Google Warns Against Large-Scale Guest Posting, Advertorials & “Optimized Anchor Text” In Press Releases

Google logoGoogle has quietly updated the link schemes document under their Webmaster guidelines to add large-scale guest posting, advertorials and optimized anchor text in articles or press releases to the list of types of links that violate their guidelines.

The new guideline examples that were added to this document include:

  • Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links
  • Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank
  • Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites.

Google also removed these guideline examples:

  • Linking to web spammers or unrelated sites with the intent to manipulate PageRank
  • Links that are inserted into articles with little coherence

Large-Scale Guest Posts

This should come as no surprise, it is a topic we covered earlier this month. If you are guest blogging with the intent to build links, and those blog posts are done large-scale with very little quality built into them, Google may take action against the links in those articles or guest blog posts.

You can do guest blog posts but if you are doing it with the intent to gain keyword-rich anchor text, then be warned.

Advertorials

Again, this should also come as no surprise. We had a detailed video from Google’s Matt Cutts on why advertorials with links need to be nofollwed. We even had major e-commerce sites get penalized for using this technique to build links.

Optimized Anchor Text In Press Releases

This is one of the big changes that may have not been so clear for many webmasters. Google said, “links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites,” is an example of an unnatural link that violate their guidelines. The key are the examples given and the phrase “distributed on other sites.” If you are publishing a press release or an article on your site and distribute it through a wire or through an article site, you must make sure to nofollow the links if those links are “optimized anchor text.”

The example Google gives is:

There are many wedding rings on the market. If you want to have a wedding, you will have to pick the best ring. You will also need to buy flowers and a wedding dress.

NOTE: See our follow-up story, Google: Links In Press Releases Should Use Nofollow Like Paid Links

Google Removed Some Examples Of Link Schemes

Why did Google specifically remove those examples of link schemes? It is unclear and we hope to clarify. I do think that those examples are still covered in the overall theme of the link schemes document. In fact, I think the other examples, for the most part, cover the examples removed.

A hat tip to Menaseh for sending this tip my way.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Google: SEO | Link Building: General | Link Building: Paid Links | Top News

Sponsored


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



SearchCap:

Get all the top search stories emailed daily!  

Share

Other ways to share:
 

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • http://www.send2press.com/ Christopher Simmons

    Hmm.. Well, that makes a mess of things. We’ve had an online newswire service since 1999/2000 (Send2Press®) and many sites syndicate our content. We limit anchor links on words to no more than 3, and only relevant to the site announcing something. So, a site for a mortgage tech co, has quote from CEO, and his name might link to his bio on the company site. We nofollow autolinked http://www.clientname-dot-xyz links, but have allowed the other links to “live” on other sites cloning the story. So, even though we “suggest” clients just use normal links (linktomybiopage-dot-xyz) vs an anchor, some folks always want the anchor. While I think this is a good move, personally, we’ve got 13 years of content we can’t go back and nofollow now, so curious how this impacts legacy white hat content ?

  • http://www.merchantprocessingresource.com/ Sean Murray

    I can’t speak for other newswires but at least 90% of the syndicated release copies that come from PRNewswire are dofollow. Most of the syndication is on highly credible domains too.

    To state the obvious here, you can’t instruct a news wire to make your links nofollow as they do not allow you to add HTML to your releases. Same with the syndicated copies. Whether a link is nofollow or dofollow is not up to the company writing the release, it’s up to the sites that publish the release.

    The lesson to be gained here then is to virtually never ever link to your site in a press release using a keyword you care about. They should be naked urls or brand based anchors.

    Can press releases be used as a weapon then for negative SEO? If I write a release that says “we’ve partnered up with the [anchor] best pizza place in nyc[/anchor]“, will I be putting the pizza place at risk for a penalty?

    Previously Matt Cutts has said that press release links shouldn’t carry much weight. Obviously they do and that’s why they’re trying to undo the power they wield.

  • http://www.merchantprocessingresource.com/ Sean Murray

    Very good question as to whether this will apply retroactively christopher simmons.

