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This week Google has announced it will be cracking down on press releases and advertorials that use optimised anchor text for SEO purposes.

In line with Google’s long standing initiative to drive out the use of unnatural and spammy links, this approach will look to penalise un-news worthy articles that act as undercover link farms.

Traditionally, the purpose of PR websites such as PR Web and News Wire have allowed organisations and individuals to release their story into the media, announcing news of genuine public interest that could then be picked up by publications looking to spread the word naturally. However, digital strategies in the modern media age evolved this process in order to make the most of online exposure. Such strategies have enabled organisations to widely distribute success stories in order to enhance their online reputation and rank positive press on their Google page one. Over the last ten years a staple of these strategies has seen webmasters hyperlink keywords in the body of their release, commonly referred to as optimised anchor text. As with any SEO tactic, the practice of such techniques will always be divided between white hat and black hat methods, however Google’s announcement last Friday has seen the search engine giants condemn even the most honourable links. Regardless of the relevance of the anchor text, or the quality of the content that the reader is redirected to, Google has spoken; “links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites,” must be used as no follow links.

This comes as a direct result of Google’s recently revised stance that has seen press releases classed as advertisements, rather than informative news. As such, the suggestion is that any link within the article is an attempt to sell, and therefore shouldn’t contribute to the success of a higher ranking under Google’s best practice guidelines. A nofollowed link will pass under Google’s crawling radar and fail to generate the benefits of improved rankings that are associated with the ‘SEO juice’ passed on through a followed link.

So, the up tale of Google’s message is this; if you are writing only to optimize anchor text, it may well come back to bite you and your publisher. It is now more important than ever to adhere to white hat, good practice online copywriting and specifically for PR articles, to ensure you release real news because you have something to share, rather than to distribute links. But what does this mean for blog/article posting in a wider context? Are guest posts and sponsored articles still a viable tool to help you reach page one and beyond? Our opinion is built around the assurances that Google will never have an issue with relevant and high quality content. Their advertorial view of the press release approach won’t be generalised to the guest posting strategy as long as you keep to the guidelines that Google suggest.

As for the future of the press release, don’t be too discouraged. The idea of distributing engaging news and letting the world know of your organisation’s developments and achievements is one to be embraced. If you have something to say of genuine interest that will engage the attention of your industry or wider, there is every chance of your news been picked up naturally and potentially earn you a rank boosting link due to the quality and relevance of your news. When the media hear about what you have to offer and if/when they decide to write about it on their own sites, those links do not need to be nofollowed. In fact, editorial links such as these are the links that Google values the most. However Google are without doubt taking direct action against abuse of links within articles and press releases that are paid. For this reason, don’t underestimate their warning.