Get Over Yourself – Matt Cutts Did Not Just Kill Another SEO Kitten

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Fed up with Google’s continual changing of the rules?  Worn out by all mixed messages they send?  Sick and tired of being sick and tired of the endless insanity that’s known as SEO?

Listen up, people.  If you want to stop getting hammered by Google for your SEO practices, you really need to pull your heads out of the collective sand and start using your ability to grasp concepts most of you ignore.

This morning, I saw a tweet from Phil Buckley proclaiming that Google says press release links won’t help your SEO.

Matt Cutts Didn't Kill Another SEO Kitten

What that’s about is that over on the Google forums, someone said they were concerned about Google penalizing a site that obtains too many links in too short a time period.  The member was researching press release companies and was looking for one that “only sends the PR out to legit news media and online media”.  The notion being that if a company only sends out releases to “legitimate” sites, there won’t be a flood of instant low quality links, and in turn, the thinking here is that the site won’t be penalized as a result.

In the comments, Matt Cutts responded with a single line statement:

Matt Cutts Comment on Press Release Links

And because of that one statement, which, if you are even half-willing to grasp reality, is a very narrowly focused statement, not an all-encompassing position point, half the search industry went into a complete state of utter ridiculousness.

The article Phil linked to had a headline “Google Cutts: Links From Press Releases Won’t Help“.   And of course, the search community is just further spreading that completely fabricated, baseless and misguided claim:

Baseless Claim about Press Release Links


OMG Seriously?  Come on people what have you been smoking in your Christmas pipes?   Why do you continually spin reality into baseless fiction?  We do NOT know, from that one comment Matt made, WHAT Google’s comprehensive position is on press releases and whether there is any value in them related to SEO or not.

Yet the headlines and the tweets make it out to be that Google has officially banished press releases off the face of the SEO map.

By taking a single simple snippet and spinning it into a comprehensive position statement is a serious flaw in the search industry and a major contributor to sites continually being hammered by Google, or continually focusing on tasks they shouldn’t be focused on.

The Problem with Press Releases

The problem with press releases, of course, is a problem common to most any marketing task that myopic SEO “gurus” turn into spam.   Press releases are just one example.  On any given day, there are tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of crappy content filled press releases that aren’t really press releases at all, but are purely filler content designed to push links out to the world to falsely prop up site rankings.  And most companies that sell press release services either offer no editorial control, or weak, easily manipulated editorial guidelines, so most of that garbage goes out, polluting the web.

Worse, countless sites exist designed to scrape press release content, intentionally or ignorantly, to fill up content on their sites “because Google likes fresh content”.

Sustainable SEO Loves Press Releases

Yes, that’s right.  In SPITE of the problems with press releases I’ve described, and in SPITE of the fact that most releases are garbage, and in SPITE of the fact that a press release can end up being duplicated across thousands of crappy sites, press releases are, and will continue to remain an SEO best practice.  No matter how many people in our industry claim that Matt Cutts or Google said press release links don’t count.

Who’s Right?  Me or Matt Cutts?

Actually Matt and I are not on opposing sides of this one.  In fact, in all the years I’ve been doing SEO and performing audits, I’ve never once taken a position that opposes Matt’s position on what works and what doesn’t.  And oh – how odd – none of my clients who came to me before Panda, ever got slapped by Google. And all the clients who’ve come to me since who then went on and implemented my recommendations and maintained that effort have not subsequently been slapped.  That’s not because Matt likes me (he may, or may not, depending on how seriously he fears being poked by the SEO rant bear).

No, it’s because ANYONE who understands the deeper concepts of SEO and Google, will always, or almost always, take a position that happens to line up with Matt’s public statements.  Because we don’t allow the hype, the hyperbole, or the nonsensical spinmeisters cloud our thinking.  We see beyond it.  And you should too.  You really need to learn how to.

And at the very least, what I believe Matt was alluding to was the fact that content on press release sites has become so polluted overall that having links come from THOSE sites is not likely to be of SEO value. And that’s a whole lot different than saying “press release links of any kind are useless for SEO”.

And because press releases as a primary SEO strategy are myopic at best, and spam in epic proportions most of the time.

Maybe Press Release Links Don’t Help SEO

Now here’s one concept some people think is the deeper truth as well.  If a well crafted release is distributed, and if that release is picked up by a major news site, some in the industry think that THOSE links actually can provide SEO value.  In light of Matt’s statement, that could very well be true.  He did not say that “a link coming from within a press release, no matter where that release is posted, does not count for SEO”.   He only referred to “press release sites”.

