In the past few weeks I’ve read warnings from a number of credible sources about the danger of linking key words in anchor text in news releases. Google’s new linking rules consider such releases, when distributed on other sites, as creating “unnatural” links.
These unnatural links are a big no-no from Google’s perspective, and they can be costly to ad agency PR efforts.
I’ve learned a lot this past year about how Google can make life miserable for a company’s search engine optimization initiatives if it runs afoul of Google’s standards, whether intentionally or inadvertently. One of my clients, a technology company, is 100% Internet-marketing based and the majority of its traffic comes from Google searches, so there’s really little choice but to play ball with Google or risk facing unpleasant SEO consequences.
The problem comes in when Google changes rules suddenly, giving the term “Google Alert” new meaning to organizations that live or die based on SEO rankings.
Google’s Panda and Penguin updates have been the subject of much conversation and angsts because of the way some companies that previously ranked high for certain key words no longer do so, while others that lagged behind now find themselves on top. There are many factors that go into rankings, and under Google’s new linking rules it appears that even news releases can harm a company if they aren’t done in a way that Google likes.
Frank Strong, director of PR for Vocus, which owns PRWeb, advises on his personal blog not to link key words in anchor text. Product anchor text is probably okay, he says, if you are linking a specific product or brand name to pages deep on a site.
As anyone who uses PRWeb regularly knows, releases must use links sparingly – on average one link for every hundred words.
SEO expert Jill Whalen writes in her July 25 High Rankings Advisor newsletter, “[C]ounter-intuitive to what we as SEOs have been saying for years . . . you may want to completely forget about using keywords in anchor text. My hope is that Google finally understands that real natural links rarely have keywords in them, and that they’ve adjusted their algorithm accordingly.”
Of course, no one really knows exactly how Google’s algorithm works (except the people who work there), and it seems as though it’s constantly changing. So what’s a PR person to do?
The universal advice I’ve come across is to focus on good quality content. This is what Google keeps pushing, and right now it seems to be the best path for SEO success. Until someone convinces me otherwise, I’m going to continue striving to provide excellent content and, for now at least, avoid using keywords in news release anchor text.