    I have used expensive news wires for many many releases, though looking back the urls are almost all naked or branded fortunately. Still many of my friends that run companies have used keyword based anchors not necessarily for the SEO ranking implications but because it’s a great way to promote your brand name around a specific product, service, or saying.

    If your company’s motto and TV commercial jingle is something along the lines of “the cheapest loans in the city!”, then you’d probably want to use that as your anchor text for the sake of consistency with your brand’s message.

  • Lisa Hosman

    I think this really just proves that anchor text rich links still carry a lot of value in the current algorithm and Google cannot police them all. And what happened to “Press release links carry little value”? And another great “example” from Google – I love that they always show the most spammy way a person could create links with anchor text!

  • zydezyde

    Google has gone bonkers and has lost its way. Their technology — which was once their success — is now becoming their demise. New privacy search engines from other countries are emerging to combat our Prism/Patriot Act issue and are skyrocketing in numbers (you can google this :). Oh, how the might have fallen, or should I say, is falling.

  • Durant Imboden

    I think they’re just trying to discourage massive outpourings of keyword-rich, value-poor, SEO-driven pages (a.k.a. “Spam 2.0″).

  • Emory Rowland

    My, look how far we’ve come. Future warning: “The following are examples of link schemes: Link building.”

  • http://codeangry.com/ Claude “CodeAngry” Adrian

    I think Google is going back to Yahoo’s olden days: hand picked (directory) search results that satisfy corporate. And if possible, no crawler as it can’t tell **** anymore, anyways. We need to remove our own links, use only click here or URL anchor texts, stop link building all together… practically going back to the BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME.
    Makes one wonder if Google is not choking in data now?
    Or just use Google-

  • Colby

    Ha. You make the assumption that Google is a search engine company. It’s not anymore.

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    LOL. I might have to use that for a future headline.

  • http://www.imarketsolutions.com/ Matt Dimock

    Lisa, Matt Cutts has been saying for some time now that press release links carry NO value. He also stated that there is an indirect value in that if the press release is picked up by a journalist and posted on their blog, you may stand to gain valuable links that way.

  • http://www.imarketsolutions.com/ Matt Dimock

    Anyone else feel like Matt Cutts is the Obama of SEO? Everyone looks to him for all the answers, and even when you get them, you’re always left wondering how much of what he said is complete crap.

  • Lisa Hosman

    That really is my point…if press releases carry no value, why the need to add a warning about anchor text links in press releases. The outside value mentioned would come from a journalist writing their own story about your release. That is completely different than reposting a copy of your release. I am not proposing it is a good idea to create spammy links, any value is not worth the risk to me. I just find it interesting that Google feels the need to update their guidelines to include rules regarding anchor text links despite the algorithms policing these types of links. Probably because people are still able to manipulate the system with anchor text. The line is so blurred now between natural links and spam that scared webmasters feel the need to disavow natural links they did not build or pay for just because they are scared of them having the flavor of spam. Strange times!

  • Jeremy Aviram

    Google Algorithm is rewarding optimized anchors, but they are saying do not go for it.
    They should enhance their algorithm and drop down the optimized anchors weightage rather than issuing warnings every second day.

    Here is a post on Matt blog http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/playing-with-a-usb-missile-launcher/

    How many optimized anchor links it have…none of them no follow….why no action taken yet?……

  • http://www.imarketsolutions.com/ Matt Dimock

    Strange times indeed. In my opinion, Google is creating a dystopia (or at least portraying that image) so as to scare webmasters into leaving behind their less-than-whitehat ways. At the end of the day, Google is not able to police all of the links, which is why the disavow tool and quality guidelines were created in the first place. Ironically enough, all of this is being done to create Google’s perceived image of a search engine utopia.

  • Darren DeMatas

    Well said, Durant!

  • http://www.yodelay.com Duncan Johnson

    I think the best strategy is to move away from guest blogging on lots of sites to being a regular “Contributor” to a few select.

    In your G+ profile it does invite you to add links to sites that you are a “Contributor” to.

    Also, incidentally, in WordPress, when you add a new user you can choose them to be a “Contributor”

    I think the hints are obvious.

    Another note… I give press releases 12 months before going the way of article marketing. It’s virtually the same. The tiny bit if manual involvement in it has kept it’s value barely alive.