That concept may not be true, IF Google discounts/ignores links from all press releases. But Matt didn’t say that.  It MAY be true that’s the case, and it may not.

I’ve asked Matt for clarification and will update this post if/when he responds.


Regardless of the “link value”, and even if Matt does specifically say that Google detects and instantly ignores links in press releases of all kinds, regardless of release quality and regardless of where that release was posted, there are still important values to press releases.

REAL Press releases, that communicate TRULY time sensitive  newsworthy information, have, and always will be a valuable means of spreading information that deserves to be spread.  REAL press releases don’t get written purely for the links.  REAL press releases are designed to communicate with legitimate news people.   REAL press releases are designed to let others know valid updated information.

And a well crafted press release, targeting truly accurate niche recipients can lead to legitimate journalists, bloggers and social media influencers contacting a site’s owners, or doing their own write-up on the subject, and potentially even generating their own links.

So from a sustainable SEO perspective, press releases are STILL an SEO best practice recommendation.  As part of a comprehensive marketing solution that is vital to providing multiple layers of direct and indirect signals for SEO purposes. But ONLY when those releases are executed properly.

UPDATE:  Arnie Kuenn pointed out that others have a similar take on this – Eric MacKinnon from Gravytrain summed it up in his own comment over on the Roundtable site…

UPDATE: Matt Cutts Responds

After reaching out to Matt, here’s his response, via a series of tweets:

I think I covered this on pretty well (search for “press release” to catch all the comments I made.

Ultra-short version: 1) don’t expect links from press release websites to help ranking.

2) Don’t expect press releases on many other websites, e.g. on Houston Chronicle to help either.

& 3) the benefit is not links/PR from the press release directly; it’s primarily when reporters write an article as a result.

but I think all of those points are implicit in my 2005 comments on press releases from Hope that helps.

Well there you have it – Matt’s pretty clear on this – I appreciate Matt responding.

Alan Bleiweiss
Alan Bleiweiss is a Forensic SEO audit consultant with audit client sites consisting of upwards of 50 million pages and tens of millions of visitors... Read Full Bio
Alan Bleiweiss
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  • Kevin

    It’s really just those who are new, clueless, stupid or some combination of the three that think this is some sort of revelation. Matt’s comment were brief, but it’s essentially the same thing he’s been saying since 2005:

    • Kevin, you’ve got a valid point. My concern is getting people to wake up and realize it’s their operating while asleep at the wheel (regardless of WHY they are asleep) that’s the bigger problem and the underlying cause of so many failings related to SEO…

  • Amen!

    OK, people, listen to Alan. He’s being tame here when he said, “pull your heads out of the collective sand and start using your ability to grasp concepts!”

    STOP the hyperbole!

    Great job, Alan!

  • Jim

    I think the chicken-little SEOs need to relax, as proved here, the tweet from Linda was phrased in a way to elicit clicks and increase pageviews. I encourage you not to fall into their trap. People that get paid to give feedback shouldn’t be so reckless in communicating news albeit poorly.

  • Couldn’t agree more. Good press has great value well beyond just links. Even if you get no links with any SEO value you can still get direct site traffic, increased brand awareness and a boost to your credibility.

    • I think in this way Social Media is coming in the market, If we are not building any links from SEO.

  • As someone who had to read and recap press releases in a previous position, people misusing and abusing press releases is one of the things that gets under my skin the most. A press release is there to engage journalists. It’s not a sales sheet, it’s not an opinion piece, and it’s not a pure SEO tactic. Give journalists NEWS written tightly and you’re good to go. If you fish for links, you’ll get minnows. Fish for the story and you have a chance at coverage “this big!”

  • Alan, hardly a day goes by that some nimrod doesn’t either take some remark totally out of context, or just flat misinterpret it entirely… Thankfully, there’s no shortage of folks like you that are ready and willing to step up and call them on it.
    Unfortunately, by that time, someone (or SEVERAL someones) have swallowed the hook, spread the misinformation through their blog, some forum or in social… sometimes, the crap seems to take on a life of its own, and no amount of logic or evidence to the contrary will put it to bed.
    It never ceases to amaze me how many people are willing to accept as gospel, some absolute statement from a total stranger.
    Personally, I don’t accept absolute statements from ANYbody! They’re rarely, if ever, true.
    Great post! Thanks.

    • Doc,

      That’s the best use of “nimrod” I’ve seen in a long time! And it’s true. By the time I started writing the article, my blood was well on the way to boiling, which yes, also means several someones probably had already swallowed the hook on this one.

