Like most active link builders, I’m always looking for the most effective and scalable way to increase the number of inbound links to whatever site I’m working on. In my mind, it seems that at a macro level all link building activities can be placed in one of two categories: non-scalable link building and scalable link building. I know that other link builders have put their own spin on this difference (link magnet vs. link bait, link building vs. link marketing, manual link building vs. automatic link building, etc.), but it basically highlights two completely different strategies to build relevant, high quality inbound links that boost your site in the rankings. While I feel like I could spend an entire day boring you with the difference between these two strategies and the pros and cons of each, the subject of this post is more specifically about Press Release Optimization and how it works best as a non-scalable link building tactic.
Press Release Optimization Explained
For those that are newer to link building, Press Release Optimization is the act of ensuring that your press releases are optimized (include targeted keywords) and that the links within the press release that point back to your website are optimized (i.e. use proper anchor text) as well. The hope is that the press release will be picked up and either syndicated word for word on trustworthy news sites or utilized by a trustworthy news site in a full story. If this happens, then you might receive an editorially endorsed, anchor text rich inbound link to boost your site’s rankings.
Do note that this tactic is a non-scalable link building tactic, meaning simply that it’s an ongoing manual process. While this is certainly more scalable than direct link outreach, it does take time to write the press releases (or work with the team at your company that does write them), ensure that you’re linking properly throughout the release and submit the release to respective press release syndication websites.
Does It Work?
So does it work? The answer is a resounding “yes” some of the time, but “no” most of the time. The truth is that Press Release Optimization certainly sounds easy, but in practice is quite an elusive link building tactic. The reason for this is that in order to get these trustworthy inbound links, your press release actually has to be newsworthy and worth writing about. Of course, by “newsworthy,” I don’t mean what you believe is hot news, but what the press/powers that be believe is worth their time to publish. Press Release Optimization can make for quite a frustrating time if all you’re doing is submitting useless press releases hoping to increase your rank.
But, when you happen to have a press release that does get picked up by a major news source, the links that you can acquire are not only very high quality, but also difficult to acquire. Indeed it’s true that the top brands/companies naturally have more of their press releases picked-up than newer companies or affiliates. In this way, the rich indeed get richer. While it might be hard for your company to acquire links from news sources, once you do you can rest easy knowing that it’s going to set your site’s link graph apart from many of your smaller (or less creative) competitors. If you’re spending your time optimizing press releases that are indeed newsworthy, you might be pleasantly surprised at the results you can achieve through relatively little work (especially if you’re not the one writing the press releases).
What Kind Of Results Can You Expect?
Most often, what you’ll see is your inbound links increase at the launch of the press release, but then quickly decrease again. If you’re a small website, this might be what happens to your rankings as well. The reason for the quick up and down is two-fold:
- There are many websites that simply transform the RSS feeds of the major press release sites into HTML text and publish them daily. These press release re-publishing websites will often post your press release in its entirety, complete with your link. Most of these websites are very low quality (often owned by grey-hat and black-hat SEOs), and as new press releases are added to their website, yours will quickly be lost deep within the site, buried underneath all of the new press releases. Of course, as your press release leaves their homepage and gets buried within the website, the power of your link disappears as well. This causes and initial jump in your links/rankings, but they then inevitably decline quickly.
- If your release does get picked up and/or written about on a high quality news site, congratulations! But, similar to the instance above, that story will inevitably become “old news” and will sink deeper and deeper into the news site. Unless the news story itself gets many of its own inbound links, the page’s PageRank will drop, and so will the “link juice” that link is passing.
What isn’t lost, however, is the TrustRank (trust) that is passed by that link! Sure, you might not be getting a massive boost to your PageRank, but you will be placing your website in high quality neighborhoods and will be increasing the trust of your own website. Note that Google gives ranking preferences to sites that are trustworthy, which will be yours if you are able to regularly optimize high quality press releases.
Where Does This Tactic Fit?
The truth is that for the most part, no one link building tactic will yield long term results. In order to ensure a “natural” backlink profile and to survive the regular algorithm updates, you need to have a variety of inbound links. Some will pass PageRank, some will have perfect anchor text and some will pass a lot of trust. Press Release Optimization helps you develop links that pass a lot of trust.