  • http://www.yodelay.com Duncan Johnson

    Hey Colby

    You’re spot on Sir!

    Google is gradually becoming (I’m cringing as I type these next couple of words) a “portal”

    Google is becoming AOL

    Remember that marvel?

  • Tad Miller

    I think it’s closer to Colin Powell at the UN saying weapons of mass destruction. I always compare the moment he was put out by Google to say that Encrypted Search would only be a single-digit percentage of traffic to that moment with Powell.

    I always got the feeling that they put him out to deliver that message knowing it wasn’t true, and they keep trotting him out to “sell” the company line. I don’t envy him being put in the positions they put him…this whole situation stinks of hypocrisy.

  • Tad Miller

    By saying:

    ANY links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

    Google has essentially said that every SEO that builds ANY link for a website in the hopes that it could improve its rank is a Black Hat. Effectively criminalizing the tactics that have been at work for 10+ years. Yes, SEO’s are now “officially” outlaws.

    I don’t see how it’s possible to retro-actively enforce this, and if it will be retro-active it will be arbitrary and the punishments will be manual.

    If links are so evil, then why not just remove them from the algorithm all-together? Some of them are obviously worth something to Google. By what arbitrary measure are some valuable enough to count and some are not and how is a site owner supposed to be able to tell the difference?

  • Victor Tribunsky

    Monopoly is always harms consumers and business.

  • Tad Miller

    He actually said links from “Press Release Websites” are worthless. As in a link on PR Web or Business Wire is worthless. Not many picked up on his semantics. This is the first time they have specifically said that a Press Release from those sources that gets picked up by another website like a TV Station Website or Newspaper (with the dofollow link in tact) is against webmaster guidelines.

    No one cared about the link from the PR Web website, it was the distribution from that that matters.

    My bet is that this is a strong arm tactic to make the PR websites default to every link being nofollowed, just like they did with Twitter back in the day. In fact I would bet there will be “User-generated Spam warnings” in the PR Web and Vocus Webmaster tools accounts very shortly. They will de-index every page where they find those followed links.

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    Last time I checked, Google had no power to pass any laws, so saying they have criminalized SEO activity is like saying ice cream is the button to launch a rocket.

  • Sergiu Draganus

    I’ll be curious to know if websites running strong back-linking campaigns in the past will be penalized or only the ones which will continue to do it ?

    In this case, what will happen with the authority of the old ones ? Will those sites be kicked out from google TOP 100 results or they will preserve the authority which they have already got from those backlinks ?

  • http://theseonut.com/ Adam

    With all the marketing mediums online today, you shouldn’t need to worry about BUILDING links anyway. If your site isn’t crap, marketing your content and attracting links has never been easier.

  • Zafar Malik

    Please tell anyone , what the right way to post article without anchor text on keywords?

  • Zafar Malik

    well said Lisa……….

  • Ng Eng Hou

    I don’t see any endings to this. The main ultimate aim of Google is to try to force the e-commerce world to pay them expensive advertising money. It is doing this to drive all the small players,kill them,and leave those big ones from where Google can extract advertising money out of them. This is Google’s way of killing any form of competition to its advertised search business.

  • Troy Knutson

    I’m going back to billboard advertising. It’s much simpler and less expensive,. Not to mention I don’t have to worry about the likes of “Google” telling me what I can or can’t do with “MY” content.

    I’m starting to think that Bing is looking more and more likely to win the search engines war.

  • Tad Miller

    It’s just an analogy.

  • Tad Miller

    Not going to disagree on using a variety of tactics. But most of here are getting paid to get results in this area.

  • http://www.linkbuildr.com/ Ryan @ Linkbuildr

    This should be as no surprise. You’re not supposed to vote yourself up in the rankings by picking your own anchor text.

  • Guest

    Picking your own anchor text has always been against TOS….as a wire service you should have known this. I imagine you’ve been too busy posting useless spam/fake press releases though so fair enough.