  • If you missed it, Matt responded to my asking him for clarification – I added his tweets, in exact quotes, in an update to the bottom of this article…

  • Don

    Yes, your point is correct. There is no manual filter in place to negate link juice from press releases. It will likely trip the Penguin filter if a new site suddenly gets a bunch of low quality links especially if the press release has no content added to it. A brand will not get hurt.

    “And oh – how odd – none of my clients ever got slapped by Google. ”

    I call you out for BullSh$t. None of your clients got hit by Panda or Penguin? That’s impossible . If we’re talking more then 5 clients then one of them has gotten Panda Slapped. I’d bet serious money on that. Everyone has got hit by Panda at one point or another. I’m sorry but you’re either out of touch with the current situation in the Google SERPS or sucking up to someone.

    • Don,

      “Everyone has got hit by Panda at one point or another”. Really? Seriously? How do I even respond to THAT claim? We’re talking about 100% coverage, all of it resulting in DROPS to rankings. Please.

      While there are many sites that have been hit, they come to me after they’ve been hit. 40 just in the past six months, between Panda, Penguin and manual penalties. And whether you would like to believe it or not, none of the sites I worked on or provided audit recommendations to and then where those were fully implemented before Panda have been slapped.

      Sure, some have seen ranking fluctuations. And some of those required stepping up efforts to strengthen their foundation. Yet none of them have taken a nose-dive. It’s just a reality.

      • Don

        I’m sorry but stating that you’ve not been hit by Panda is stating that you’re out of touch, you’re not doing battle in the trenches and frankly you shouldn’t being writing about SEO in 2012/13. I don’t know where you have been doing SEO, but it is impossible not to be hit by Panda/Penguin/ EMD at some point.
        We are talking about 23 Panda UPDATES!!
        The masive collateral damage from these updates makes it highly unlikely that even 1 out of 5 squeaky clean sites would not have been spanked. I’m sorry but I don’t believe, “And oh – how odd – none of my clients ever got slapped by Google. ”
        You should know that Panda is not really a spanking. It’s a machine dividing the Internet into two buckets. The Authority sites and the rest. Panda hit ites have not done anything wrong. There is no way to confidently say that your clients won’t be hit by Panda if they listen to your advice. I don’t know how you can say that. If you understand Panda you would know how unpredictable it is. If you haven’t been hit by Panda yet, you probably shouldn’t be giving advice for the future.

    • I was trying to stay out of this whole thing because I didn’t want to add any more credence to Barry’s sensational headline/article, but I have to tell Don (above) that he should probably retire from the SEO world if he is willing to bet serious money on his Panda claim. I totally agree with Alan’s response and need not say more.

      • My headline is correct. I go into detail in my story. I don’t see anything at all wrong with my headline.

    • Jack Norell

      Ah, calling BS while not leaving a real name? We should definitely listen to you rather than Alan… Think I’ll stick to people who stand up and say who they are.

    • Not true at all. Many sites have not gotten hit by penguin or panda. In fact, I have one client right now who did get hit by both, especially Panda, which can be devastating. If this happens to a client, a great thing to do is to use the free versions of searchmetrics dot com and semrush dot com and look at the site’s competitors. You’ll likely find a few that have NOT been hit, and that’s where a lot of the Panda hit site’s traffic has gone. It’s also a good way to start to figure out how to build better content. Look carefully at the sites that haven’t been hit. What did they do right? You can’t copy what they other guy is doing but you can at least see there the quality bar is and start building a better site that likely won’t get hit by Panda.

  • Don,
    Your complete unwillingness, incapacity to comprehend that not every site has been negatively harmed by Panda is epic. Your belief that anyone who has not been hit by Panda must be out of touch with reality is also mind boggling. Just because YOU or site YOU have worked on may have (all) been hit and just because you may only operate in circles where everyone else you communicate with on a daily basis has been harmed does not mean it’s been a blanket down-fall for the entire Internet. It only means that your world is too small to encompass the overwhelming majority of professionals in this industry I deal with and communicate with on a daily basis.

    Your desire to attack my skill, experience and reputation does nothing to back up your outrageously wild claims.

    Not once did I ever state that I can guarantee sites I work on won’t at some point in the future be seriously slapped by Google. Nobody has the ability to make such claims. I have, however, specifically stated that I have, just in the past six months, performed audits on FORTY sites that HAVE been hit by Panda, Penguin, the EMD update, the Above-the-Fold update, manual penalties, some combination thereof, and/or hit by any combination of the several hundreds of other smaller updates Google has performed over the past couple years.

