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

STOP. BEFORE I VOMIT AGAIN

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.

PRESS RELEASES STILL HAVE REAL VALUE

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 http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/seo-article-in-newsweek/ 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. http://www.chron.com/business/press-releases/article/Levitra-Buy-Viagra-Cheapest-Prices-Guaranteed-3993998.php 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 http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/seo-article-in-newsweek/ 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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