Google publishes their lists of ‘do’s and don’ts’ in their Webmaster Guidelines. These guidelines get updated as Google fine-tunes their search algorithm. In a recent update of the link scheme rules they included links in press releases. Google now categorizes a press release as an advertisement. This seems to have put PR people into a tizz as to what can and can’t be done with press releases.
What this link scheme update is really about is the difference between owned and earned links. That’s something PR practitioners should be able to grasp quite easily. It’s about the value of third-party endorsement and why editorial coverage of your brand carries more weight than an ad.
When you produce and publish content about your company you will obviously put the brand in the best possible light. It’s called ‘owned media’. It could be your website, your blog, articles you write or your social content such as posts on your Facebook page. Even when that content is syndicated to other sites, or distributed on the wire and picked up by other sites, it is still owned media. You produced it.
When someone else with no vested interest publishes good things about the brand it has much more credibility than what we say ourselves. That’s earned media. Media relations is all about earned media. We know how that works, it’s one of the core functions of PR.
Using that same logic, Google regards any link that you put into a piece of content about the brand (press release, article, blog post, infographic) as an owned link. You created the content and you placed that link there. No getting away from it – that is owned, not earned. Any link that you created is owned.
For the past six years owned links in press releases have been an extremely successful search engine optimization tactic. They worked like a charm. We had the power to create and place links using the keywords and phrases we wanted to be found for and it boosted our search ranking for those phrases.
Unfortunately, it worked so well that many SEO people started using this tactic. It led to a flood of low quality, badly-written “press releases” published purely for the value of the owned links. Eventually this caught the attention of the Google spam team and now they’ve clamped down. They see press releases being used as a way to manipulate their search results, so they’ve listed this practice as a link scheme and classified press releases as an advertisement.
Google is all about earned links. Inbound links, those links from other sites pointing to your content, have always been a large part of Google’s search ranking algorithm. Google looks for third-party endorsement. They check to see who links to your website, blog, Facebook page. A link is regarded a ‘vote’ of confidence in your content. It’s that “Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval”.
Google only counts what they call natural or editorial links – that’s earned links. In the very same way that you earn media coverage you now have to earn links. Every time a reporter uses your press release content and includes a link to your site, that’s an earned link. Your media relations activity just expanded – it has to include getting those earned links.
Blogger relations is another way to earn these inbound links. Reach out to a list of bloggers in your field with an offer or a useful, interesting piece of content and all the resulting blog posts that include a link are earned links.
Another way to earn links is when people share your content and post it to social networks. A post about your press release or other media coverage, with a link to the story, is counted as an earned link.
Be a Link Magnet
People link to content they find interesting, useful and relevant. The very best way to attract links is to produce and publish excellent content. Do it again and again. Hire the best writers you can afford. Invest in designers and programmers who can help you make amazing content. Either partner with a digital PR agency that already has a talented team or train your staff to produce this content in-house.
The Google update about links in press releases is actually good news for PR. We know how to work with the media and earn coverage. All we have to do now is add earned links to our media relations activity.
PRESSfeed is a hosted online newsroom that is a visual content hub with social features and integration. It has all the elements journalists, bloggers and the public expect in a corporate newsroom today. We offer training in how to use the newsroom to improve your media relations and our News OptimizationToolbar has complete instructions on how to optimize news releases, images and video for search. We do monthly training webinars for our clients to keep them informed about the latest technology and media relations trends and tools. http://www.press-feed.com