    Before you go on spouting such insanity again please stop. Because you seem, from your attacks, to be the very type of person this article was written for.

    • Don

      My button was pushed by this statement, “And oh – how odd – none of my clients ever got slapped by Google. ” as if you are taking credit for helping your clients avoid Panda, when it is accepted in all SEO circles that there was no way to predict Panda and there still is no way to predict Panda’s future BECAUSE Panda comes with collateral damage! Great big buckets full of collateral damage! You didn’t avoid it because of skills. You were lucky! So keep quiet, don’t brag about it, have some decency.
      “Not once did I ever state that I can guarantee sites I work on won’t at some point in the future be seriously slapped by Google. ”
      So your work comes with no guarantee for the future and yet you brag that your clients were not hit by Panda. Either take credit AND responsibility for the future or take neither.

      • I’ve humored you until now. This will be the last reply. I didn’t help my clients AVOID Panda. I implemented actual, real, world class sustainable SEO best practices. The result turned out, without any ability for me to anticipate in advance, that when Panda hit, and with each subsequent Panda update, that those sites were strong enough, stable enough, and had high enough quality that they have not sees any observable drop on any Panda iteration.

        Sure, maybe I was lucky. I don’t think so, Don. Sustainable SEO is just that. It’s sustainable. They’re not called “best practices” without reason.

        Myopic SEO, on the other hand, fails to consider long term considerations, and is always looking for the shortcut or the short-term gain, without enough regard and critical thinking to see beyond what we know today. It’s not crystal ball reading. It’s not luck. It’s not bullet proof. It’s just “the most likely possibility” for maintaining position.

        Is it possible that one of the sites I’ve worked on pre-Panda, or one that I’ve helped rebound after Panda could get slapped? Of course it is. Is it likely? Less likely than in those situations where sites continually get slapped. And less likely than in those situations where people don’t use critical thinking beyond the basics. And less likely than in those situations where a comprehensive best practices approach isn’t applied.

        And if I didn’t know what I was talking about, I’d have never been able to get the kind of results I showed, in detail, in this past summer’s Panda 1 Year Review case study.

      • Alan, you must have your head in a dark sandy place if you think none of your clients have suffered from any of the Google tune-up effects.

        I went to take a look at your client list and chose
        If you look in the majesticseo link stats, over time this site has lost close to 3 MILLION links, or just under 40% of their current total.
        A lot of the link losses peak around the times of Google updates.

        How is this not observable drops?

        I am not saying it is your company’s fault, Panda was a UNIVERSAL decrease in linking sites.

        If a thin content site was linking to you and Google eliminated their listings, the traffic coming from that site could only have been reduced, if not eliminated.

        I have a client that is strictly 100% organic linking.
        We do not place links, it is our users (we sell graphic software), that do ALL the link building.

        When Panda hit, we lost a lot of links that were coming from thin content sites.
        This was just under 30%.

      • First, lets start by mentioning the fact you tried to use a keyword in your “name” field.

        Second, just because you see a site listed as a client does not mean they came to me BEFORE being hammered.

        Third, many of the clients I list span my experience in the Internet Marketing industry going back to January of 1995. So you really don’t know whether your client-fishing expedition assumption chose bait from actual SEO work or auditing I’ve done, and thus is already critically flawed based on that fact alone.

        Third, many of the sites I perform audits on are multi-million page sites. My audits entail extensive major overhaul tasking across several points. Not all of my clients have the time, resources or willingness to implement every recommendation I make, and even if they do, it can take 90 days to a year for them to implement.

        Fourth, specific to ChaCha, they actually consult with multiple SEO experts, and from there, their internal team draws a consensus based decision on actionable items, which then get posted into a much larger decision making process at the corporate level, and thus implementation can take even longer.

        Fifth, just because a site lost links doesn’t mean they suffered organically. To draw such a conclusion fails to understand SEO. While they MAY have lost SEO value with the drop-off of links, it is quite possible they actually IMPROVED their overall quality regarding SEO signals.

  • Don, I would suggest you quit, not while you’re ahead, because that ship seems to have sailed. Rather, before you get any further behind. 😉

    While I don’t have Alan’s level of experience, I run a number of campaigns, and I have yet to have one of my clients’ sites hit, either. Perhaps that’s because I play very conservatively with my clients’ livelihood, perhaps it’s just blind luck. But to imply that anyone that hasn’t been hit by a major penalty is incompetent, lying or
    not “playing in the trenches” is ludicrous.

