Public Relations, SEO and content strategy – Four ways to keep your clients’ content on Google’s good side

By November 18, 2013 July 29th, 2016 Industry Perspective

Google – king of search engines, gatekeeper of cat .gifs and holy grail of search for your clients. For nearly every client you will work with as a PR pro, one of their goals will be to rank high in organic search – ideally page one and above the fold. Ranking higher can make it easier for consumers to find a brand (as most of us don’t look past the first page to find what we are looking for) and lead to increased website traffic. However, many in the public relations world don’t necessarily think about the effect their work has on a client’s rankings in search. But as time has gone on, and public relations has busted out of its silo to become a job that requires an overarching content strategy – including press coverage, bylines and guest blogs – PR pros must keep the very cut and dry rules of Google’s search and linking algorithm in mind.

This past summer, Google announced that changed the game for anchor text links within content. Press releases seem to be the content that is most effected, as Google’s new rules state that any links within a press release that are considered “paid links” or the unnatural, repeated use of keywords within content would suffer a stiff penalty from the Google gods (in some cases forcing brands off page one of search results). Multiple postings of a single piece of content on several websites, including press releases, could also be penalized, calling into question the practice of using wire services and even posting press releases on a company’s website. So how can a PR pro ensure they are following the rules of Google, keeping them and any brands they work with in good standing, while also doing their job of meeting clients’ expectations to spread company news?

  • Use navigational links, not optimized keyword links. Instead of stuffing your content’s link text with keywords – ie: if your client makes shoes, linking every instance of the word shoes – stick with more navigational links. Consisting of link text that contains a your client’s company name (or a partner company’s name if the news), domain name or “click here” type language, navigational links can send readers to product or company home pages and still keep you in Google’s good graces. As an overall rule even navigational links should be used sparingly, sticking to 1-2 instances per piece of content.
  • Use the no follow tagGoogle specifically calls out press releases in its examples of unnatural links, stating “Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites,” can be penalized in search. If you and/or your client do want to use optimized anchor text and want to be better safe than sorry, make use of the “rel=nofollow” code. By including this with your link, you are essentially telling Google not to follow these links to a new page or site, thereby ensuring these links won’t be counted towards any PageRank or relevancy score. This allows for the best of both worlds – it provides any readers of the content with the link for further information, but also shows Google a gesture of good faith that you are not trying to game the ranking system.
  • Post coverage links instead of the press release on your website. A relatively new tactic that is explained by Cheryl Conner at Forbes, companies can now upload links and a brief description of a posting of a press release on a top editorial, non-paid site (like CNN.com), instead of posting a press release directly to their company website. By doing this, your client’s website shows Google that a high-ranking page that it trusts feels your news is worthy enough to share. This can also help avoid the problem that the highest ranking search result for your content to appear would be your client’s own website and instead is a highly-trusted third party site.
  • And of course…Create good content. Of course the number one way to avoid any search ranking issues with Google is to create well-crafted, relevant pieces of content that are easily shared organically. Google essentially views press releases as paid content – so by balancing any press releases with earned media and engaging content, Google will trust your clients news more. By doing this, journalists and consumers alike will also find your news truly organically, and your client will rise in search rankings based on the strength of the content they provide. Most PR pros should already be providing this quality service to clients, but ensuring that you manage a client’s expectations on what is and isn’t news (and how distributing that can effect them far beyond pieces press coverage) is an essential role of a top public relations professional.

Google is constantly tweaking its algorithm, and inevitably another change will come sooner rather than later and PR pros will have to adjust to continue to serve their clients at a high level. As the top professionals know, press releases, guest blogs and bylines are all just pieces of a larger content strategy. By balancing earned, owned and paid media as part of an overarching approach, you should be able to keep your clients and Google happy.

Want to ensure your news is following all the Google rules while still providing consumers and journalists with quality tidbits about your company? If you would like to learn more about BLASTmedia, please contact us at info@blastmedia.com.

About Alyshia Kisor-Madlem

As a vice president at BLASTmedia, Alyshia uses her digital marketing expertise to provide results for both B2B and B2C brands.

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