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Pressing tips: Use Press Releases Without Getting Penalized

Link building with press releases is so easy. Just crank out a press release every time you land a new client, hire someone, write a blog post or make it through the day without dropping an f-bomb and poof: Instant links.

One problem: Those easy links may be getting you Penguin-ized. It seems like Penguin looks for, among other things:

  • Over-optimized anchor text
  • Link profiles with disproportionate numbers of links from a specific type of site
  • Links from networks
  • Links from spun content

Note: I said seems because really, I dont know, and you dont either. Im drawing my conclusions based on 15 or so reconsideration requests Ive handled (manual penalties), the link profiles of a bunch of other Penguin-penalized sites, and a few hints here and there.

google penguin love-in

When I look at the press release links many SEOs build for clients, they include:

  • Over-optimized anchor text
  • Disproportionate numbers of links from low-quality press release sites
  • Vast networks of PR sites, like the oh-so-original franchise
  • And yes, releases that are rewritten and resent

Releases can be a great tactic for citation- and link-building. Just be careful:

Avoid PRrhea

Dont send out a press release every time someone sharpens a pencil. Theres no specific frequency that works or doesnt. Write a release when theres something newsworthy. For example:

  • A public appearance/speaking gig
  • A major hire
  • A major financial or business milestone (one client does not count, unless the client name alone is newsworthy)
  • A new finding or report youve just written

You know whats newsworthy and whats not. Well, hopefully. If you think publishing a blog post is a news event, you may want to hire a professional.

Minimize phrase links

Dont throw in keyphrase-rich links unless you can say, 100% honestly, that readers will find those links useful. For example:

Gibblegibbet, Inc., a producer of goat shaving devices, just hired a new CEO.

&screams Im a spammer. No normal reader is going to click on the linked phrase. On the other hand:

Foobar, Inc., a producer of goat shaving devices, just hired a new CEO.

&seems pretty normal. Its linking the company name, so folks can see the subject of the release. Linking names, brands, terms that require definition and such adds value to a press release. Theyre legit.

If, when you choose your link, youre thinking Score! Keyword-rich link! then dont do it.

Write well

If you treat your press release as a crappy candy coating on a keyword-rich link, search engines are going to figure it out. Write your press release like youre trying to get a reporters attention. That means tight phrasing, good grammar, punctuation, spelling, and enough real content to fully explain the story.

Use a decent network

I wish I had a fantastic list of good PR networks. I dont. I favor PRNewswire/PRWeb, but there are lots of others out there that Im sure are OK. You want a wire service that pushes releases to topical sources. Thats a sign of a serious service: Theyre publishing, at least in part, like a traditional wire service.

Whats not OK are networks that spew their press releases:

  • To domains named for every state in the country
  • To domains named for attributes like express or free
  • Everywhere except legitimate publications and news sources

Theres no hard and fast rule here. Just take a quick look at a wire services distribution list. If the domain list has more hyphens than a medical journal, theyre probably not OK.

Think like a marketer

Press releases seem like an easy score. But you have to realize that, if we all know it, Google does, too. Use your marketing brain: Write press releases when you have something to announce. Treat the medium with respect, and youll get exactly the kind of citations you need.



  1. Doc January 30, 2013

    Love the “PRrhea”, Ian! You may have coined a term that’ll stick around for a while. 😆

    I think “newsworthiness” is the aspect I battle most over with clients. Pencil sharpening hasn’t been tried yet, but when they tell me they want to do some press releases, and I ask them what news they want to focus on, it’s often met with a bewildered silence.

    One gal actually suggested her dog having had puppies! She thought that was perfectly valid since the dog is the company mascot. :sigh:

    Keep ’em comin’, Ian!

  2. David January 30, 2013

    Some good tips but the one item is missing from consideration is do scrapers love to steal their content?

    I now avoid using any of the major PR sites as I find their content gets picked up and republished on a number of garbage/spammy websites. Trying to get that scraped version of your release removed is often near impossible on some of these sites.

    I have noticed some of the PR sites have also been cracking down on the items that are not really that news worthy but at the same time still publish absolute crap.

    Hey doc I would have thought the dog having puppies would have been more interesting news item than who has been ranked by TOPSEOs for that week for having paid the most money for a listing…

  3. Ian January 31, 2013

    Thanks Doc!

    It really feels like any traditional marketing idea that goes on the internet immediately turns to junk food. Terrible way to put it, but marketing becomes link spam, PR becomes I dunno what…


    It’s late, I’m tired. I’ll resume this thought in a better mood tomorrow.

  4. Ian January 31, 2013

    Hey David,

    You’re totally correct regarding scraping. But I’d say that if you do your press releases without keyword-stuffed links you’re probably OK. I have yet to see a site penalized because of scraped content.

    The PR sites are cracking down a bit, and have been since Panda, I think.

    If the dog had funny-looking puppies, it’d TOTALLY be news. “Two headed puppies born to current TopSEOs #1 Agency…”…

  5. Doc January 31, 2013

    [quote name=”David”]Hey doc I would have thought the dog having puppies would have been more interesting news item than who has been ranked by TOPSEOs for that week for having paid the most money for a listing…[/quote]

    Hard to argue with that, David. 😀

  6. Brittanie February 4, 2013

    Great points! The company I work for is starting to look into releasing press releases. I already write the blog for our own site ( and I write some blogs/articles for other blog sharing sites. We just believe that PR’s will add a helpful element to our mix.

  7. Michael I March 8, 2013


    Excellent article. I have been in discussion with a few major players in the PR industry (news distribution), and the points you make are pretty bang on with what we have been discussing.

    We are trying to encourage people to use a press release for what it is meant for. A briefing to wet the appetite of a journalist, blogger or consumer to further follow up interest and details with one or two links to their site and or blog or Facebook page without the intent to “sell sell sell”. Our site reviews every release that comes through, by a human editor in a first world country, with a background in journalism to ensure quality content. Unfortunately, with article sites (which my understanding have taken a fairly significant hit), were abused with outgoing links. Something we would not like to see happen to legitimate press distribution sites.

    I don’t think that anyone really has the absolute answer (unless they work at Google and are sworn to secrecy), however, again, we have to go back to the basics and remember that when posting content, make sure it is posted for HUMANS, and for “human consumption”, free from GMO content please. 8)

    Great article, I look forward to hearing and following more on this.


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