    If you, indeed, have had a number of clients that WERE hit with major penalties while under your wing, might I suggest you not use that as your primary marketing ploy? It doesn’t speak well of your capabilities.

    • elletis

      lol … agree with u on ur points….

  • I was reading this on my tablet without checking the author. Suddenly the voice in my head reading sounded a lot like Alan.

  • Mike

    Thing about automatically syndicated press releases is that your essentially spreading duplicated content far and wide. Google’s detection of duplicate content hasn’t always been the best, admittedly, but they usually seemed to catch most of them, and their capacity certainly isn’t diminishing. It was never a high value tactic, and its not improving.

    Good wider point about the hyperbole in our little community. I’m knicking a quote from a buddy here, but; “SEO is like sex in high school.. Everyone talks themselves up, but no-one’s really all that sure how to do it’. It pays to be extremely cynical about what you read online – and if you take what Google says on blind faith without even considering what their agenda might be, your never going to get ahead in this game.

  • I think my story was clear and on point with Matt’s update here. Sorry if people took the headline out of context.

    • Hi Barry – yeah it was accurate within the specific confines of link value within those releases. The bigger issue I hoped to make here is too many people in the industry take the core concept and spin it into other things – in this case, it reinforced the belief about not bothering with press releases at all. Too often, headlines become the foundation for “experts” belief systems and the content of the article itself gets lost.

      • At the same time, too many SEOs feel the links within the press releases is all they should care about. A press release that has no value, won’t get the attention required to have any SEO benefit. But these SEOs are buying pointless press releases and are happy as long as the release has anchor text. 🙂

      • Good point Barry. If this little controversy keeps lazy SEOs from pushing out pointless PRs just to get links, then it has done its job.

  • I use PR pieces when there is something newsworthy and only to drive traffic. A well written PR piece can bring really nice residual traffic if it is positioned and leveraged correctly, To put out PR through distribution engines for purely ranking purposes is ludicrous!

  • But, I read it on the internet. It must be true!

  • David

    This article lost all credibility when “OMG Seriously?” was used as a legitimate sentence.

    • OMG Seriously?

    • I know! I totally decided to disregard all of Alan’s experience and learning because of that phrase, too.

  • Terry Van Horne

    It’s easy to see there is no benefit from being on a PR site quite frankly they do not pass link equity down the hierarchy so your press release gets almost nothing from the site….so if there are no incoming links to the PR then no equity passed so the links have little value. There has only been a short time when doing PR should have been more more about getting links (pre 2003) links and not attempting to get coverage on other sites and broadcast media.

  • PL

    It’s pretty clear to any SEO out there a press release link from an authoritative media outlet will indefinitely be a quality link, and thus help rankings.

    Matt Cutts simply can’t make statements on what will help SEO vs. what will not and has to keep his dialogue purely white hat. If he changed his statement do “press release links will help”

    1. That would be odd
    2. There will be 1000 new SEO articles suggesting everyone should focus on press release links as it is a confirmed rank lifting
    3. There will be a flood of press release links

    And thus Google engineers will have to make another enhancement in their link evaluation of their algo to filter out manually pushed PR links which are unnatural

  • Thanks for the voice of reason on this one, Alan.

    And you and Matt totally agree: Press releases AREN’T FOR LINKS. If you’re just doing press releases to build links, you’re kind of stuck in 2003. Learn to do real PR, and real SEO. Or please, God, stop writing blog posts.

    Wait, did I say that out loud?

    • Ric Dragon

      That’s why there’s a Wayback Machine – at some point we may need to go back to 2003 and get these guys.

    • THANK YOU!

      Now if only we could put bad SEO person bait over a stick covered hole or net…. catch & release them onto a farm where they could all talk B.S. about Google together… 🙂

  • Keyword Name Removed

    Very entertaining. Usually (wont mention the site) most sites posts about SEO is a bunch of ataboy(girl), great, neato, great article, super duper, stuff by a bunch of self-promoters. So bravo. Some real discussion. A lass however is that my 2 cents is that if you have ever done any web design work you know that no body reads the content on a web page. Hence if the goal of SEO is to bring in more revenue, clients, etc then realize this article is not being read by anyone that will make any difference in any way in any of your lives other than perhaps stirring up a few emotions amongst those in this industry.

    • @Keyword Name Removed

      Agreed that good discussion can offer great new insights. In that spirit, let me disagree somewhat with your statement:

      “… if you have ever done any web design work you know that no body reads the content on a web page.”

