Google Cracking Down on Hyperlinked Keywords in Press Releases

A shudder went through the PR industry last Friday after articles like SHIFT Communication’s announcing “Bad Press Releases Can Hurt Your SEO.”

Google added the phrase “optimized anchor text in press releases” to their Link schemes document, which meant you can no longer used hyperlinked keywords in press releases, at least those press release distribution sites that have become flooded with link-heavy press releases.

  • Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites. For example:
    There are many wedding rings on the market. If you want to have a wedding, you will have to pick the best ring. You will also need to buy flowers and a wedding dress.

In other words, you weren’t allowed to do this in article marketing, now you’re not allowed to do it in press releases either.

Want to see how strict they are? Mouse over any of those links, or even click on them. They all go to Example.com, which is a domain we can use when we want to show what a hyperlink looks like, but without actually using a real hyperlink and incurring the wrath of an angry Penguin.

In other words, Google does not want to fall prey to Google’s algorithm. That’s how strict the algorithm is. It will punch itself in its own face.

What does this mean for SEO?

Same thing it always has. Ever since Google wrote the Link schemes policy, and added the ban on “Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links, professional SEOs have been walking on eggshells.

But there are four ways you can still use keywords and still get good SEO placement.

  1. Use one keyword in the title and a couple times in the body copy. Keywords are not dead; Google still uses them. It uses them the way a library uses the cover of a book. Without a cover, the library has no way of knowing where to shelve the book. Without a keyword, Google has a harder time figuring out what your blog posts are about.
  2. Use synonyms. Google is getting smarter. It understands what words mean. It knows that “running” and “jogging” mean the same thing. It knows that “band,” “music,” and “artist” are all in the same category of performing arts, but it can also figure out that “rubber bands” and “painters” could also be synonyms, so it uses context.
  3. Use co-occurrence. I’ve called this co-citation previously (my bad!), but I should have been using this term instead. Co-occurrence is when two terms appear in close proximity to each other. Rather than using the phrase “stainless steel coffee mug,” I can use the phrase “coffee mug made from stainless steel” once in a while. Google will still recognize the co-occurrence of the term, and treat it like a synonym.
  4. Use Google’s Authorship. Authorship, which uses the rel=”author” and rel=”publisher” tags, tells Google who wrote a particular article or is responsible for a particular piece of content. If you want Google to recognize your contribution, use Google+ and the Authorship tags, and link your name to your Google+ account. Put that inside your bio and include it in everything you write.

Google is destroying the link-building schemes we’ve all come to love and rely on over the last few years. They’re making it harder and harder to do this kind of SEO work. This latest volley from them shows they’re not screwing around. They’re forcing us to do a better job to sound like real people, rather than putting out keyword-stuffed, over-optimized crap that real humans don’t actually want to read.

If you’re going to use any kind of link-building tactics, you’re better off writing guest posts on blogs and only linking to your author bio, or using links that make sense editorially (like the ones I’ve used in this post).

The press releases door has been shut, and Google isn’t done yet. Look for more serious measures in the coming months.

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    About Erik Deckers

    Erik Deckers is the President of Pro Blog Service, a content marketing and social media marketing agency in Indianapolis, IN. He co-authored three social media books, including No Bullshit Social Media with Jason Falls (2011, Que Biz-Tech), and Branding Yourself with Kyle Lacy (2nd ed., 2012; Que Biz-Tech), and The Owned Media Doctrine (2013, Archway Publishing). Erik has written a weekly newspaper humor column for 10 papers around Indiana since 1995. He was also the Spring 2016 writer-in-residence at the Jack Kerouac House in Orlando, FL.

    Comments

    1. Great piece, great examples. Nice work!

    2. Hey Eric,

      Thanks for mentioning the blog post. I appreciate the call out.

      I wanted to clarify that I didn’t mean for my post to be fear-mongering in the slightest.

      I’d also like to note here that using links in press releases is still okay. It’s the *overuse* of them that Google is issuing a “don’t do that anymore” to. I believe what they are trying to say is we don’t like when you use multiple links in order to game our system. We aren’t going to play that game with you. Stop now or we’ll put you in the corner for a time out.

      So, use the links but use them sparingly and no-follow those that aren’t important to track, like the links to your home page vs. the thing you’re announcing in a press release.

      Thanks again!

      • Hi Chel,

        Thanks for the comment. I certainly didn’t mean to make it sound like YOU were saying this was scary. But I know some SEOs, and this new addition to the Link schemes document had them in a tizzy.

        I’m glad they’re going after keyword links, because it just gets slimy after a bit. I still believe the best advice is what they put in their document — if you can link editorially (i.e. “click here” instead of “wedding rings”) that was the best.

        You’re welcome, and thank YOU!