By now, you’ve heard us screaming about negative SEO and for the most part being “pa-shawed” by people and called Negative Nancies, but we have a very bad feeling that it’s about to take front and center during the latest release of what Google is calling Penguin 2.0.
For those late to the party, negative SEO is when “Company A” can pay black hat agencies to set up massive amounts of links in bad neighborhoods linking to “Company B”. When Google sees these massive amount of links, they start penalizing Company B in the rankings because it looks like Company B is illegally buying links. Company A wins. Google denies that it truly has this desired effect, but at the same time released a Disavow Tool for Company B to put in place to tell Google which bad sites to ignore.
Now Google is set to release Penguin 2.0 in the next couple of weeks and will continue in waves over the summer. Penguin 2.0′s primary focus is to clear out and/or penalize websites that are practicing the art of buying links or that try to essentially game Google‘s system, which is exactly what negative SEO is designed to make unsuspecting sites look like they’re doing to Google.
The question is now, how will Google be able to sort out which companies are victims of negative SEO and which companies are actually breaking the rules. Google’s Matt Cutt’s put out a video explaining that Mom & Pop stores shouldn’t worry (see the video on our previous post), but what if you’re not a Mom & Pop store? And as mentioned, he then denoted that you could use the Disavow tool to indicate what websites have you listed on them that you want Google to ignore. The problem there is that you have to know those sites exist and by then, it’s too late.
While we know we sound a tad like Chicken Little here, this simply has bad news written all over it that Google would release an algorithm change that would play right into the hands of negative SEO. People should expect to hear more about this in the coming 1+ months as companies far and wide begin to fall off the Google SERP’s and start screaming foul. Just remember this post when all hell breaks loose in the coming weeks.
What Can You Do?
Unfortunately not much, because if you can find those bad links (if you have them), so can Google and they’re much quicker than you probably are. Any bad sites that have your site listed on them are probably already indexed by Google. But if you haven’t experienced any bad effects of their presence yet, the time to act is now.
Use tools like Arelis/IBP to start looking to see if your website has been placed anywhere that you are not familiar with or didn’t setup yourself. You should expect to see certain growth patterns and an occasional bad anomaly, but if you start seeing placement on completely irrelevant websites or sites that contain questionable content, use the Disavow tool like your life depended on it because when Penguin 2.0 is in full swing, your companies online existence may very well be in major jeopardy.
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.