In the last few days Google has warned against using “Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites”. It is part of its ongoing assessment of the quality of links coming to a website and whether they are ‘unnatural’.
The changes arrived, as is usual with Google, without any fanfare. Rather the company simply made amendments to its Link Schemes section of its Content Guidelines, and it was up to those of us who monitor such things to pick up on the changes.
Its important to understand that Google is not saying that there is anything wrong with press releases themselves. What it does not like, and what it says will now violate its guidelines, are:
In the days that followed this change, in a Video Hangout (see first 10 minutes or so of the video below) John Mueller from Google, said that press releases are still great for promoting services, launching products and reporting developments, but any links within them should be no-follow. When asked if raw urls – which you would normally find in news announcement – would be OK, he hesitated, unsure, and said that he would make all links no-follow.
One press release syndication service PRWeb is meeting tomorrow to discuss these developments, but in the meantime I am recommending my clients avoid keyword anchor text links and to instead have a direct url link at the bottom of the press release.
If the content is worthwhile, newsworthy and not keyword stuffed, press releases should continue to have a place in online marketing – real marketing, not SEO, perhaps even more so once those who have abused them disappear.
I’ll be watching developments very closely.