Google’s John Mueller commented in a Twitter discussion about the supposed ranking power of links from news sites and offered a different way of thinking about how Google treats those links.
Links from Viral PR Campaigns
The discussion on Twitter started with a tweet by Patrick Stox, commenting on an article he wrote for AHREFS (Does Going Viral Help With SEO? Not Really).
“I looked at dozens of examples of sites going viral, award winners, case studies, etc.
I thought for sure all those links from major news sites would help the sites rank better for other terms.
Spoiler alert: I was wrong.”
Patrick wrote that many SEOs contacted him privately to share case studies of their success PR news campaigns and how they worked for SEO.
But Patrick said that none of them showed clear evidence that the PR link campaign was responsible for any ranking improvements, stating that in some cases the ranking lifts intersected with a Google update.
He tweeted this observation:
“A lot of the studies are falling into similar patterns like they happen during core updates, major site changes like redesigns, they happen during seasonal adjustments, or there are other link building and content campaigns (usually unrelated) that they seem to take credit for.”
Patrick affirmed the value of PR news campaigns but said that indicated he had doubts about the impact on SEO.
Viral PR Campaigns and SEO
I have noted for almost fifteen years that many liked to crow about all the links their campaigns created but consistently failed to mention any lift in keyword rankings.
It’s as if the link builders are focused exclusively on obtaining the promised amount of links and are completely disconnected from tracking the SEO effects of the links.
There are many problems with some viral campaigns, particularly the ones that are about something like a stunt or a contest.
The main problem is that they’ll rank for the stunt but all the links are about the stunt, not anything to do with their important keywords.
For example, a campaign for something like “World’s Best Real Estate Agent Headshot” might help the real estate website rank for the keyword phrase of World’s Best Real Estate Agent Headshot, but there’s no trickle down ranking power that spreads around to other pages of the website.
It’s just like pointing all links to the home page isn’t going to trickle down link joy to all the inner pages. If that were the case then the top ten for all keyword phrases would be dominated by pages with high home page PageRank scores. And that’s not the case.
So, what happens with viral PR News link campaigns is that there are lots of links but no keyword rankings lift.
I’ve had people at search conferences stand up during my presentation and relate how their campaigns resulted in hundreds of links but no uplift in sales.
Twitter Discussion About Value of News Links
A lively discussion ensued with a lot of granular theorizing about how Google might handle links that come from a news site.
One person expressed that it would be nice if Google clarified how it handled links from news sites.
“But yes… it would be nice for some confirmation even along the lines of ‘we have systems that evaluate the context of links beyond PageRank, and some of that is applicable to links from news sites’ may help to clear things up! “
John Mueller Comments on News Site Links
That’s when Google’s Mueller tweeted a response.
“Why would links from news sites be treated differently? The web is the web.”
John Mueller followed up with:
“Focusing on the type of site is a bit of a broad generalization though.
Certainly links are treated differently, but it’s more a matter of the type of the current page, and how it’s within the page.
It’s like saying ‘All Germans are …’ — that’s too broad.”
Mueller continued his thought with one more tweet:
“The other thing to keep in mind is that different kinds of sites have vastly different internal architectures.
A site constantly publishing new content is extremely different from a stable reference site.
Think about how pagerank works, if you want to be technical.”
Are News Websites Authority Sites?
There tends to be a way of thinking that some sites are “authority sites” and that links from those sites provide more ranking power.
There was a time twenty years ago where that may have been true.
But that definitively ended many years ago, when high PageRank sites stopped correlating with high rankings.
John Mueller’s observation that the site architecture and rate of publishing are important things to consider with regard to PageRank.
The other interesting insight he shared is that sites are just sites and not treated differently.
This is, in my opinion, something to really think about.
Check out the Twitter discussion here:
After I published this last week https://t.co/qC0X9l0XiX I had a lot of private messages with individual examples shared with me and case studies from some digital PR firms. I still haven't found one where I can conclude it had an impact on SEO. A thread🧵and a request.
— Patrick Stox (@patrickstox) April 10, 2023
Featured image by Shutterstock/Rudie Strummer