  • http://www.send2press.com/ Christopher Simmons

    Um, you obviously know nothing about this topic and appear to be a troll mr “Guest” … we have never posted fake/spam PR. I’m a member of the PRSA, and an accredited PR pro and journalist since 1984, with numerous awards in the field, and we’ve been featured prominently in the press hundreds of times for our ethics and adherence to AP style and vetting all content. Adding anchor lnks to words in PR has never been against Google’s “terms of service” (?). Why do you think every major newswire has been doing this since about 2005 when SEO+PR started to take off (we started SEO with press releases in 2000; check the wayback machine). Not sure what TOS you are referring to, but links in press releases when done responsibly have long been a part of online marketing. We’ve ALWAYS restricted its usage for white hat with Google. As to the “attack” in your post about spam/fake PR, I think you may be speaking of your own company which is why you’re attacking ours for competitive reasons mr sock puppet. Have a great day!

  • http://www.send2press.com/ Christopher Simmons

    It’s ironic for us, as I’ve been telling clients for years now that there is no intrinsic value of a link on ‘big blue bunnies’ vs just having visible URL (some seem to call that naked URL, which I guess is more fun) — so http://www.site-xyz/bluebunnies works as well for Google. We prefer that as it’s clear where the link goes and if you have a link to an event registration page, launch page for a new book/author, or other deep-linking white hat practice in a press release that makes total sense as it’s highly RELEVANT to the information being disseminated. We’ve also always told folks don’t link to your home page 20 times, and have even gone so far as telling folks with dotcom brands to use an informal version (use Company Name vs CompanyName.com 20 times). Luckily we’ve got our own news network of sites as well which have nofollow on anchor links, as well as over-use of direct dotcoms. Still, many clients “demand” anchor links, which is why we (and all the top 15 players in our space) allow them. Still, as of yesterday, only our “main site” will allow dofollow on anchors, but we continue to have the RSS and NewsML versions with either nofollow or all anchors stripped out as we’ve always done … in ancticipation of this eventuality. We’ve determined that leaving the anchors alone on old content on our main site “syndication source” “original source” of a news item should be fine, since we’re not selling links (in fact we don’t run ads on our main sites at all, or allow any kind of ads; it’s all very very clean for Google, luckily). I freaked out a bit the other day, but in looking through our sites, I only found one of our magazine portals where we needed to use a nofollow external addon to backtrack 8 years of “article versions” of the press releases with bylines, to ensure they remain clean and not dinged for any perceived black hat practice. Anyway…. (whew). Was able to sleep last night. But as others have said, all newswires are likely going to have to create some new disclaimers on this since Google seems bipolar (doesn’t matter, does matter, might matter … spin the bottle!). I think what will happen is folks like us, PRN, etal will continue to allow the dofollow from the “origination source” of a news announcement, but subsequent cloned copies will all have nofollow (actually some syndicators have been doing this for some time). ON the other hand, one site (Zimbio) did just kill our feed as they were pulling the “rich media” version with live anchors vs the “clean” version without. So, this has impacted our syndication as of this week. Sorry to ramble on…. :-)

  • http://www.send2press.com/ Christopher Simmons

    And it’s a good idea. I’m really happy they are starting to hide/remove links to pirated software … always been irritating to look up something on Adobe CS and see 5 links to download a bit torrent pirate copy — not good “user experience” .. similarly all the fake news blogs that cropped up from overseas (no bias, just saying) and parroted stuff from all the wires to fill pages and stuff with ads — that stuff needs to go. So, I’m all for Google trying to “contain” the crap, and let the good rise up. But still a long way to go on that. Type in a phrase like “Is Ryan Reynolds Gay” (somebody told me about this search the other day, btw, wasn’t my thought) … and note the page is dominated by low quality bloggers saying he is, and he’s the son of Burt Reynolds. Both being wrong. So, they have a way to go on relevancy and what is useful for a “user experience.”

