Press releases and a PR campaign can be an excellent source for backlinks and gaining exposure for your business. Backlinks represent a major ranking factor for search algorithms as gathering high-authority links will significantly boost your trust and authority amongst search engines. If you release a new exciting product and a journalist picks it up, you have an amazing opportunity to drive eyeballs to your website and gather high-authority backlinks.
Unfortunately, press releases have been a quiet source of controversy in the SEO community. In 2013, Matt Cutts announced that links from press releases would not serve as a ranking signal for your website. Interestingly, Search Engine Land conducted a test with a press release that linked Matt Cutts’ blog using the anchor text [sreppleasers], an anagram for “pressrelease.” To this day, Matt Cutts’ blog is the second highest ranking organic result for that query.
Whether or not links from press releases are disavowed or considered unnatural depends on the link itself. Reasonably, we should assume that press release links are still counted by Google and that they can create high-authority backlinks from websites who encounter your press release.
SEO Best Practices
Google will leverage a ranking penalty against websites that over-optimize press releases. If you are using a PR directory to publish your press release, you may be limited to only 2 or 3 links in your press release. Google likes variety in its backlink profiles so be sure to point each link to different web pages, as opposed to just the homepage.
If you are publishing on a PR directory, be sure your press release is PR worthy in the first place. Use storytelling to create a compelling press release and don’t overhype your products.
Be sure to optimize each link in your press release with a keyword-specific anchor text so that you can help rank these webpages for that search phrase. This will also encourage other websites to use the same anchor text and could have a significant impact on your page authority and rank.
If you’re worried about a potential penalty you can always insert a “nofollow” tag on your links so that people click through, but aren’t necessarily counted by Google. Realistically, if you follow these simple practices than your website should be safe from harm and you can sit back and enjoy the exposure.