by Chris Horton
Maybe Matt Cutts, of Google fame, was in a rare Christmas mood, but in the middle of a Google forum post, he shook up the SEO world once again by announcing that press releases have virtually no effect on your rankings. Something we were well aware of, but still a relief when a Google rep confirms your assumptions. So since he brought it up, let’s talk about this briefly.
Press releases only serve to get your newsworthy item out in front of as many eyeballs as possible. The goal is to hopefully be picked up by a news outlet, be it magazine, newspaper, radio or TV and get the massive promotion blitz that only they can create.
The problem is that most businesses and others seeking to reap SEO benefits have always touted it as a great tool for ranking increases and truthfully, it’s never been effective in that manner. It doesn’t mean that you should abandon press releases, because they can still be a powerful tool if it’s used effectively and realistically. But what exactly does that mean?
To start, the free press release sites are pretty much worthless. Not only are they misused by millions of marketers, but the media outlets almost never utilize them for their news. Use a true PR agency like PRWeb or PRNewswire for your press release because those agencies have wide distribution models that actually get viewed. The unspoken media outlets perception is that any release worth reading should at least be invested in by its creator. Even if your item doesn’t get picked up, you will still acquire a good amount of links on various web based news sites and that does have an effect on your rankings in some cases.
Secondly, make sure that it’s actually worth doing a press release. Pieces worth a release would be big events that need extra promotion like celebrity appearances, major changes or acquisitions in your business and similar types of events. Not only will it be worth the investment in time and money, but it will also have a larger possibility of actually being picked up by the media outlets.
The main confusion caused by Matt Cutts statement comes from the misconception that you can achieve a direct ranking push (or nudge) to your site by doing regular press releases and that’s simply never been the case. There are no case studies that we’ve seen that indicate that weekly press releases have any notable impact on rankings, so don’t waste your hard earned money.
As mentioned, press releases should be used only for big events and newsworthy items and submitted via professional press release channels in order to reap the most benefits. Those benefits would be a possible increase in links and increased visibility from individuals that could see the content of the press release.
Matt Cutts statement that you shouldn’t expect the release to provide any rankings impact is essentially true. Press releases are notoriously littered with link bait and keyword stuffing and that practice has severely degraded their worth over the years. Additionally, most of the sites that do re-post press releases are dynamically generated and that practice devalues the quality of the link unless the release is lucky enough to land on a site that is highly relevant to your industry and even then, the impact is minimal.
So with press releases, simply be careful about letting your expectations get the best of you. If you find yourself constructing a press release for SEO purposes, you’re simply wasting your time. If you can’t imagine your local news anchor talking about it on the 6 o’clock news, it probably is a pointless venture.
by Chris Horton
Every now and then we get exciting news from behind the Google curtain and whenever we can get a clearer picture as to what Google’s expectations are, the better it makes our lives. Ex-Google web spam team member Andre Weyher provided some of the secret sauce with James Norquay and here are some pretty major takeaways.
Don’t keyword stuff or use “commercial keyword” hyperlinks freely.
It’s pretty common to litter your verbiage with hyperlinks using competitive keywords and keyword phrases like ‘car insurance’ or ‘wood furniture’ which he refers to as commercial keywords. Andre says to not do that and keep it to a minimum. “If 90% of the anchor texts on your backlinks are commercial keywords, it’s a dead giveaway of a spammy profile, especially if the links run in to the tens of thousands. This would never occur naturally. So ensure you have non-commercial keywords anchor texts in there too – like the url of the website and long tail keywords.”
Should you waste your time getting listed in these directories like DMOZ?
The short is answer is yes and no, but he does insinuate that it would be in your best interest to get involved with directories that cater to your niche. So if you’re a car dealership, get listed in a directory that is specific to dealerships or the brand of car you sell. As for general purpose directories, he does give some love to the directory list at SEOMoz as “good and up to date.” We agree.
The return of meta tag keywords?!
Of the most surprising revelations he shared was that Google does indeed read meta tag keywords. While it will not help you in regards to ranking, he says that it does help Google get a clearer picture of what your site is about. But he also cautions to the overuse of it saying that less is way more.
“You shouldn’t overdo it. I see a lot of sites with a huge amount of them in the META data. Webmasters need to remember that the more of them you have, the less each one of them is worth! The less of them you put in your META data, the more powerful each one of them becomes. They might not make a difference in the battle for the #1 position for the keyword “cola” between Pepsi and Coke, but they might give a head start to the bakery around the corner, competing for the keyword ‘bakery in Brooklyn’.“
What things would get your site labeled as spam by Google?
Keyword stuffing (using the same keywords way too many times and unnaturally) such as “We are an Atlanta furniture store selling furniture in Atlanta. Come find furnishings for your Atlanta home. Visit our furniture store today right here in Atlanta.” Other indicators would be the above mentioned over-usage of commercial keywords which he says come across as unnatural. And as for linking, he says, “How many links are there in total? A very important one; what is the quality of the pages they come in from? Do the pages look ‘real’ or are they just there to host the links? What anchors are used? The commercial vs. non commercial ratio of the anchors.”
The number he threw out in the interview was 90%. If 90% of the hyperlinks present on your site are commercial keywords, it may be a good idea to pull back. You know which ones you set up for specific SEO reasons. Fix it.
What are the three most important on-page SEO elements?
The domain name. Usage of the proper tags (titles, descriptions, headers), and lastly create content as if SEO was your least concern. Google is looking for passionate content that contains good information. All of which we addressed in our first online video for our 3 part basic SEO series
What are the three most important off-page tactics?
Don’t ignore directories (see above bullet). Realize that 3 links from sites relevant to yours are worth more than 1000 from spammy blogs and sites that have nothing to do with your industry. Google judges your link profile based on who is linking to you, so be careful.
There were tons more to read, but we’ll let you pick out the remaining gems yourself and give Norquay some love. Start with part one of his interview here at JamesNorquay.com and also Part 2 here. Additionally, you can follow Andre’s adventures on his new blog at http://www.netcomber.com/blog and also utilize his awesome toolset that lets you uncover hidden relationships of site owners at the root netcomber.com.