Google: Links In Press Releases Should Use Nofollow Like Paid Links

newsFriday we broke the news that Google updated their link schemes webmaster guidelines. Now that the dust has settled, I aimed at getting more clarification on what Google meant by the new example around keyword-rich anchor text links within articles or press releases.

The specific line in the link schemes document is:

Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites.

John Mueller, one of Google’s lead Webmaster Trends Analyst, was kind enough to answer some of my questions around this documentation change in a video hangout. The questions from SEOs and myself around the new link schemes documentation change are in the first ten minutes, the outcome was to nofollow links within press releases.

Throughout the video, John Mueller equated press releases to advertisements. It was specifically asked if all links in press releases need to be nofollowed or just “links with optimized anchor text” in press releases need to be nofollowed. While John said it would be somewhat okay to have direct URLs linked within press releases that are followed, he did say to be safe, he’d recommend nofollowing even those links (i.e. the links that are not even optimized anchor text).

Google’s John Mueller did add that there is still great value to using press releases. The goal of the press release is to get the word out to the press about your new service or product. When the press hears about what you have to offer and if/when they decide to write about it on their own sites, those links do not need to be nofollowed. In fact, those stories written editorially are the links that Google values the most.

Google’s Matt Cutts has said that links within press releases do not pass value. Although SEOs have proof that this is not true, it does seem that Google is taking even more direct action against abuse of links within articles and press releases that are paid.

Here is the video (again, watch the first ten minutes or so):

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


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.

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  • Christopher Simmons

    While this is not directed at me; note that most journalists who get an inline email with a press release prefer UTF-8 plain text (this ensures curly quotes, bullets and umlauts are not encoded with MS Word “formatting” or other things which break in secure email readers), and neither attachments (which may contain virus, and hard to read on mobile) or rich media. So, anchor links in emails “sent” to media wouldn’t have such links anyway and would not be seen by Google as they don’t read your email for SERPS :-)

  • Christopher Simmons


  • Jenny Halasz

    yes, that’s the rub. My client has been given an unnatural links notice, we cleaned up hundreds of links, and then we got a notice from google saying that we needed to clear out all their old press release syndication links. These are little sites that pick up and republish the PRweb type content, but don’t put nofollow on the links because they don’t know any better.

  • Jenny Halasz

    We’ll keep plugging away. Thanks for the advice/feedback.

  • Christopher Simmons

    Argh! Well, you may have to use the “disavow” tool they setup for that which is designed to basically say to Google “okay, these bozos are linking to me from their junk site, I don’t want that link to count…” … I had a client who did that (unrelated to my company/services entirely) and seemed to solve that, esp those spam blogs that grab one paragraph from the release and there’s a dofollow in first paragraph. Maybe that will help.

  • TrevorandStephanie

    Hi Barry, as I listened to the hangout video there was one thing that somehow left quite an impression in my mind…and something that I never realised could happen but may. I’m talking widgets…so easy to install yet does the code contain a sneaky link insertion by the creator? Any viewpoints ?

  • Valerie DiCarlo

    So… it’s still unclear:

    - Will PRWeb, PRNewswire, etc have to implement nofollows on all the links in PRs?
    - What about any news media, blogs, etc that pick up a release, will they have to implement the same?

    Yes, I get the fact that the spammers ruined it for all of us, but why make a blanket rule? Why is news worthy content w/best practice optimization considered a link scheme? Why wouldn’t a company WANT to advertise their news? And why wouldn’t a search engine WANT to reward that?

    OH WAIT… silly me, Google is NOT a search engine… it’s an advertising company… #OnlyMarketThruAdwords

  • Valerie DiCarlo
  • Valerie DiCarlo

    From the above article:

    “Releases will always be strong brand signals and provide validation for potential customers who research a company. However, with this new update from Google, PRWeb has already added rel=nofollow attributes to all distribution links from to protect our customers from any adverse effects from these bad actors.”

    will always be strong brand signals and provide validation for
    potential customers who research a company. However, with this new
    update from Google, PRWeb has already added rel=nofollow attributes to
    all distribution links from to protect our customers from any
    adverse effects from these bad actors. – See more at:

  • Valerie DiCarlo

    Also to note from this article:

    “And, when that network (or a casual reader of news content) picks up your story and writes editorially, your site can still realize significant SEO benefits.”

