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2nd August 2013

Google Guidelines for Links in Press Releases Changed

Links in press releases

When brands realized that press releases are content that could be found and read online – by both journalists and the public alike – links in press releases became valuable.

For many years inbound links on optimized anchor text words and phrases have been a major part of the Google search ranking algorithm. SEO firms were quick to see the value of press releases with optimized links in them. After all, releases distributed on the wire appear on many other sites and blogs.  So they started using press releases as an SEO tactic. These releases are not always the best quality press releases mind, but they are labeled press releases nonetheless.

The low-quality, spammy press releases stuffed with links that have proliferated in the last couple of years have caught the attention of the Google search spam team.  In a recent video interview Matt Cutts, head of this team at Google, made it clear that these links are not counted towards ranking.  Not only that, but this practice could get you penalized.

And bad news for us PR practitioners: The use of press releases as an SEO tactic has led Google to regard a press release as an advertisement with “unnatural” links. And indeed, many SEO press releases are more of an advertisement than a press release.

So what’s a smart digital PR person to do?  Stop writing press releases?  Never add a link?

Let’s examine what Google regards as important. Google’s main goal is to provide the best quality content on a subject to a searcher. All their recent updates have been in the direction of increasing the quality of the content they index and rank.

A link is supposed to be an editorial vote of confidence for the content it links to.  It should occur naturally. Someone sees your content and thinks it is worthy of mention. They want to share it with others, so they link to it.

In Matt Cutt’s words:

“The goal should really be to make a fantastic website that people love and tell their friends about and link to and want to experience. As a result, your website starts to become stronger and stronger in the rankings.”

In PR we don’t put links in our press releases for SEO reasons. Digital journalists and bloggers ask for links to additional or supporting material.  We link to our newsroom for more information.  We send people to content, images or videos. We use links to track outcomes from a press release, so links have become an essential part of PR measurement. And although we don’t build or control websites, we do have online newsrooms,  So for “fantastic website” read “fantastic online newsroom.”

Syndication of News

A press release is often posted on the wire so it gets distributed to many other websites.  According to Cutts:

“Syndication can be a valid way to either increase your reputation or to drive traffic and potentially get more links. The main caution that I would add is that there are some mechanical things that you should pay attention to and try to make sure that you get right.”

This is where it gets a little technical.  Always post your content to your own website or newsroom first and tag it with a rel=canonical tag. (Ask your webmaster about that part.) That shows Google that you are the origin and author of the content.

Guest Blogging  

Here’s what Cutts has to say about guest blogging:

“Posts like that can be a great way to get your name out there, to build your reputation, to make yourself known, potentially build links or traffic or help with your SEO.  The problem is that if we look at the overall volume of guest posting we see a large number of people who are offering guest blogs or guest blog articles where they are writing the same article and producing multiple copies of it and emailing out of the blue and they will create the same low quality types of articles that people used to put on article directory or article bank sites.”

So once again it’s about the quality of the content. If you write for another website or blog, and you produce original, interesting content, it will be seen as such by Google. And when others like it, share it and link to it, it will be counted as that all-important editorial vote of confidence.

Google’s stance is that when a company places a link in a piece of content themselves and then attempts to get it seen as a link from another site, Google sees that as a no-no. They require those links to have a “no-follow” tag. (again speak to your IT folk.)

That does not mean the release won’t be found in search, it just means Google won’t give weight to the link for SEO purposes.

So genuine press releases with links that make sense for the reader are totally fine. If you place links in the release purely for SEO value, Google will regard it as unnatural.

This is the example in the updated Google guidelines for bad links in press releases.

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.

Good press releases are written to raise awareness, bring new ideas to the attention of the media and the public and make your news content discoverable by the right audiences. Treat them as such.

For more information on writing press releases that get results read

SMART News: how to write press releases that get found and shared online.

Available on Amazon from August 5, 2013.

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17th May 2013

Twitter Is Now a Part of the Media


Twitter is already playing a large part in the news industry: it’s where many people find breaking news and journalists go to locate sources close to a breaking story.  And Twitter has big plans to become even more entrenched as a news source. They recently posted this job opening:

Twitter is playing an integral role in the evolution of the news industry — both as a tool for reporters and newsrooms and as a way for consumers to find news in real-time. Twitter has already changed the way news breaks and provided journalists new ways to connect with their readers. We are looking for a seasoned leader to shape and drive the next growth phase of Twitter’s partnership with the news industry. We believe Twitter is a valuable complement to the great work already being done and want to find ways for Twitter to help ensure the industry’s success.

How does Twitter envision their role in the news business? This is what they expect the new hire to do for Twitter:

You will be responsible for devising and executing the strategies that make Twitter indispensable to newsrooms and journalists, as well as an essential part of the operations and strategy of news organizations and TV news networks. You should have a strong vision for the broad potential of Twitter and news, while also being able to rigorously manage and scale the news team’s daily impact.

