answered the question, “Are Press Releases Worth It?,” and the sentiment remains the same… I recommend sending out at least one press release, most notably for the launch of your business. I’ve always used eReleases, they’re simple, much more of an eCommerce model and you can send out a release relatively quickly without requesting a quote or talking to a sales team. Even though they’re no-followed, they do have a large distribution and I did have a few smaller websites pick up my news and write about it. Bang for buck, they offer the best distribution at the best price.
Update: eReleases has just sent me an exclusive coupon to our readers. $130 off your first press release! At that price, they’re hard to beat!
Looking at the list of press release distribution services that provide a followed link, I’d be tempted to try Send2Press.com, because they still allow url’s within the press release… which is a stronger ranking factor than a link in the contact area. But at that price, I’d lead others to a stronger link first… such as the Yahoo Directory (PR8) for $300. Even better, pay someone to write content for your blog to drive targeted traffic.
The point is, if you’re looking at it purely from an SEO perspective, I think there are other avenues to explore first. If you’re in a competitive niche, and you have the budget, it could be worth running a release from every service that allows for a followed link. I’d be curious to hear peoples results post Google update… let me know in the comments below. I’ll also post any updates I find.