Apr 20, 2012

What Google’s Over-Optimization Penalties Mean For PR

Rand Fishkin of SEOmoz offers fantastic advice today for avoiding the coming over-optimization penalties that Google has announced.   You can view his entire video here:

6 Changes Every SEO Should Make BEFORE the Over-Optimization Penalty Hits – Whiteboard Friday

Within the tips he offers are several that anyone who writes press releases should pay attention to.  Below, I summarize the issues Rand highlights, and describe the implications for PR.

1. Keyword stuffed page titles.  Page titles need to be authentic, and they need to sound like they were written by humans, for humans.  Repeating keywords over and over and unnatural phrasing are likely to be red flags.

Implication for PR:  Many newswires and other vendors turn your headline into the page title.  Keep this in mind and write headlines that are first and foremost designed to capture the interest of your audience and convey your story.

2.  Manipulative internal links, such as pointing to the same URL over and over again on one page.  Linking to the same page over and over isn’t helpful  (the first link is the only one that counts anyway.)  Use logical, useful links, link to different URLs, and use links that you want people to actually go to.  And mix up the phrases/words to which you link.

Implication for PR:  When you post a press release to your web site, or run it over a wire service, it does in fact become a web page.   Use – but don’t overuse – anchor text links in your press releases, and use them as a reader service, providing a call to action or more detailed information. Content that is stuffed with links is likely to be flagged by search engines.  Keep links to a minimum – one or two per release.

3.  Link filled footers, or more specifically a  bunch of exact anchor links at the bottom of the page that no one would ever really click on.  This is a decade old tactic.

Implication for PR:  Keep links to a minimum, as noted in #2.  Resist the urge to add lists of links to your press release.

4.  Text content blocks built for the engines.  The weird block of  keyword stuffed junk.  Spammy blocks of text that have no purpose other than to get the keyword into the text.  These will actually drive people away.   It’s dangerous because it provides very poor user experience.

Implication for PR:  Guard against any text that is riddled with keywords – including your boiler plate.  Because most releases include the same boilerplate over and over, it’s important that you dial back on keywords in the boilerplate, to avoid looking like a search engine spammer.  –

5. Large numbers of pages targeting similar keywords with slight variation between them but are essentially the same content.  What Rand is talking about here are pages on a web site that essentially say the same thing, but have slight variation in titles and keywords.

Implication for PR:   If you use a template for your press releases, this could be an issue, especially if there is little variation in your titles and throughout the body of the release.  With the emphasis on natural writing these days, it’s probably time to dump the template.  At the very least, be sure you write a fresh headline and lead, and change up some of the body text.

My theme this week has been “Write for people, not machines.”  At the end of the day, sticking to that simple advice will serve you well when it comes to authoring press releases.

Related reading:

Six Mistakes That Can Sink Press Release Visibility

The 3 Cornerstones of Building Lasting Online Visibility

Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of social media, and is the author of the free ebook Unlocking Social Media for PR.

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