And these are the key results they hope this person will achieve for Twitter:

  • Develop a multi-year year strategy for news that drives substantial increases in:
    • Volume and quality of professional news content on Twitter, especially in breaking news
    • Number of journalists using Twitter, both as a tool to aid their reporting and also as a tool to distribute their content
    • Volume and quality in usage of Twitter as a source in news stories (online and in print)
    • How widely and effectively Twitter products are used by news organizations—from embedded timelines and Tweets on news sites to adoption of on-Twitter products like Twitter Cards
    • Volume and quality of on-air integrations across TV news networks
    • Frequency and engagement level of user behavior around news content on Twitter

No small undertaking.  And a clear indication of Twitter’s commitment to becoming a major influence in the news industry.

Is Twitter an integral part of  your Digital PR and media relations strategy?  If not, you might want to rethink what you’re doing with Twitter. It should be way more than just an outreach activity.

  1. Use Twitter to find journalists, bloggers and influencers who should be part of your media relations plan. (Learn to search Twitter bios)
  2. Build relationships with them on Twitter
  3. Make Twitter part of your news syndication network – distribute your news there.
  4. Optimize your Twitter bio and all tweets for search.
  5. Display your Twitter feed in your online newsroom

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29th April 2013

Why Social Media Matters

There are many reasons why a company should be active and engaged on social media.  Many of them are positive and can help a brand expand. The immediacy of the medium, the ease of access and the rapid sharing of negative content can also become a major issue.

CIO Magazine reports that one disgruntled ex-employee of music retailer HMV hijacked the Twitter account of and let the world know what was occurring internally as the firm went into administration. Don’t think this couldn’t happen to you – most companies are only one tweet away from a similar situation, says Anthony Mittelmark, an enterprise-grade digital expert and director at PwC Australia.

That view is borne out by the Digital Crisis Preparedness Report conducted by Burson-Marstellar.  They found that almost 80% of firms worldwide fully expect a crisis to occur in the next twelve months and half of them think it will be fueled by online comments.  It can happen in the blink of an eye.  One tweet is all it takes.  If that gets picked up and retweeted or blogged by someone of influence with a large following online the traditional media will not be far behind.

Ask Nestle.  Or Papa Johns. Or Progressive Insurance.  And the list goes on.

Can this be avoided?  Yes, say the analysts at the Altimeter Group. Three-quarters of the online crises that occurred in the last few years need not have happened at all.  The problem was that the brands were caught with their proverbial pants down.  Their employees were totally unprepared for an online attack.

What can you do get prepared?

  1. Keep control of your social media passwords. Know who has access and change the passwords immediately if someone leaves the organization. If you know one of the password holders is going to be let go, change the passwords before you tell them. Change the passwords regularly  for security.
  2. Be prepared for a hacker attack.  It can happen to anyone. Have a plan.
  3. Training and education: make sure your employees responsible for social media are prepared for a negative incident or crisis. The Nestle Greenpeace attack and the Burger King incident were both accelerated by a lack of skills on the part of employees.
  4. Have a social online newsroom that publishes all your content and engages your various audiences.  Prepare a “dark” crisis section that’s ready to go in case of an attack or a disaster.

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1st March 2013

How Does Your Online Newsroom Compare to the Best?

social online newsroom PRESSfeed


Ragan.com recently announced their awards for online newsrooms – Cisco took top honors.  Their newsroom is a good example of what a company or organization should be doing in 2013. http://newsroom.cisco.com.

Of course this kind of newsroom is probably not feasible for a small to medium sized business.  But you can still have all the bells and whistles needed in an online newsroom that provide the content the media values in the format they want.

What should be in your newsroom?  According to Econsultancy you must have:

  1. Value-added content – it is not only the media that visits your newsroom today.  Yet Econsultancy found that only 22% of the brands they evaluated offered added-value content such as blogs, news opinion pieces, tips, customer advice and education.
  2. High quality multimedia content – Econsultancy reports that 40% of companies fail to provide even the most basic of image libraries. Where they did exist, they were poorly stocked. Only 9% included infographics and only 51% featured video content.
  3. Social Media tools to amplify the content –  Only 55% of the brands assessed in this report offered sharing tools with links to social networks.
  4. Make it easy to contact you – 24% of the brands evaluated failed to list a phone number for a representative in their newsroom. Only 19% provided regional contacts and 45% failed to include contact details on press releases.
  5. Make it easy to find – put a link to your newsroom on the homepage.  Optimize all the content in the newsroom for search.  Your newsroom should be the #2 listing in Google for a search for your brand name.  It should show up at #1 for a search for “Company name + news”

There are many more features that you ought to have in your online newsroom – use this checklist to evaluate how effective your newsroom is.







