Do press releases work for SEO? It’s the age-old question that is a sore spot for digital marketing and digital PR professionals for years.
The short answer? Yes, they can.
The long answer? Press release SEO has evolved dramatically over the last few years. For those revisiting the topic of press releases and their role in SEO, this article will cover important points that you need to know in order to make informed digital PR decisions in 2021 from an SEO companies perspective.
Press releases provide journalists and media outlets with important information about an organisation, for the publication to write their own piece and have it posted online. If you’re trying to get the word out about your company, brand, or a product launch, an online press release is a viable way to get attention. Furthermore, a press release may provide your website with increased online visibility, brand awareness and referral traffic.
The question of “Do press releases work for SEO?” is a tough one. Press release SEO is a contentious topic of conversation in the SEO and digital PR community. Press release websites are abundant and provide a space in which webmasters can create their pieces, linking to back to their website. While this may sound like a good idea, in theory, the abuse of the practice means that the quality of these platforms is often very poor.
With little or no regard for the primary intention of a press release (to have it distributed and written about by journalists and publications), the practice of intertwining SEO and press releases is somewhat questionable.
Do press releases work for SEO today? Yes, they can. When executed correctly, press releases can work exceptionally to get the right information out about organisations and will provide excellent online visibility and SEO for a brand.
But it all depends on how press releases are used. Many marketers lack an understanding of the true value of a press release and end up using press release platforms in a way that could potentially put their sites in jeopardy.
What Are Press Releases?
Press releases are short, compelling pieces of content written by a public relations professional, business owner, or marketer and sent to targeted members of the media. The goal of a press release is to pique the interest of a journalist, publication, or news source, and have it cited in a news story.
Generally, a press release will report specific but brief information about an event, circumstance, research, launch or other exciting happenings. A press release is often used for businesses and organisations to make public announcements; with the end goal having that announcement picked up by news sources.
Press releases are usually issued in either a written, video or audio format. A press release distribution involves a piece of content being written about the event, distributed to news agencies and publishers who may interested, and then potentially further written about.
SEO and Press Releases
The reason press releases are considered beneficial for SEO is that having information about a company, brand, or website cited in news and media publications is good for visibility. Press releases make way for brand mentions in pieces of content that also promote the business. When executed well, a press release can be incredibly powerful for a website’s SEO.
This idea mostly comes down to the link coming from the press release, pointing to the business website. In theory, press releases should provide not only a high-quality backlink but also plenty of referral traffic from users who are reading and sharing the news publication. Every time a news source or publication cites the original press release, there will be a high-quality backlink pointing to the original website.
The backlinks pointing from news sources and media outlets are high quality, natural, relevant and authoritative. They make for excellent backlink profile additions as the acquisition is natural, professional, and the publication is genuinely making a positive brand mention.
The problem with SEO and press releases is that like anything, too much of something is never good. Somewhere along the way, press releases have abused to provide high volumes of links. Rather than writing press releases in an effort to get a story written by a journalist, marketers have flooded press release platforms with low-quality and spammy content purely for the single backlink that comes from posting it to the platform.
Spammy Press Release
The reality with press releases is, if nobody sees them, they won’t get you very far.
There is a prevalent and widespread misconception that merely creating a press release on a PR website and linking back to your website is enough. However, this is actually a very poor practice that has resulted in an abundance of press release spam.
The end goal of a press release should be to get the piece picked up by a journalist, who will distribute into a news source where it might be further picked up by another news source, and so on.
This involves creating genuinely newsworthy press releases. Note that press release distribution is defined by “a process of circulating or seeding out your press release to journalists and members of the press.”. Press release distribution involves positioning the piece with the aim to have it further distributed – not just have it posted to a low-quality PR website for a single no-follow link. While press releases are great for acquiring links, this does not equate to posting spammy press releases to sites for high volumes of low-quality links.
So, if you’re using the platforms incorrectly, the answer to “Do press releases work for SEO?” is no. Using press release websites as a way to build links to your site is not sustainable, ethical, or worth the effort. Furthermore, Google’s John Mueller has publicly spoken out about the search engine’s stance on people using press releases purely for links: “So we try to ignore links from things like press releases because we know in general companies put the press releases out themselves. So any links in there are essentially placed by themselves.”.
Given that most links from press release websites will be no-follow, the direct effect of building these links is very minimal. In fact, using press release platforms merely to link back to your own site is classified as link scheming and goes directly against Google’s webmaster guidelines. Engaging with this sort of behaviour for SEO and press releases will only provide your website with a nasty penalty and a spammy perception.
Press Release SEO: Is It Worth It?
In 2020, press release SEO is not worth the effort if your primary goal is to merely acquire a backlink from a press release platform. As is the way with most SEO link building tactics, this practice has been heavily abused and is now associated with low-quality spammy link behaviour.
However, if you take the time to write compelling and engaging press releases that are genuinely newsworthy, then the process of press release distribution will be worth your time. When a press release gages the attention of a journalist, news source, or publication, it will provide exceptional visibility and SEO benefits.
In response to the question “do press releases work for SEO?”, the answer is: it depends. If you’re considering putting out a press release, your goal should NOT be to get direct links from a press release website. Instead, you should be aiming to provide content that will get journalists and news publications to talk about your business and the information you have provided.
If you put together a press release that is compelling, engaging and is genuinely about an exciting report or announcement, journalists will want to write about it. From there, they will cover the story and write their own take on the piece, linking to your site from their posts. These are the links that are high authority, relevant, and will provide exceptional visibility benefits.
How to Create an Effective Press Release
1. Make it Interesting or Give it A Miss
There really is no point in creating a press release for the mere sake of it. What journalist is going to want to write about a company announcing something run of the mill? Press releases are most effective when the organisation has a piece of news that is ground-breaking, innovative, interesting and valuable to readers. When considering a press release, think to yourself: is this newsworthy?
2. Create an Engaging Headline
Reel media outlets in with a great headline. Journalists get sent copious amounts of press releases every single day. If your headline does not stand out, the piece doesn’t stand a chance.
3. Keep It Concise
One of the biggest factors for press release SEO spam is the sheer number of marketers publishing press releases that are far too long and boring. Write your press release short and to the point – it’s only a notice of your announcement; the journalist will no doubt cover the story comprehensively.
4. Distribute to The Right People
Don’t post your press release on as many press release platforms as possible. Distribute the piece to the most relevant sources; those that are a good fit for your location, audience and who are most likely to cover the story.
5. Don’t Spam Publications
It’s important to foster professional relationships with editors and media outlets. We bet you hate it when your inbox is full of spam – it’s best to avoid spamming others. If your press release piques the interest of a journalist, they will get in touch.
Yes, press releases are an effective SEO tool – as long as you’ve got something to say. Press releases are not inherently valuable; they are valuable when they get picked up by journalists and featured as mainstream news sources.
The purpose of putting together a well-written and compelling press release should not be purely to reap SEO benefits – a press release is a tool to increase brand awareness, make newsworthy announcements, and enormously increase referral traffic.
When you create a press release merely to post to a press release website for a backlink, your website is at risk of a Google penalty for engaging in spammy link scheming behaviour.
When you create a press release that is high quality, newsworthy and distributed to relevant journalists, your website has the potential to be a valuable source for a high-quality news piece or article. With the right intentions, press releases are excellent tools for increasing brand awareness, credibility, and online visibility.