      While I’m sure we all realize that most people scan rather than read, I would say that’s generally true, but with a couple of qualifiers:

      First of all, when SEO is being properly performed, the folks arriving at a page will be targeted specifically for that page’s content. They’re looking for something specific, and they’ll scan the page to see if it looks like they’ve found the right place. Putting keywords in sub-headings, bold or italics isn’t just for the search engines – it helps in that scanning process. A LOT. 🙂

      Once the user’s initial scan draws his attention to some part of the page’s content, he’ll usually scan it more deeply, to see if it still seems to fill the bill. Then he’ll read it carefully, to extract the information he’s looking for. I think that’s generally the case.

      In the instance of this particular article, I’d hazard a guess that most have read it carefully, for a couple of reasons:

      1. It has, as you say, generated a good bit of discussion, and I’m sure that many, including myself, have scrolled back up more than once, to review a particular part of the article. With all these comments, some in disagreement with Alan on one point or another, there have been a couple of comments that seem to have taken things out of context. I know that when I saw such, I went back to see if my first impression was correct;

      2. The author is known and respected by most of us, so simply by noticing the byline, we’re more inclined to read, rather than just scan. But granted, that’s a niche-driven effect;

      As for item #1 above, discussion isn’t the only thing that can cause users to read more carefully. Sometimes, surprising information or a controversial opinion can do the same. Not to be overused, certainly, but still useful on occasion.

      Pertaining to item #2, credibility and authority aren’t just limited to the folks that know you… they can be built by the way you treat clients, competitors and users, and by the way you write on your topic. And credibility and authority are giant steps from “scan” to “read”.

      • Here is my suggestion to help with this industry for those who write articles and those who post who want to be taken seriously. Just like companies, post percentage of revenue that comes from speaking, publishing training, ect versus those that come from actual services to clients. This would address the issue of being in the “trenches”. so for instance an 80/20 split pub vs seo work is less credible to me than someone who does 0/100. And then to further it, list the number of active seo clients. THis would go along way to establish credibilty for what is written from a practical vs from an academic or theory point of view. As an industry we need to establish more standards by which to rate and evaluate the level of expertise that someone has, versus just a bio. What you did 5 years ago (re clients) is not as revelvant as what you do today. Lots have done SEO in the past and then move into speaking and tools as a way to generate their income from those who may actually have more experience with current SEO than they do. It is also my belief that many of the hard core practicioneers do not want to speak publicly or be know as a guru because of damage to their practice just like any other service professional, like attorneys, pr, pi, broker…

      • @TheGuy

        I seriously doubt that many professionals would be willing to divulge that information, and I can see some problems with the idea:

        1. It would be asking for a lot of information to be shared publicly, that’s really not the business of anybody else;

        2. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t really be a reliable metric, because, sadly, there are many wannabes that would simply lie to inflate themselves;

        3. It would really mean nothing, in terms of the knowledge of the individual. There are many very knowledgeable people that write prolifically, but may not handle clients, just as there are many that handle many clients and never publish a word. Both may be “in the trenches”… up to date on the latest developments and techniques and proficient in implementing various aspects of technical SEO. Personally, even if everyone made such information publicly available, I’d put little weight on it, in evaluating their ability or knowledge.

        I write quite a bit myself, and I trust my readers to judge the quality of my information based upon its accuracy. If I simply pump out a lot of garbage and fluff, I will soon be cast aside, and with good cause. I think that’s the best way to judge the value of any professional… whether in their writing or their client practice… by results.

  • Today press release links get ignored, tomorrow article directory links will get ignored next social media links wont count! So many updates and changes is only creating confusion among webmasters. Will there be any sure shot way of handling SEO campaign?

  • This is why I always say that SEOs are unnecessarily scrutinizing every word spoken by Matt Cutts, They always look for simple solution or stuff to put blame on. Get over with it, Quality link from any quality source is useful. It is not going to die. SEO is not dead but stupid SEO tactics are.

  • I don’t think links from PR sites themselves will greatly benefit your site’s rankings. However, links from the sites in PR syndication networks will. Until I’m proven otherwise….

