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Are news releases losing their SEO value?

When we’re putting out company news, it’s a relatively common refrain to hear someone in the process ask whether or not the news should be distributed on a newswire or placed on the website simply for the SEO value.

In theory, by putting your news online or distributing it via a wire, the announcement may well show up in search, and therein lies the value.  And many organisations are still advocates of increasing the number of times this happens by increasing the amount of information they communicate to the world.

For example, we’ve occasionally had discussions with organisations using success measurement frameworks, such as CB Insights, which look at metrics including ‘momentum’. Broadly speaking, this can be translated as ‘is stuff happening at X company? If so, it scores more highly’ – which can lead to a somewhat dangerous philosophy of increasing the quantity of company content at the risk of compromising its quality.

Let’s take a step back for a moment.

For the sake of argument and simplicity, most of our comments here will address the gorilla in the room, Google, but we’d be surprised if they didn’t apply to other search engines like Bing, Yahoo! and others.

What does Google say?

Google’s perspective on search is pretty simple: “to get users the right answer at any one time as quickly as possible”. Furthermore, when pressed on the topic specifically, it admits “that may mean returning an article from an established publisher or from a smaller niche publisher or indeed it might be a press release”.

Interesting. So it’s not outside the realms of possibility that press releases can have an impact on search.

But whilst press releases can and do appear on Google search results, there is some disagreement about whether or not news releases should sit on your website, from a search point of view.

Press releases can be good for SEO

We know from previous Google algorithm updates that curated news sites, those with teams verifying and editing stories, are scored more highly than those without – for good reason. This makes sense; writing a brief bit of blurb for the website, then a link and some text saying ‘and see how Computer Weekly covered this news here’ is more powerful from a search, if not a human, perspective.

However, as long as you’re saying something interesting then it’s better to have it online than not, in the interests of searchability.

Similarly, if you’re doing this with a vested interest in search, then remember how people will search. Few people search naturally for “today XXX brand announces ground breaking functionality.” Google is increasingly tailoring how it ranks search results to mimic human search patterns; natural language is the first step, but we’ve also seen a preference for mobile websites and more recently, penalties for obstructions such as unnecessary interstitials (those annoying popup screens which load before the actual web page you wanted) etc. So, from a search point of view – talk like a person.

Two other points which are worth mentioning – if you do use newswire services to distribute your news, use reputable, quality services. Don’t be tempted to go for the cheap and cheerful sites which will splash your news release verbatim over sites which no-one has heard of. Google does penalise duplicate content online, so whilst it might be cheap to appear in the Fleabag Times and reach its 1,000 readers, unless it’s strictly relevant, it won’t do your search ratings any good.

Second and finally, google is increasingly trying to be more specific. Brands which try to ‘own’ a huge category with their news will inevitably confuse search engines, so be as specific as possible. By being as clear and specific as possible, you can make it easy for Google to rank your content and retain the visitors you do attract, further improving your rankings.

So what’s the TL/DR?

Everyone suffers from content overload today, so don’t add to it. Keep content clear, specific and to the point. Write for humans and the search engines will follow.

Image courtesy of wikimedia

Krsjn
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Christian Sharp is an Account Director at Firefly, specialising in technology communications.

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