​Six months ago, Matt Cutts said press release links don't affect PageRank. Today, Daniel Tan proved Cutts wrong.

Press release links: Do you believe Cutts or data?

to read

​When the SEO content world disagrees with Google’s Head of Search Spam Matt Cutts, it puts all of its effort into proving the man wrong. Of course, marketers want to know which linking practices benefit their web content most and which tactics fail to show any noticeable returns.

Almost six months ago, Cutts commented in a thread on a Google forum, saying links within press releases won’t benefit a site’s online rankings. This bugged a lot of people including SEOPressor founder Daniel Tan.

To prove that links in press releases do influence PageRank, Tan conducted a miniature experiment, and published a release using the made-up key phrase ‘leasreepressmm.’ The term was anchored to Matt Cutts’ blog. Tan then released the article through MarketersMedia, a press release wire service, that shares branded content with more than 30,000 journalists across the United States. Tan expected that, within a week or so, Matt Cutts’ blog would rank for the term ‘leasreepressmm.’

Currently, Cutts’ blog ranks for the term on the second page of Google search engine results. Search Engine Land’s Barry Schwartz found that the blog edged onto page one, but with new press coverage using the term even more, Cutts’ blog has been pushed out of view. Long story short: Tan has proved Cutts wrong.

The discovery is a strange one: Brands can create backlinks for their sites by issuing press releases to various newswires. To some extent, this goes against the ethics of link building, and there’s reason to believe a fluke like this can’t last long without Google evaluating how it ranks, grades and embraces press release content.

Ted Karczewski
Ted Karczewski is an Executive Communications Associate at Brafton. He works to develop his own voice and apply his passions to the evolving world of SEO and content marketing, but he doesn't shy away from writing for fun. After graduating from Suffolk University, Ted used his Communications degree to test out Sports Journalism before Marketing at Brafton.


  • http://www.jasonraisleger.com/ Jason Raisleger

    I don’t know why a company shouldn’t get the benefit of backlinks from press releases as long as the content is strong/useful. To me, it’s not really any different than guest blogging. I know from personal experience, a lot of the the media outlets that pick up a release will make all the links in the release no-follow anyways.

    • TedKarczewski

      Hi Jason-

      I think the interesting part about gaining ground from Press Releases is that brands can release a plethora of them and inflate their own backlink portfolios. Essentially, it’s a form of paying for links, which is exactly what Penguin goes after. The problem: Press releases are an age old part of self promotion. I’d say keep going after press releases, but don’t expect too much to come from them beyond brand recognition.

      Thanks for reading,

  • Grant Simmons

    Badly written article, on an interesting topic, with over optimized internal linking. Well done Brafton.

    • Katherine_E_Griwert

      Hey Grant – we’re glad you’re reading, though it’s regrettable you think this piece is poorly written… As for the links, you’ll find most of them link externally to give readers access to supplementary or primary sources. We’ll consider your comment (always good to get reader feedback!).


      • Grant Simmons

        Anchor text such as “SEO content” and “branded content” are self serving and an example of keyword inclusion / internal linking, that add little value to the user and are for pure SEO purposes.
        Poorly written in three areas;
        1) With no dates or point of reference, there’s a disconnect between “within a week” and “currently” – its August now, so ‘currently’ is not!
        2) The last two paragraphs don’t read well at all. “Using the term even more” “pushed out of view” “the discovery is a strange one” – these are not saying what you want to say (I’m sure) in the way you want to say it.
        3) Yes! “Brands can create backlinks for their sites by issuing press releases to various newswires” – this is not any discovery and has always been the case. Having this stated as such demonstrates a lack of expertise in SEO and it’s not what your article concludes. I won’t even go into the last sentence… Too much to comment (and too much commented already)

        Apologies for the rant… I’m just an SEO guy trying to keep the industry honest, and the world informed. When I see a company like Brafton – who purport to be SEO experts – produce the kind of articles above, I’m irked.

        • Katherine_E_Griwert

          Grant, we appreciate that you’ve given this piece so much consideration. As you point out, Brafton includes internal links. You’re the first to comment that the links on this page detract from your experience of the piece – but we always value reader feedback.

          As for the time reference, you’ll note there’s a time stamp at the top of the piece. This post was published on May 7 (all Brafton news and blog content has a time stamp). This piece is a news article, updating readers on a timely industry conversation that was started in May. On that note, while the line indicating “Brands can create back links for their sites by issuing press releases to various newswires” doesn’t articulate a new idea, it emphasizes a disconnect between the study and a statement from Matt Cutts (which potentially suggested the opposite conclusion).

          The last sentence seemed to really irk you – but it accurately predicted a firmer stance from Google on press release links. Brafton covered the realization of that prediction in a news article on Monday: http://www.brafton.com/news/new-link-building-guidelines-for-guest-blogs-press-releases

          Hope you’ll continue reading.

          • Grant Simmons

            You omit. “That pass PageRank”.

            It changes the whole article’s credibility.

            That’s the point.