    But how long before legit earned placements also get the axe?

  • Christopher Simmons

    Yes. See the statement above from Send2Press and also PRNewswire. Links in press releases will have nofollow, unless the site implements some kind of localized linking policy.

  • Yussuf

    Just think of WHY Google is doing everything they do. They want to sell clicks through Adwords, i.e. they do not want sites to rank organically. Paid search is everything to them.
    (but for press releases I just have to say this; In the old days when press releases were sent out to news desks using fax or email the sender really hoped to get published by a journalist. Nowadays with SEO driven press releases all kinds of uninteresting junk is sent out and ppl hope that it will NOT get published by a journalist. Often such press releases are pure junk)

  • josephmaresca

    I think press releases are ok but only to a certain extent. For example, if you have blasted every single url on your site with press releases the more and more you use them the less of an impact it will have on your rankings. I believe press releases still do have a slight benefit (which is evident of a case study Barry Schwartz wrote about where he linked some super low competitive query to Matt Cutt’s blog and was able to get the blog to rank for that query with a press release).

    In addition to that Google is suggesting to nofollow links with keywords in your anchor text which to me indicates that Google is turning up the signal for hurting and dealing with keyworded anchors. They have mentioned that straight domains are ok in a press release and they don’t need to be nofollowed (just check out the video of the Google+ Hangout Barry placed in one of his latest articles. Barry gets right down to it and asks the right questions that can give us to right picture to make a determination on press releases).

  • josephmaresca

    The reason why Press Releases are getting slammed because you are paying for people to pick up you content which is just like paying for a link.

    If you want to use press releases just don’t link from keywords. Have one straight domain url in the content somwhere, don’t blast the same url over and over and you will ok.

    I don’t understand what the confusion is with this topic.

  • Valerie DiCarlo

    Yeah, not confused. Simply irritated.

  • Joseph Maresca

    I total hear you about being irritated. Its getting harder and harder to get the links we need to rank our sites. But on the flip side all of our competitors are on the same playing field now too. They need to play by the same rules. Google keeps telling us to focus on great content and great products and by doing that will we be able to get links more easily with the link building tactics that are available. Think about it. Google has tons and tons of webpages stored in their data centers and its costs money to warehouse that content. Why not force those who want to leverage Google’s all powerful traffic generation ability to create higher quality content. Higher quality content only means a higher quality search result so it makes complete sense for them to it. For years we as SEO have been getting away with murder. Sorry to all those SEO’s who are just getting in the game but think about what the Search Results looked like 10 years ago before Google’s Florida update. Search results where a mess. You would search for “buy a domain” and buydomains com would own every single first page ranking.

  • Steve K

    You missed one other pt Valerie…Google is the biggest spammer on the net. The take everyone’s content freely, scrap it and make billions. Yes, they have become a main stream advertising company for the past 8 years or so. Its no longer about the quality of organic search. Its all about how many paid ads can they put on your search results.

  • Joseph Maresca

    Widgets and templates have gotten nailed for containing links. Old News!

  • Joseph Maresca

    Yes Chenzo. Diversifying the url location of your links in press releases is a good idea but it still has diminishing returns the more you do it and keyworded achors is a signal that can hurt your rankings but is outside that of press releases but press releases typically have them so its a good idea not to include keywords in your anchors.

  • Joseph Maresca

    I think everybody’s thinking is pointing in the wrong direction. It isn’t the fact that you are using press releases and guest posts for links but that you are using keywords in your links. That is what is being attacked. I will have this topic cleared up with all of you soon enough.

    Remember people, Google ranks sites algorithmically and manually. If you start thinking along those lines I think you will get a better idea of what to do or not do.

  • atentat

    I agree with this. What I mean are online press releases, not legit pitching to journalists or other more reputable channels. As for online journalists may look on twitter for stories, but they certainly dont look on PRWeb or any other place like it. They aint idiots :)

  • website design rochester

    Hi, This is a good post, indeed a great job

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