PR Newswire Press Release Guidelines Target Search Engine Spam

PR Newswire will be evaluating press releases and other content submitted for distribution via the company's wire distribution network, under new guidelines to help ensure content quality. These guidelines are designed to reduce the distribution of low-quality content over PR Newswire's distribution network and the exploitation of press releases on its website to artificially manipulate search rankings.

PR Newswire has also taken steps recently to identify and remove low-quality content from its website.

These efforts supplement the company's existing press release acceptance guidelines, including the verification of sources, authentication of the sender's identity and attribution to the source, among other requirements that all messages must meet before distribution by PR Newswire.

In a press release, Ninan Chacko, PR Newswire's chief executive (CEO), said, "By reviewing each piece of content to ensure message quality, and deleting releases we find to be of low quality, we will increase the value of our content and website for our audiences, and limit the exploitation of content distribution for questionable SEO tactics."

Recommended press release content quality factors

Under the new copy quality guidelines, PR Newswire editorial staff will review press releases for a number of message elements, including:

• Inclusion of insightful analysis and original content (e.g. research, reporting or other interesting and useful information);
• Use of varied release formats, guarding against repeated use of templated copy (except boilerplate);
• Assessing release length, guarding against issue of very short, unsubstantial messages that are mere vehicles for links;
• And overuse of keywords and/or links within the message.

Identification and deletion of low quality content on PRNewswire.com

Going forward, PR Newswire will also analyze press release data to identify and delete low-quality content on an ongoing basis.

In the same press release, Jason Edelboim, senior vice president of global product for PR Newswire, noted, "Google's recent algorithm update is essentially a technology-based editorial guideline for content quality, and PR Newswire is aligning our processes with those standards to ensure that press releases distributed are high-quality, authenticated content."

He continued, "Google's recent action targeting low-quality content in the Panda 4.0 update affirms the importance of ensuring press releases and other content distributed via PR Newswire's network are of real utility and interest to journalists and bloggers, as well as the general public."

Industry reaction is mixed

Reaction to PR Newswire's new press release guidelines by industry thought leaders ranges from, "It's a battle that needs to be fought," to, "Better late than never."

David Meerman Scott, bestselling author of The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Online Video, Mobile Applications, Blogs, News Releases, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly, says, "For years, press releases have been a terrific way for organizations to reach not only members of the media but also consumers directly via search engines. Unfortunately, unscrupulous marketers pumped out loads of garbage releases designed just to improve search engine rankings, which harmed legitimate publishers of press release content. I'm happy to see PR Newswire addressing the press release spam problem directly. It's a battle that needs to be fought before content reaches the search engine algorithms."

Lisa Buyer, author of Social PR Secrets: How to Optimize, Socialize, and Publicize Your Brand's News, says, that progressive search marketers and savvy public relations professionals who follow Google updates and the moving target of the search industry should have already adopted these new guidelines on their own, [which] has been the trend for the past couple years.

Buyer notes press release content is not king if it is:

• Not original.
• Lacks newsworthiness.
• Spammy and stuffed with keywords.
• Missing research and data to back it up.
• Not written in a journalistic and editorial style.

"This is nothing new to online marketing and PR professionals following industry best practices. But it is a good thing that PR Newswire has put in a place a way to ‘police' the PR content and guard against the ones who try to beat the system," she adds.

"Press release distribution is not what it used to be because brands have so many more options to share news direct to audiences via social media channels, blogs and influencers. Gaming the SEO system with press releases is way over. Writing low-level press releases and distributing them should not be tolerated and the distribution services need to be part of the solution. If brands are to act like publishers, they need to invest in high-quality content that is newsworthy!"

Sally Falkow, author of SMART News: How to write press releases that get found in search and shared on social media, says Google has been making noises about the quality of press release content for some time.

"It's unfortunate that many companies and agencies saw the press release and the wire services as an SEO vehicle and did not heed the writing on the wall. They appear to have lost sight of the value of an excellent piece of newsworthy content being picked up and published on its own merits. Panda 4.0 affected the page views of most newswire websites significantly - a clear indication that their content is below par. They really have no choice now but to insist that their clients provide quality, original content that is in line with Google's guidelines. Better late than never."

She adds, "It's a sad comment on the state of the PR industry when a search engine has to teach us how to write press releases. Every first-year PR student should know that a press release needs newsworthy content, original reporting and must offer value to the reader. PR Newswire and other wire services know this. They should have been policing the quality of the releases on the wire long before Google wielded the big Panda stick."