How to use online press releases and be Google-proof: Interview with SEM leading expert Joe Laratro

Joe Laratro

With the latest updates and Google sharpening even more its link schemes, online press release distribution guidelines have also changed. So, now you might be asking yourselves: are PRs still a big deal? Or using them can get your website penalized before it gets optimized?

Since I had the very same question, I went to get some answers from one of the most experienced professionals in the industry. PubCon lead moderator and CEO at Tandem Interactive, Joe Laratro, who was kind enough to share some of his 10-years experience in the SEM industry in an interview for our blog, and offer great tips and insights on effective press release distribution nowadays.

Here are the questions we discussed, that shed a lot of light onto the new status of press releases, but if you have some of your own, just write them down below.

Let’s get started! 🙂

Q: Is online press release distribution as popular as it used to be?

A: If I were to guess, I would estimate 30-40% of online press releases were for some type of SEO purpose. I think that the online press release services had to see a decline of 20% since July. I would really like to see the stats of online PRs directly from PRWeb or another wire service since Google posted their changes.

Q: What’s the ideal submission frequency? How many press releases would you recommend during a month’s time?

A: A few years ago, one press release a month was a good idea to stay in Google news. I have always leaned more towards the strategy of putting out a PR when there was real newsworthy content. If your business has amazing news 30 days a month, put out 30 releases. If it only has amazing news twice a year, then put out 2 releases.

Q: In your opinion, what is newsworthy?

A: To me, newsworthy means content that someone else would be interested in learning about. That covers a broad range of interpretation. Are new hires newsworthy? Sure. Are new product offerings newsworthy? Sure. Is a page about nonsense that has a bunch of keyword anchor text links newsworthy? No.

Q: Tell us a few guidelines to help our readers figure out the structure of a PR copy.

A: I did an article once with Lisa Buyer, on what should marketers do to survive Google’s update on press releases links. When deciding to write a press release, any marketer, either PR or SEO pro, should first ask himself a series of questions. Answering them defines the structure and purpose a PR copy should have. Here are the questions:

  1. Would you trust the information presented in this article?
  2. Is this article written by an expert or enthusiast who knows the topic well, or is it more shallow in nature?
  3. Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors?
  4. Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?
  5. Does the article describe both sides of a story?
  6. Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?
  7. Does this article provide a complete or comprehensive description of the topic?
  8. Does this article contain insightful analysis or interesting information that is beyond obvious
  9. Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?
  10. Are the articles short, unsubstantial, or otherwise lacking in helpful specifics?

Q: Would you recommend using free PR distribution services?

A: No, I was never a fan of them. I have seen them rank, but if the content is valuable, pay for it to go out.

Q: Does press release distribution work in every industry? Let’s say, for example, you own an e-commerce website. How can you use PR to grow your business?

A: My old SEO answer would have been yes. My new answer is still yes, but not for SEO reasons. Any business that has a message (news) that needs to be heard has an opportunity to broadcast that message through online PR.

Q: Thousands of online press releases are submitted each day. How to make yours visible?

A: There are two main schools of thought here. The first one would be to use sensational headlines that will grab reader’s attentions so they write their own article (news writers), and the second would be to focus on great keyword content (keyword subject matter, keyword title, regular SEO tactics) and the PR itself may rank.

Q: A recent update from Google warns about “optimized anchor text” in press releases. Is this the end of PR distribution?

A: This should be an end of low quality PR distribution. There are still plenty of reasons to use online press releases. It is now a high risk tactic to do it solely for SEO reasons. When the rel=nofollow option is fully implemented by the online wire companies, there is a better case for using them again with keyword optimized anchor text.

Q: Please name the 3 main benefits and disadvantages of using PR services for your business.

A: Benefits – broadcast your message, distribute your content to news sites, have the chance at getting noticed by news writers and get a custom story written on the topic
Disadvantages – too many could be costly, if utilizing older SEO tactics, it could get your site penalized, content gets widely replicated across the Web – maybe in places you would not want it

Q: Is the press release distribution more like an in-house job or outsourcing is a better option?

A: This is a self-serving answer, outsourced. I have always liked doing them and looking at it from a content and SEO strategy point of view. When outsourced to SEO/PR firms I have seen them look even more powerful.

Q: Myth or not: Is press release an effective link building practice, which brings important amount of traffic?

A: It was not a myth in 2006. I would say every year the power of press release linking diminished, but was still recommended as part of an overall strategy. Today, it should be a very small part of a link building portfolio and only use naked URLs to be in full compliance with Google’s rules.

Q: What’s the future of online press releases? Can you make some predictions for 2014?

A: Online press releases are going to get better. I believe there will be less of them, but the quality will be there. Online journalists will have less spam to sift through and may raise the value of the online PR for their purposes again. SEOs will come back to this strategy when they can use the no follow. Google will judge whether to pass link value and the link growth will be within Google’s link scheme guidelines.

Thank you very much, Joe, for sharing this with us!

Hope you all enjoyed and learned what you needed to find out about the distribution of online press releases. Now it’s your turn: what are the tactics you’re using to stay out of Google’s radar when it comes to online press releases? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Author: Iulia Lacriceanu

Iulia Lacriceanu is leading the Tech'n'Pay Support team at Advanced Web Ranking. With a background in Online Marketing, she is still always up to date with the latest news in the quick evolving world of SEO. She thinks that truly understanding the core concept and target audience's needs is fundamental in developing outstanding software, capable of solving industry problems and figuring out solutions. That and that time is never enough, it's just a matter of priorities! Check out her latest tweets.

2 thoughts on “How to use online press releases and be Google-proof: Interview with SEM leading expert Joe Laratro”

  1. “Or using them can get your website penalized before it gets optimized?” Really? I doubt it since almost all of the press release distributors are not using NF and there is nothing I can do beyond not including links… I’ll bet my left tactical it is no more than a case of Google ignoring the link. A “penalty” opens up a door for negative SEO a Mack truck could drive through! It is a penalty in the sense that there is no SEO value…ummm that was… to a VERY large degree…. true before all this nonsense started. SEO’s doing press releases as link building were selling useless services long before Google announced their dislike for them. Bottom line 90% were hit by Panda or Penguin and that includes ALL the big ones except for Marketwired!

    1. Hi Terry,

      Thanks for your comment and for emphasizing how important the nofollow tag is for press releases links. It is absolutely true that while Google might be ignoring natural links from press releases, large amounts of over optimized anchor texts from this type of websites will get you in trouble just as it does when it comes to any referring site.

      Joe said it best: “Today, it should be a very small part of a link building portfolio and only use naked URLs to be in full compliance with Google’s rules”.

      Thanks again for stopping by! 🙂

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