  • Hi – I had to jump into this comment chain. Great post Alan, it seems this is a constant debate….
    Part of the problem is PR professionals who are not educated in the benefits of optimizing a press release and they don’t realize the value they can bring to a company’s online visibility. The other problem is that most SEO’s don’t communicate with the PR team to find out what is happening within a company to write a newsworthy press release so they just write up some garbage announcement that typically originates from the wrong sources. Another problem from these mixed SEO – Press Release messages is causing client/businesses to NOT want to do a paid distribution press release because they think it will hurt them in SEO, which is completely false if you have the right SEO PR team behind your online efforts.
    Consider these stats:
    100% of journalists surveyed report using Google for story research and 98% expect organizations small and large to:
    have an online newsroom available to the media.
    provide access to news releases within their online newsroom
    find PR or media contact information readily available within an online newsroom
    offer the ability to search news archives within an online newsroom
    I recommend press releases to be part of an overall content strategy and to publish one newsworthy press release a month that is optimized for search and social media and also includes a strong image.
    Press releases that are written with three users in mind: journalists, customers and search engines – and include REAL and valuable and relevant content (press release or not) that your community cares about – will be the most successful. This will send quality referring traffic, potentially lead to a new story in a publication after a journalists finds your press releases in a search, help in reputation management, provide a chronological series of news if packaged in your website’s online newsroom properly.

    Happy New Year Alan and Search Engine Journal, see you in the Epic 2013! 🙂
    Here is the link to the survey I am referring to above

    • Lisa,

      Thank you for taking the time to provide even more insight and value regarding the importance and validity of press releases! Happy New Year to you as well 🙂

    • And that is that! Great job Lisa.

  • Actually I have found that legit press releases (actual news) with keyword links that get picked up on QUALITY press release sites like PR Web & PR Newswire and others (as opposed to all these free garbage PR sites) has helped many of my clients boost their rankings for specific keyword phrases. In short, like with most good quality, best practice SEO, it’s about using the various tools and techniques surgically rather than as blunt instruments.

  • I’m surprised that people, esp. SEO-workers, are shocked by this. When are they ever going to learn? You CANNOT just manually build, at will, a link somewhere and expect it to help you. People are so focused on links = ranking that that they forget what links really mean: it’s a judgement by someone else, NOT YOU, that your content is great. When you manufacture links, it’s manufactured popularity. If you want REAL (i.e., truly valuable) links, do some REAL (i.e., truly valuable) work to get them (e.g., write a great article that will benefit another site and that will give you credit).

    • Thanks for the comment Christopher – very well said, regarding the “judgement by someone else” aspect of links…

  • How did a conversation about press releases turned into an examination of Alan’s expertise and his client list? If you cannot add an argument to oppose Alan’s point, you don’t have to resort to tantrums to disagree. Your comments are like those press releases that provide no value for the ranking and SEO in general. Man up – argue the point. Geez…

    • I know. I hate when these things devolve into name calling and all this other nonsense that detracts from learning about the topic at hand.

  • @TheGuy

    Interesting concept on evaluating credibility. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how valid the data would be that comes out of it. The overwhelming majority of speaking opportunities are not paid, other than receiving a conference pass. And I don’t know of any individual in the industry who’s willing to be as open as I happen to be regarding income – most people are either concerned about privacy or consider it to be some form of ego-based reason.

    Personally, I openly share my income data because it’s a matter of openly talking about the miracle of my unique path: 1) how blessed I feel, having come from being a recovering addict and making just $12,000 a year in 2001 to now making an average of $200,000 a year (90% of which, for the record, comes from paying SEO clients). And 2) a great deal of my success has come from hearing how other people have risen from similar lows to their own levels of success – and knowing others have done so has instilled hope, determination and ultimately, faith that I too could achieve such goals.

    Again though, most people don’t care to be as open, and honestly, I think there’s nothing wrong with their choice.

    I’ll even go further in saying the amount of money someone makes really shouldn’t be a credibility point. I know many very highly skilled people in the world who aren’t paid nearly a fraction as much as I am for the work I do, and yet they’re some of the most skilled people I’ve ever met in life.

    • Here’s yet another reality – let’s say someone is highly skilled – really knows their stuff. That person maybe only has a couple active clients – yet they’re big clients, and maybe even require that person’s full time or near full time attention. If that person writes a book, and ends up getting on the NY Times bestseller list, their %age of revenue from paying clients could end up being a small portion of their income that year.

      That’s just one example of where “percentage of revenue from paying clients” isn’t a valid indicator at all.

  • Great story Alan! I think for the New Year we all need to collectively cook our “Chicken Little”.

    I completely agree that the majority of press releases are total “c!@p”. The whole point was to showcase a new product or service or whatever.

    It’s turned into a “yea! we checked out a new salad bar & decided to create a bunch of spam websites to promote” or even worse ” either way I didn’t learn anything useful & that is what Google is going after.

    For me, I already knew for years there was no point in creating zero value press releases. One only has to look at all the press release directories to see that.

