There was a time when getting links—any links—pointing to your site was the surest way to rank well on search engines. But as disreputable SEOs manipulated Google’s PageRank algorithm to boost the visibility of their spammy content, the search engine giant began targeting those link schemes in an attempt to separate the wheat (your riveting, valuable content) from the chaff (irritatingly useless spam).
Google’s ultimate goal: to deliver the high-quality content their users are hunting for.
And now, the press releases and articles you’re writing for distribution on other sites (PR Newswire, for example), are coming under the microscope.
Here’s what you need to know…
The Google Link Schemes document update
Google regularly updates their definition of link schemes (or ways SEOs may attempt to manipulate PageRank), and last week, “Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites,” was added to their dreaded webmaster guidelines violation list.
Yes, now, Google may treat the links within your distributed content as black hat SEO.
Google may assume the optimized anchor text found within your content has been placed there by you or your webmaster, rather than by the site on the receiving end of it—links that are more akin to paid advertising, which they consider unnatural.
So, how do you avoid getting dinged by Google?
1) Don’t keyword-stuff anchor links.
Is your content intended for a distribution service? Then, loading your content with optimized anchor links that point back to your site is a big no-no.
Google offers this example:
(And, if you’re creating content like this in the first place, I have to ask where you’ve been. Seriously, it makes my head hurt.)
2) Nofollow links that use optimized anchor text.
Sometimes anchor links provide valuable support or context to your piece.
Want to direct your readers to a relevant page on your website? A blog post you just authored on the subject? A partner’s product that addresses a related need?
You can still do that—just be very careful about it. If you’re in doubt as to the validity or unnatural link-y-ness of your links, use a nofollow to alert search engines that you’re not attempting to harness them for potential SEO juice.
And if you’re not quite sure how to do that, check out Google’s handy little guide on the nofollow.
In the end, what does all of this really mean for you?
This is just the latest in a growing trend to punish manipulative SEO tactics and reward great content. So, focus your efforts on generating the timely, relevant, high-quality content your audience is looking for.
If it comes in the form of a press release or distributed article and it’s great content, it will get picked up by the media, blogosphere and social media communities who will generate natural links for you.
That is, after all, the point.
Allowing readers to validate the value of your content with their own links and social signals, which in turn helps search engines mark your content as the go-to for other users searching out the very same information.
So, heed the tips above, and you’re unlikely to run afoul of updates like this one.