The algorithms Google and other search engines use to rank and select content are complex and constantly evolving. We are not experts on search but want to share what we’ve learned about the impact on search of news releases, wire services, and links.

A few years back, we began helping our clients embed links in news releases in order to help them build their brands online. Links in news releases help readers to easily make their way from a news release posted on a media site to your own home page or a page with associated content. In this way, links are an important and useful part of online news releases.

However, links in news releases are not usually a relevant component of helping your own website increase its search engine ranking. In this way, news releases are different than typical content on third-party sites that, when linking to your site, can help your site’s ranking. The reason news releases are different is that nearly every news release distribution service marks hyperlinks within news releases with the “nofollow” HTML attribute. That means all links in news releases will be ignored by Google, Bing, and Yahoo and won’t give your website additional “credit.” The reason for “nofollow” is that Google and other search engines try to keep organizations from “buying influence,” in an effort to serve up meaningful search results to users.

(Important note: The news release itself is still indexed by the search engines, and that’s valuable on its own. For example, someone may be searching for information about your company and will see the news release come up in search results—often an excellent outcome for you that, in turn, leads the reader to your website through the links you included.)

Here’s an example to help illustrate what Google “wants” and “doesn’t want.” This example helps illustrate why all the major news release organizations—including Business Wire, PR Newswire, PRWeb, and nearly all of the smaller outfits—play by the rules Google requests by automatically adding the “nofollow” attribute to each link in your news release.

  • Example: Say you operate a wealth management advisory business and are known in your field as an expert on 401(k) issues for people past retirement age. You blog about how new regulations will affect 401(k) distributions. You write articles for trade publications about 401(k) tax issues for older adults. You guest-post on other sites’ blogs answering questions in this area of expertise. You issue news releases of interest to media, clients, and prospects. You create infographics sharing relevant statistics and recommendations—and then post the infographic on your website and Tweet about it. Over time, you get involved in a steady stream of online conversations about 401(k) topics for older adults. Google sees this content!—and all this activity helps your website’s search results for keywords like “401(k) plans for retirees” and so forth. This is what Google wants. It wants to find and deliver meaningful information that people actually care about.
  • Example: Say your competitor does none of the content creation and sharing that you do, except for one relatively “easy” thing: issuing many news releases that contain 401(k) keywords and hyperlinks to its website. Google wants to index this content and deliver the news release itself when a user searches for related information, but Google does not want to reward your competitor more than you.

Google’s aim is aided by the cooperation of the news release organizations. By their application of the “nofollow” attribute to links, they help keep the purpose of a news release to be about sharing news not just building links. For the most part, that’s a good thing because the net result is more people working harder to create better, more useful content. And if you are genuinely an expert who is widely quoted and active on social media, this is good news.

Do keep issuing news releases, especially when you think someone might be searching for content within that news release. For example, you might distribute a news release about an employee who earned an award. If a potential client searches on Google for that employee’s name, they’re likely to see the news release. That’s a perfect example of the news being the point of the news release, even though the audience is not a media organization.

On the other hand, if you don’t think anyone will ever actively search for a given piece of news, then you may be better off saving the money you’d spend on distribution and: (1) posting the release only on your own website; and (2) reallocating that money for meaningful content development.

The bottom line, as we’ve shared in another post, is that high-quality content matters most. That includes your own content, people talking about and interacting with your content, and media talking about you. Put your money and effort there.