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22nd February 2013

A Good Content Marketing Case Study


If you’re wondering if all the time and expense it takes to produce free content to market your product or service works,  this case study recently posted on Forbes.com should lay that to rest once and for all.

ProjectManager.com started in 2008, they now have 10,000 paying customers and they’re projected to own 80% of the market by 2015.  I think it’s working!

What did they do right?   CEO Jason Westland says it can be summed up in two words: content marketing.

“We gained 250,000 emails by giving away lots of free resources on our website,” says Westland. “We then built the largest “Project Management LinkedIn Group” in the World and pushed our social presence on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. We now have 500,000+ Project Managers follow us socially every day.”

His successful plan is no secret –

  • Establish a community/lay the foundation
  • Develop your content
  • Create a strategy to publish your content
  • Pull it all together to see how your content can lead to new sales
  • And of course never forget about your existing customers

And as brands realize the strength of content in the marketing mix, online newsrooms are becoming more than just a PR archive for press releases. You need a place to “pull it all together” and make it easy to find and share.  A place to house whitepapers, webinars, videos, images, infographics, articles, tips, blog posts, tweets.  A good newsroom will service more than just journalists today – it should meet also the needs of bloggers, investors, analysts, prospective customers and anyone interested in the latest content from your brand.

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20th February 2013

Online Newsrooms are a Key Part of Content Strategy


Lisa Buyer’s recent article in CommPro.biz makes an excellent case for the corporate online newsroom to become a real resource for the media, blogggers, investors and the public.

“Newsrooms – if done right – can be an excellent source for new content. However, in this renewed age of content marketing, it can’t just be the press releases. Whatever content gets put up has to be compelling enough for people to want to share. It should not simply report facts, but should have some sort of human element explaining what this news means to the target audience.”
– Quote from Thom Craver https://twitter.com/thomcraver

To help drive traffic, marketers are now shifting their priorities to inbound marketing efforts like creating effective content such as such as blogs, webinars, white papers and press releases according to MarketingSherpa’s eighth annual benchmark report. All this content can be housed effectively in a social online newsroom so that it can be easily found, used or shared.

Take a look at how the city of Newport Beach, CA is doing it.


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14th February 2013

Top Company Newsrooms Still Get a “D”

Although 98% of the top 100 firms have an online newsroom, it seems that too often it is one of the check-marked actions that then gets forgotten.  The 2013 Online Newsroom  report from My Newsdesk reveals that more than a third (35%) don’t keep their newsroom content up to date.

Just having a newsroom is not enough.  You have to keep it constantly updated with content that will be interesting and useful to bloggers, the media, investors and the public.  While most firms keep their press releases current, many leave annual reports, staff bios and product listings to stagnate.

Although the media is demanding more visual content with news releases, and research shows that adding visual can get as much as 9.7X more views on a release, 70% of the top 100 do not provide any images or video with their releases.  The members of the media panel at the PR News Media Relations Summit in December all said multimedia with a release would significantly increase the chances of the release being picked up.  A Media Bistro editor recently advised PR people to “Always think multimedia.”

The report shows that only half (51%) of the newsrooms surveyed provide video content and 40% had no image library. That’s not the whole problem though – the other half that have video and images don’t provide them in a format that’s easy for the media to use.

Other findings from the survey include:

– 21% of brands used newsrooms to provide additional content such as related news, advice and blog links;

– 26% fail to provide contact details in the newsroom;

– 45% fail to provide contact details within a press release;

– 70% do not offer an email alert service;

– 39% of newsrooms have no search option.

Back in 2004 usability expert Jakob Nielsen said corporate America only rated a “D” in PR because the online newsrooms of the Fortune 500 did not meet the needs of the media. We don’t seem to have made any headway at all.

How do you get an A in PR with your newsroom?  David Armano of Edelman Digital has some sound ideas about the need for a social online newsroom.


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24th December 2012

The State of Content Marketing in the UK for 2013

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22nd December 2012

BtoB firms embrace content marketing

BotB companies are embracing content marketing.  Curata’s “B2B Marketing Trends 2012 Report” found that 87% of US B2B marketers have used content marketing this year—the most popular tactic of any queried. That was up 5 percentage points from usage levels in 2011, impressive considering the already-high level of interest in content marketing.

Creating original content is number one on the list of content challenges, followed by the time to do it and then finding great content to curate.

A good online newsroom can alleviate some of these challenges.  It saves time, makes posting and curating quick and easy and has Google analytics installed to help you track results.

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20th November 2012

The Social-Creative Online Newsroom

David Armano of Edelman Digital wrote a great post about the need for brands to become publishers and explained the need for a social-creative online newsroom as part of that process.

“If your company doesn’t have the above model in place a year from now, you may regret it.  It’s all going to come down to this: content, quality, frequency and relevancy.  If companies are to become media, they must master the art and science of merging marketing with a real-time news cycle,” said Armano in this article.


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