  • Okay this is getting amusing. Two different people, or perhaps one person using different identities, have (has) decided that because they saw one of my clients have a loss of inbound links, then I must be an outright hack. Because to them, if a site loses links, it must be because they were slapped by Google. And that is what caused the loss of links. Or more bizarre, they think that since a site lost a lot of inbound links, all the other SEO metrics must have suffered, and not improved. Because hey, twisted, extremist correlation allows you to pretend those kind of outcomes.

    So let’s make sure we’re really clear on this now. Rather than saying “not one of my clients has been slapped by Google”, to myself and most others, that refers to clients who came to me BEFORE Panda, and for those who came AFTER they were slapped, when they have actually been able to implement all of my recommendations, they have reached stability.

    So please. Get over yourselves on this one as well. Because if you have had your head in the sand and only want to expend your energy attacking me, because of what you think you saw based on one client listed, and in turn, if you choose to refuse the deeper understanding, I’m now spelling it out for you. Of course, that means any clients who came to me after being slapped were obviously slapped. And those who have not fully implemented my recommendations , some of them have also seen continued problems.

    And if you’re basing your evaluation of my skill on clients I’ve worked with in the past six to nine months, while some of those have both fully recovered and stabilized, others haven’t even begun implementing my recommendations on a large enough scale to get them stabilized. Because we’re talking multi-million page sites, or sites that require a complete overhaul.

    And this comment is the last time I’m going to bother having to explain reality on a 3rd grade level.

  • Alan – If PR is NO more then Article submission and blog Submission works? Press releases and article submission, Blog are basically the same thing.

  • Amen indeed! All SEOs need to make “Stop being an absolutist who only sees things in black/white and “all or nothing”. It isn’t press releases that are inherently bad – it is that nobody should expect just any half-assed press release to help the site rank better. Just like anchor text links and maybe even directories – when used wisely they will work. When abused, they will do harm (or at least not work).

  • (edit to previous comment – forgot “a new year’s resolution”. Please disregard previous comment, thanks)
    Amen indeed!
    All SEOs need to make “Stop being an absolutist who only sees things in black/white and “all or nothing” a New Year’s Resolution.
    It isn’t press releases that are inherently bad – it is that nobody should expect just any half-assed press release to help the site rank better. Just like anchor text links and maybe even directories – when used wisely they will work. When abused, they will do harm (or at least not work).

  • It is true that PR gets lot of links from duplicate contents. But, IMO that should not be the goal. If you refer to Google guideline, they always prefer voluntary links. To ensure that, you need to make your news and content reach to many people to get many voluntary links. I don’t know any better way than PR (except advertising). I had a client who had 45 editorial reviews on their news in one week when they posted a news. These are the links that Google likes. So, I don’t think PR should be used as link building strategy, rather it should be a buzz creating strategy.

  • Press releases are only relevant in Google’s eyes — when merchants and businesses buy one of Google’s press releases submission products. (I bet many of your commenters are unaware of this.)

    • @H. Bentz –
      is that something you can substantiate? I’ve seen press releases returned for search queries when Google’s products had nothing to do with the PR.

  • I did an experiment in late Oct with a Press Releases (my business won a marketing award) and when I did my end of November analysis of where I was at with keywords (in google) – I jumped from 48 to 11 for the keyword the press release was optimised for – nothing happens in isolation though (clearly) however, this example really did make me believe that Press Releases are worth the SEO effort.

  • Appreciate the post Alan, and also for getting the clarification from Matt. Wake Up!!!!

  • Over application of PRs for the sheer notion of building link credibility is worthless; however, practiced application within a larger back linking campaign does. Google knows the links are paid just by the source. What Jo Macdermott examples is good application for linking.
    Yet there fails to mention the need for a media page on a website either once a business begins engaging in using PRs as a link building campaign, but heck Meerman Scott’s ideas are still in their infancy.

  • We’ve found that PR’s “can” give a boost to rankings, but as with all SEO it’s not good to focus on any one technique OR to overdo it.

  • It’s another one of those cases of people confusing causality, especially when failing to differentiate spammy practices from proper PR.

    Press release links will indeed not help your SEO. But good PR will, because it helps build your brand and might get you coverage from proper journalists, who just might include a link to your site, which will help your SEO.

    If you do PR just for SEO purposes, you’re not doing it right.

  • Thanks for this article. There needs to be a lot more of this type of exposure on this subject. We’re on the fringes of a marketing frontier that will spiral out of control based on consensus in the community rather than actionable evidence. This needed to be said.

  • What ever you do will be in qaulity Google will never hurt
    “this is all what i would like to tell here”