In the old, pre-Penguin days of search engine optimization, syndicated press releases were a popular method of link-building. Businesses would wait for something newsworthy, put together a release, and distribute it via PR services.
Now, Google has explicitly stated that press release links will not help rankings. Almost any syndicated press release comes with a nofollow attribute added to its outbound links.
Ref.: Are Press releases still good for SEO
Google: We Ignores Most Links Within Press Releases
Google’s John Mueller said into the video that Google’s algorithms ignores more links found within press releases. He said Google automatically ignores these links because often the press releases are from the company’s themselves and thus are not really natural links. Thus Google tries to ignore these links.
He did add that the links won’t necessarily hurt you but they won’t benefit you.
Google said in the past that press release links should be nofollowed because they consider them unnatural links. They added them to their link schemes guidelines a while back as well. Back when Matt Cutts was around, he said these links won’t help you.
So if you have a lot of press release links, they won’t help but they shouldn’t hurt you anymore. Unless you are really spammy with them…
What Other SEOs’ Say
“That’s kind of an old update, but still I have seen and experienced that whenever a Press Release campaign happens for any website/business and the URL or anchor text used during the campaign gets a lot of hype in search engines. That’s case is similar for high “Competition Keywords”; when they are used as anchor text during a Press release campaign then a particular website or it’s page used to rank for that high competition keyword.”