  • http://www.send2press.com/ Christopher Simmons

    +1

  • http://www.send2press.com/ Christopher Simmons

    Um. Well, they’re both doing their jobs. At least they’re not like Bush and wondering if he can even spell properly ;-)

  • http://www.send2press.com/ Christopher Simmons

    Well, press releases done via legitimate newswires – meaning an actual service with accredited, degreed staff and not telemarketers or sock puppets, help companies and brands get media coverage. We have book authors get newspaper interviews, artists get mentioned on Conan O’Brien, and nonprofits get on the evening news with Brian Williams. I’ve been interviewed by PCWorld, Entrepreneur, TrendWatch, Chicago Sun Times, etc., and that happened by putting out a press release. The PROBLEM is the dearth of crap online press release sites claiming that doing a press release oh their site (basically paid content), without actually engaging with traditional media, or vetting the content dilutes the value for REAL wire services with a good track record and expert staff who want to help folks get ink (or virtual ink). So, I disagree that traditional PR will go away, but I’m really hoping this move by Google will inspire the 500 “Bobbo’s PR Barn” sites “post your news for only $29″ stuff to pack it in and get a real job.

  • Paul Grisham

    Paulie taxi

  • Paul Grisham

    I like google

  • http://www.send2press.com/ Christopher Simmons

    Hi folks; in case anybody else feels the need to quickly bootstrap a fix to any of their sites (we had to do this to one of them, in my estimation, just to be safe, as I did find some news items with live anchors, albeit done tastefully and relevantly to the news items; e.g., name of CEO links to company bio page, etc.) … so, if you’re running a WordPress site, this plugin actually works (it’s not mine, and I have no relationship): http://wordpress.org/plugins/wp-external-links/

  • http://www.send2press.com/ Christopher Simmons

    +1

  • http://www.send2press.com/ Christopher Simmons

    Hi Duncan – pardon additional follow up (I’m a chatty guy this morning, it seems) — I AGREE — here’s to press releases no longer being use for keyword stuffing by over zealous CMOs and SEOs . :-)

  • Michael D

    So if I syndicate my content to yahoo or huff po, do i need to request that all the links contained within that article are no followed?

  • Pat Grady

    There’s the word “native advertising” again, trending. Haha.

  • http://www.elite-strategies.com/blog Patrick Coombe

    Despite if this is a scare tactic issued by Matt via Google due to the fact that these links do “work” and they want people to cease activity….that does not mean that a site will pass a manual review.

    Most people here are thinking algorithmically but we forget the sites that get screwed over the WORST are the sites that get banged with a manual review.

  • Sandip Banerjee

    To me this is a never ending process. We are so much dependent on Google and we have to pay the price for it. Monopoly always have its issue. I also wounder the guidelines Google sharing – most of us are overusing those methods and causing the issue.

    I think we need to forgot all about so called “link building tactics”. Just need to focus on how to create real good contents and try to share the value what users wants in natural way. Beside this, conversion rate optimization can be a good tool to check user experience and take action according to that. Correct me if i am wrong.

    Thanks

  • Steve K

    Ah, another surprise from Google…Um – not quite….Look G is the biggest link spammer bar none in the history of search engines. They make billions of dollars off other people’s content – plain and simple…

    Their organic listings are are joke nowadays. The best thing that could happen and I believe it likely could in the next few years, is that they become a 2nd or 3rd rate search engine. Then we can all watch Matt Cutts with that smirk quickly disappear. I for one will continue to do what is necessary to rank organically. Anyone that is on page 1 for a term, especially a med to high competitive term uses black hat techniques and don’t be fooled to think otherwise from the naysayers.

    Then there are those that say – what about white hat. Please give it up already. If you get a link from another website to help you rank – you are breaking their TOS. Who gives a crap about that….

  • http://www.belize.com/ Belize.com

    I welcome this. I am fed up with the churn of daily press releases, some of which regretfully run on the blogs of legitimate newspapers and TV stations, and which are no more than SPAM. A growing number of businesses are using the practice of “news jacking” to churn out an endless flow of fluff press releases littered with links. I think Google should ban ALL press release sites from its Google News Service.

Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter @sengineland Like Search Engine Land on Facebook Follow Search Engine Land on Google+ Get the Search Engine Land Feed Connect with Search Engine Land on LinkedIn Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest

 
 

Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States

Europe

Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech


Free Daily Search News Recap!

SearchCap is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!

 


 

Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Get Your Copy
Read The Full SEO Guide