Press Release Sites Drop in Organic SEO Visibility after Panda 4.0 Rollout
Google officially rolled out its latest version of the Panda algorithm (code-named Panda 4.0) on May 20, 2014. Many industry analysts immediately started seeing major shifts in the organic rankings of prominent sites. According to Searchmetrics, eBay lost 33% of its organic traffic on Google following the Panda rollout.
However, it turns out that eBay’s drop in organic SEO visibility wasn’t due to Panda 4.0 at all. Instead, the site was hit by one of Google’s infamous manual penalties, and it so happened that the penalty was released in conjunction with the Panda 4.0 rollout. As Google continues to tinker with its Panda algorithm, sites that produce or aggregate low-quality content or violate Google’s quality guidelines will continue to see sharp decreases in their organic rankings.
Google’s latest victim in its crusade to give users relevant, high-quality content appear to be press release sites. Sean Malseed of SEER Interactive recently noted that many press release sites have experienced significant decreases in their organic SEO visibility following Panda 4.0’s rollout. Press release sites that have taken a nosedive in their organic rankings include BusinessWire, OnlinePRNews, PRLog, PR Newswire, and PRWeb.
The following screenshots from SEMrush’s analytics indicate a sudden, precipitous drop in organic rankings from April 2014 to May 2014 for the aforementioned press release sites:
For many of these press release websites, the sudden drop in organic rankings has led to serious immediate losses. “On May 27th, PRWeb.com lost more than half of their traffic overnight. They dropped out of the first 20 Google results for more than 8000 keywords. According to SEMrush data, these ranking losses have cost [PRWeb.com] nearly a half-million daily sessions,” stated Malseed in his report.
Malseed went on to note that Google has since dropped the rankings on millions of press release pages. This crackdown shouldn’t surprise online marketers, as Google has been hinting for many months that press release websites that violated their quality guidelines would be targeted.
Less than a year ago, Google update their Webmaster Guidelines, stating that “creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of our guidelines.” Articles and press releases (written for mass distribution) that have excessive and spammy links and anchor text fall under this category.
Why is Google being so Heavy-Handed with Press Releases?
Google’s main goal is to give its users the most relevant and high-quality results to their queries, and unfortunately, many press releases don’t seem to fulfill this basic criteria. As Malseed notes in his report, when you’re searching for “protein shake diet plans” on Google Search, are you expecting a press release to answer your queries?
Malseed posted a link to a spammy press release that once turned up for the query “protein shake diet plan”. This press release has since been removed from Google’s SERPs following Panda 4.0’s rollout. As the following screenshot demonstrates, when you try to navigate back to the SERP, a spammy pop-up appears:
This leads us to the next issue that has been plaguing press releases for some time: they’ve become increasingly spammy. While legitimate online marketers and companies are still using press releases to announce newsworthy events to the media, others are using it for shady link-building purposes. Moreover, the aforementioned press release targets end-users rather than news media editors.
“Google is simply taking away the power of paid-for press releases, links, and spammy tactics employed by some by taking away their rankings. We’ve known for some time that Google looked down on the power of these links, and has even recommended that you nofollow links to your site in press releases,” stated Malseed.
“If you’ve been using press releases in the way that they were intended, you should be fine,” reassures Malseed.
Do you think that the sudden drop in the organic rankings of press release sites was the work of Panda 4.0? Has your website seen a sudden dip in search-driven traffic from Google? Share your insight in our Comments section or make a reply-blog post.
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