Let me start by saying that despite what we’re led to believe, PR is not dead.

That’s that one cleared up, let’s move on.
nofollow meme
Last week Google updated its link schemes page to specifically state that overly optimised links within press releases are deemed as unnatural, and therefore violate its Webmaster guidelines.

Google gives the following, slightly over exaggerated example:

There are many wedding rings on the market. If you want to have a wedding, you will have to pick the best ring. You will also need to buy flowers and a wedding dress.

If anyone is actually writing content like this then I urge you to sit down and question your choice of profession, but you get the point – the links are unnecessary and therefore unnatural.

So what does this mean?

Put simply, this shouldn’t change a thing. If you, like most good honest people use press releases for their intended purpose – delivering stories – then you shouldn’t have much to worry about. Just be mindful of those keyword links.

For the others, who publish press releases with the sole intention of gaining some quick links for SEO benefit, it’s probably best to stop now and reconsider your strategy. Please, for the sake of the internet, stop now.

This ‘update’ should not come as a shock to anyone with the faintest bit of SEO knowledge, as Google’s stance on unnatural links is hardly a secret. While press releases may not have been specifically mentioned until now, any SEO worth their salt should have different priorities.

To follow or not to follow?

In light of the above, it’s no real surprise to see more site owners now applying the rel=”nofollow” attribute to links within content hosted on their sites. As a source of such high volumes of ‘unnatural’ links, they’re probably wise to do so.

Not only does this go some way to protect themselves from potential penalties, but it will also help to deter the spammers as there’s considerably less link juice to be gained from obtaining links on such domains.

If you fall into the good guy SEO camp (hiya!) then link juice should be a secondary consideration anyway. The primary concern should be whether or not your links will send traffic to the desired destination.

The first example I’ve seen of a site implementing nofollow links as a direct result of the link schemes update is online media press release distribution service, RealWire, which yesterday sent out the following email to its users: (click image to read full email)

realwire email
RealWire seems to be leading the way on this one but I think its safe to assume it won’t be the last to roll out nofollow links as standard.

So to conclude, it’s not PRs who will suffer as a result of this, it’s the minority of SEOs who game the system for SEO benefit.

Nothing has really changed. It’s just another step forward in Google’s fight against webspam, and if this update results in higher quality content and less spam then I’m all for it.