Optimizing press releases for search engines and incorporating SEO into public relations strategies are among the best ways to drive your message deep into your online audiences. Enabling your constituents to find your news online means that your press release will be seen at the critical moment when the person is looking for relevant information and is open to your message. Engaged audiences are also more likely to share and spread interesting information – which is exactly how messages start to “go viral.” To capitalize upon these opportunities, incorporate SEO best practices into press release writing and PR campaign planning.
Before diving into tactical specifics, it’s important to think about SEO trends. Search engines are constantly refining the algorithms they use to index, interpret, relate and serve information. It’s not unusual for search engine rankings to change significantly when a major search engine like Google deploys a new algorithm.
Within the last year, search engines have improved their ability to interpret and organize information, enabling them to rely on the actual on-page content, rather than some of the underlying page information, such as meta keywords. A few years ago, SEO best practices dictated that one should put relevant keywords into the HTML that underpinned the page of content being optimized. Today, because search engines have refined their algorithms, they overlook some of the HTML fields that used to be instrumental when optimizing content. As a result, the on-page content – the text and surrounding multimedia assets – are more important than ever. To be successful, press releases need to be clear, concise, relevant for important keywords and focused on a specific message.
Given the increased importance of on-page content, there are a number of tactics a writer can employ to amplify and emphasize the key messages in a press release to increase the story’s visibility.
Search engines give additional weight to the information that occurs at the top of a web page, assuming that the most important ideas and messages are found there. It’s important to keep that in mind when writing your press release – especially your headline.
The headline is simply the most important real estate on a press release. In addition to telling readers what the release is about and hopefully attracting their interest, the headline is also extremely informative to search engines. To be most effective, the headline needs to be short and sweet – and if possible, it should begin with the most important keyword or phrase. Search engines will only spider the first few words of the headline, which is why long headlines are ineffective, and keywords that appear at the end of long headlines aren’t seen.
- Be succinct (60-80 characters)
- Use important keyword towards the beginning of the headline (and subhead)
A press release needs to be relevant for particular keywords in order to be found in searches for those words. Therefore, it’s critical that the press release writers utilize important keywords several times throughout the release – preferably in the headline and/or subhead, the lead and throughout the body. To check whether or not a release would actually be seen as relevant for particular words, customers can make use of PR Newswire’s free keyword density analysis tool, which is available in PR Newswire’s Online Member Center.
Determining what language to use is important because many internet searchers don’t use marketing jargon like “affordable air travel” when they search. They are much more likely to look for “cheap plane tickets.” Speaking the language of your audience will improve the chances of your message being found. If you’re not sure what keywords you should be using, there are a couple different approaches you can take:
- Make friends with the person running your organizations’ web site SEO program. Find out what keywords your site is optimized for, and which your SEM team is targeting in future campaigns.
- Getting access to your organization’s web analytics can help you better quantify your results and can give you lots of ideas about what keywords to use. PR Newswire’s Visibility Reports reveal what keywords internet searchers used to find releases, so you can refer to your Visibility Reports for past releases to see which terms were used the most.
- When in doubt, Google. Do a search using the keywords/phrases you are planning on using. If the results are robust and are strongly related to what you’re promoting, you should be in good shape.
Once you’ve determined what keywords/phrases to use, the next step is weaving them into your press release. Keywords should be placed prominently (headline, subhead, lead) and repeated throughout the body of the press release. Don’t wait for the boilerplate to utilize your keywords.
Use embedded anchor text links effectively
Anchor text – words that are linked to relevant web pages – is also useful to the readers of the release and helps inform search engines as they index pages. Utilizing anchor text is easy and is a great way to improve the SEO factors of your message.
Writers should be sure to link keywords to relevant web pages, and avoid linking words and phrases like “more information” or “click here.” Use your most important keyword in your headline, and in your lead sentence. Add an anchor text link from the word in your lead. This will emphasize the importance of that key word or phrase.
That said, not all sites render anchor text, so it’s important to include a full URL or two for readers on those sites who want more information.
- Create “deep links” by linking to relevant pages, not the home page
- Link from keywords, not descriptive language
- Put links in the first couple paragraphs – don’t save them for the boilerplate.
- Include full URLs of particularly important pages (http://www.thewholeURL.com) within the text.
Weaving SEO Throughout Your PR Campaign Planning
Many people overlook SEO when planning off-line activities, such as interviews, media training and development of printed materials. That’s a mistake, because many off-line activities will motivate your audience to seek more information online. Integrating your online and offline communications will increase the success of your program.
Just as you emphasized certain keywords in the press release, you should also incorporate them in all of your offline efforts. Teach your spokespeople to use them – hopefully, a reporter doing an interview will include those words or words in an article that will appear online, or even include links to your web site. (Jackpot!) And be sure to coordinate with your online teams so you can support each other’s efforts – i.e. you will use keywords, and they will monitor and measure online reactions to your PR campaigns.
Integrating PR and SEO efforts will deliver more visibility for your key messages and is a great way to improve your success rate and return on investment. Best of all, in many cases, no additional spending is required – you can easily leverage existing efforts and get more mileage out of each dollar spent.
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