For more than 100 years press releases have played a significant role in the way companies communicate with the media with information about products, services, events, and industry trends. The first known press release was in 1906 when Ivy Lee, a public relations expert who worked for Pennsylvania Railroad, convinced the company of the need to issue a statement to the newspapers in response to a train accident that killed 50 passengers. Newspapers had never seen anything like it before, and the New York Times is reported to have printed Lee’s first press release word-for-word.
Times have changed, and today people get most of their information online rather than from newspapers or even television. Many companies still issue press releases for significant events and announcements (and post them online as well as send them to media outlets), but in recent years some companies began using them as a way to game SEO algorithms—pumping out a high volume of press releases filled with keywords to boost search engine rankings, even when there was no real “news” to report.
Google’s Panda 4.0 update in early 2014 sought to address this abuse of press releases by devaluing them in the search algorithm, but this also punished companies that were issuing legitimate releases for major announcements. The algorithm update also penalized wire services like Business Wire and PR Newswire, since they deal exclusively in press releases. In response to the change, some companies stopped issuing press releases altogether to avoid punishment from Google.
However, Google recently reversed course on the value of press releases. An update to the algorithm now provides equal weight to media that comes from traditional outlets (newspaper or television websites) and press releases that come directly from a company. The goal, according to Google, is simply to provide users the most accurate information in as short a time as possible, whether the source is a company website or some other online publication.
So last year the press release was dead (from an SEO perspective anyway), and this year it’s back, although not in the same way. Viewing press releases as a vehicle primarily for cranking out keywords and trying to get as many releases out there as possible will still hurt your Google search rankings, so companies need to refocus their efforts on producing quality content and only sending out press releases for news that merits the medium. This might include:
Keep in mind that press releases, like many other SEO tools, are just one piece of a large online marketing pie. When you combine this type of high quality, in-depth content with other tools, improvements in your SEO often follow naturally. The best Salt Lake City SEO company can help you develop a plan to boost your online presence, produce quality content, and stay updated on all the latest changes to website marketing in Utah.