Google has once again revamped their recommendations on what links should and should not be ‘no-follow’. You may already know that Google currently recommends for webmasters to format comment links, paid advertising and site-wide links as no-follow, meaning that these types of links do not pass on the strength of their referrals as a signal to search engines. Accordingly, they do not have an effect on Google’s PageRank algorithm, which Google is keen to protect from being ‘gamed’ by crafty (and often black hat) SEO’s.
Historically, these no-follow recommendations have had largely positive results, including reductions in web-spam and rankings drops for sites (often exact-match URL’s) that were burgeoning with irrelevant and purely SEO links. The newest webmaster recommendations now target press releases, with Google stating that links found in press releases should be no-follow. This change should effectively remove the press release from the toolbox of digital marketers who were still clinging onto them as a source for easy links.
It should be noted that due to Google’s reduction of link impact (AKA link juice) from links appearing in replicated copy, press releases already were of low value for SEO and most links from press releases are not long term. With Google’s new policy on press releases, those who were releasing them just for the sake of creating a link with optimized and targeted anchor text will no longer find any success with that approach. Besides, this isn’t really the purpose of press releases, and those who used them in this manner were really missing the point anyways.
Despite Lower SEO Value, Press Releases Still Hold Value in Marketing
The original, pre-Google, purpose of the press release was to either get the word out about something newsworthy to the press (hence the name) that might not otherwise get coverage, or to influence the press’ perception of an event. By targeting the right audience, with the right story at the right time, you can improve the chances of your story getting picked up anywhere from a niche blog to a major online (or offline) publication. That’s where the SEO and link building value comes in (not to mention any traffic the press release itself may bring in). It’s a somewhat roundabout way of getting the story out, but it can still work successfully and may receive a better response than simply ‘cold-calling’ authors. Additionally, press releases can still rank well on their own for specific topics and queries too, so their value for organic search is not completely gone either. What is gone now, however, is the utilization of the press release as an easy source for link building and keyword gaming.
Google’s insistence on press releases having no-follow links is in keeping with their continuing push to limit spam, advertised content and anchor text gaming from affecting their PageRank algorithm. As they move further along in this endeavor, we can expect that link building as a field will see less and less success from easy to gain links (primarily links that are paid or of low quality). While this may mean more headaches for companies looking for an a quick boost from link campaigns, it does mean that, links will become more in line with what they were originally intended to be; a way to reference things online.