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What’s the True SEO Power of Press Releases?

Published by | 5 Comments

For a long time, SEO professionals regarded press releases as little golden nuggets that could be added into pretty much any SEO campaign for a boost.

However, back in December, Matt Cutts threw a not-so-beautiful egg into that basket, saying he wouldn’t “Expect links from press releases to benefit your rankings”… and the industry went up in arms.

Was he right? Was he simply misunderstood? Was he just being misleading on purpose?

Ever since, SEO professionals have been scrambling to determine the truth of the matter. Do press releases still offer the same amount of value as they once did, or did that get squashed under big Penguin feet? As with everything in SEO, there will probably never be a 100% iron-clad guarantee that it works or it doesn’t. But let’s explore the matter.

Why would Google devalue press releases?

If you’re a business owner, you may regard press releases simply as they “should” be seen: They’re something you carefully craft, or pay good money to have crafted for you, in order to gain publicity for your news. Right? Right.

Wrong. Kinda. I know… bear with me here.

Yes, some people and businesses use press releases for the right reasons, as described above. But there are other people who use them solely for the sake of SEO. This is where they start to swim in troubled water.

Low-quality sites, SPAM sites, and even scam sites were using press release syndication to create lots of backlinks. Since backlinks are a vital part of the ranking algorithm, it worked well for a while. Press release syndication sites and services popped up in droves, offering to spread your press release all over the web—often for free, or at very low rates.

We aren’t talking about the true PR professionals and big companies that have been doing this for many, many years. Naturally, Google noticed the game eventually and realized they had to do something about it.

The “Test”

After Cutts made the above statement, a well-known person in the industry decided to give it a test. He released a very poorly put-together press release to try and rank Cutts’s blog for a silly, seemingly made-up word.

And it worked. It showed that some kind of weight is still awarded for links from press releases. While that may make you think it’s still easy-peasy to use PR syndication to get better search results, you have to look at this another way too. If there’s nothing, or not much, to be found online about that word he used, then of course it would be easy to rank something for it. What else would they show?

So does that mean you shouldn’t waste your time on press releases? Would you be treading on dangerous ground if you released one online? Can it help your rankings or not?

Should you use online press releases?

The short answer is yes. The medium answer is yes, but not merely for backlinks and SEO. The long answer? There are several factors you need to keep in mind if you’re going to post press releases.

First of all, it needs to be a good press release written about something that deserves having a PR circulated about it.

Finding a worthy topic

Believe it or not, you probably have some amazing topics to base a PR around, even when you think you got nothin’. You could focus a PR on plenty of things, but here are just a few ideas:

  • New products/services
  • New employees
  • Upcoming events
  • Charities or organizations that you’ve sponsored
  • Milestones (e.g., 5th year in business, or record-breaking revenues)
  • Promotions or awards within or for the company

If there truly just isn’t a thing going on or coming up, don’t fret. Put on your thinking cap and get creative. There are many ways you could devise something strategic that would serve as the basis for a rockin’ press release.

Here are a few ideas to get your juices flowing:

  • Identify a charity or nonprofit you like and sponsor it
  • Take this even further and host a fundraiser for them
  • Offer to volunteer your time to help out the organization with something
  • Create an infographic, ebook, or white paper about something in your industry or area of expertise

Once your release is completed, what do you do with it?

First let me tell you not to do with it. Don’t give it to someone who says they’ll publish your PR to 300 different sites for $10. Don’t go plaster it everywhere and anywhere you can.

You want to stick with the bigger, well-respected PR authority sites. Yes, you’re going to pay more. But it’s worth it.

Getting blogged …

One of the best things that can happen is to have your PR get noticed by respected bloggers who write about and link to it. How do you do that? Your PR not only has to be well written and deserving of the attention, but it has to get noticed in the first place.

PR tips

  • Include images and video in your press release
  • Include social media links and make it easy to share
  • Write for your audience, not search engines
  • Create a few different versions of your PR to use with different (respected) syndication services

Something to think about: targeted traffic from a PR itself

The other day, I spent a couple of hours looking at press releases and who’s using them, and tried to assess what’s happening right now in general. What trend do I see? Using the authority of PR sites and ranking your PR highly, instead of the traditional (SEO-minded) focus of ranking your site.

I’ve seen it being talked about on forums and I’ve seen it in action. Here are just a couple of examples. Keep in mind, though, that I only found this happening with “long tail” keywords.

long tail keywords

long tail keywords

Remember that a good, well-written PR that’s crafted correctly, newsworthy, and geared toward your audience will always get the best results. Don’t write one solely to try and rank for a keyword. It should capture the heart and mind of the blogger, customer, or journalist that runs across it.

It should trigger an emotion of some sort. Keep these things in mind and your PRs will attract attention, as well as more business.

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Jayson DeMers

Jayson DeMers is the Founder & CEO of AudienceBloom. You can contact him on LinkedIn, Google+, or Twitter.

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    • avatar


      I do think they’re necessary. They’re a piece of the overall online marketing puzzle that show legitimacy, transparency, and credibility.

  1. avatar

    Travin Keith

    Great article Jayson! I think this could tie-in quite well with the one you wrote up about co-citation.

    But yeah, PR should never be used for just SEO purposes, just as with every content that’s created.

  2. avatar


    At my work we have been debating this topic a lot lately. We have seen some decent results from doing them and they are great for showing a client what is being done for them. The biggest factor that I stress is that the piece needs to have a real or purposeful reason behind the press release not just for getting backlinks because they could just be crappy backlinks and hurt the campaign.

  3. avatar

    Ravi Janardhan

    I think this is the best and rare post I came across, regarding press releases. Done well, it will have significant digital impact in the long haul as well.

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