Search Engine Optimization for Press Releases
Press releases are an excellent promotion tool both online and off. But online, there’s a particular opportunity for maximizing search engine optimization. Digital press releases can be targeted, effective, and improve the search engine presence of a person or organization.
Though press releases have been on shaky ground with search engines in recent years, they remain an effective tool for online promotion. The key is to develop well written, strategic press releases that are search engine friendly. It’s also important to avoid tricks like keyword and hyperlink stuffing.
We’ve asked several experts in public relations and search engine optimization to share their best tips for making press releases search engine friendly. Overwhelmingly, they recommend using keywords effectively, making strategic linking decisions, and writing useful press releases while paying attention to details that can help rather than hinder search engine results. Keep these tips in mind the next time you’re writing a press release for the web:
Optimize Your Keywords
Keywords play an important role in SEO, and they’re just as important in press release SEO. But just as it is the case with regular SEO, you’ll need to be cautious and careful about how you use keywords in press release SEO.
“Keywords are important for press releases, but in a different manner than in organic search,” says Inbound Wisdom digital marketing consultant Ryan Bauer. “High volume is more important than low competition, and understanding the user intent behind a keyword phrase is just as important as the keyword itself.”
Bauer suggests that a primary — and possibly secondary — keyword phrase should be used in your press release title. Doing so will help it pop out to journalists who are looking for specific information on that topic. Keywords should also appear throughout your content, in the URL, page title, meta description, and in the alt tags of images.
Using Google Keyword Planner, you can identify multiple long tail phrases that will help your release appear for less popular terms. These will be more specific, and more likely to be picked up if they reach their target.
Vicky Llerena with Social Vibes Media explains why long tail keywords are so valuable: “Long tail key words have a higher change of ranking and they center around authentic conversations,” she says. “For example, the short tail keyword “YouTube” is really hard to rank for since every marketer and their mother is writing about this topic. But if I change the keyword to “How to Create a YouTube Channel if You are Small Business on a Budget,” it becomes a long-tail keyword. The conversation is more specific and centers around words or phrases that the average user might be searching for.”
Of course, choose keywords that work strategically for your company. Ideally, you’ll use words that already show up strongly in search results for your brand. This will allow you to strengthen existing keywords.
And even though keywords are important, many experts recommend simply writing first, then considering keywords later. This allows you to focus on organic language that readers enjoy while also optimizing for search engines.
GMR Web Team founder and president Ajay Prasad says writing first, then performing keyword research later offers an advantage. “There’s always the issue that when you write for keywords your writing voice doesn’t translate well and can seem forced,” he says. “Oftentimes, keywords come naturally if you’re not focusing on them. You must always remember that quality of content is just as important as keyword insertion.”
Organic language can be an asset to SEO as well. “Google algorithms have gotten a lot smarter that they can detect when an article is purposely full of keywords to simply boost SEO — this is called keyword stuffing, explains Llerena. “So if your release is promoting the latest shoes for your company, the keyword “shoes” should not appear 20x on your release. Instead, focus on organic language. What might people search for? Red-pump, high-heeled shoes that Beyonce wore for VMA’s?”
Use Links Strategically
Press release links can be very powerful, but they’re also a common source of SEO abuse. Experts recommend that you be careful and make the most out of the links in your press release.
Tower Marketing SEO expert Mike Shaw recommends using links in the press release to lead users to appropriate pages on your site. “Referral links are important, but they can be even more useful if they are used as a tool that guides the user along their journey to acquire more information,” says Shaw. “If you have a blog with many resources related to the topic in the press release, this can generate brand awareness and click-through-rate. Now more users are on your site, increasing the average time and page views, all of which are important to SEO.”
You should also maximize anchor text link opportunities. Muhammad Saad with Cloudways encourages press release writers to include anchor text hyperlinks on keywords throughout your press release. “Make sure you link these words back to the target landing page,” he recommends. “For example, if you are linking a product name, link back to the product page on your site with the appropriate keyword.”
But while you’re optimizing links, you should use caution and avoid stuffing too many links into your press release, as this can be detrimental.
“Don’t stuff hyperlinks,” says SEO National president Damon Burton. “Whether your links are nofollow or not, don’t stuff hyperlinks. Don’t over-optimize links by only linking to money keywords, either. Link context naturally and minimally.
Burton warns that too many links can make your most important links less effective. “For each additional link you add you dilute any others on the page,” says Burton. “Maximize your links by only using one or two. Additionally, instead of hyperlinking the phrase “best widgets,” be more fluent and link the text “Click to see more of Company ABC’s widgets.” If you link keywords excessively you can over optimize your announcement and discredit its value.”
And of course, any links you include should always be useful to readers. “Ensure that the links that you’re driving media, and subsequently their readers, to are of interest and not entirely self-serving,” says Links World Group Latin America PR director Bronson Soares. “The hyperlinks should provide additional information or details that are not found in the release.”
Don’t forget to use basic brand websites in your press release as well, as this is a good opportunity to share a clean link that will be widely distributed. David Waterman, senior director of earned media and SEO with The Search Agency recommends including the fully formed version of your website’s URL in the press release. That means you shouldn’t abbreviate it or leave out the www.
You want to include everything from the http to the www to the .com for a few reasons, says Waterman. “Some websites have content management systems that automatically transpose fully formed URLs into links. So having a fully formed URL can actually help with a direct URL link to your website. Having a fully formed URL reduces possible URL confusion and duplication, especially if you have a secure site (https) but don’t include the https in the URL mentioned in a press release. Be as direct as possible with how your website domain name is structured. It lessens duplication, redirects, and possible loss of brand value.”
Improve Search Rankings with Rich Media
Press releases are no longer simply text and links. Online, you can include images, videos, even interactive elements that make any press release more attractive and enticing to share.
“Make your release media rich by always including at least one image and/or video,” encourages Vizion Interactive’s Kristien Matelski. “Press releases with images or video are more likely to get picked up by media outlets, thereby increasing your reach and links back to your site.”
Danielle Hutchins with FreightCenter agrees. “Including rich media content like images and videos with your press releases makes your content more engaging and increases pickup in search engines such as Google Images or Google Video.”
Hutchins has a few recommendations for optimizing your multimedia for online use:
- JPEGs provide the best quality and the smallest file size and can be indexed by any search engine. It’s best to save your images in this format.
- Search engines crawl image file names as well as page text. Name your images using descriptive words that you think your audience would use when searching online.
- Don’t forget to take advantage of alt tags. They add SEO value to your site and will help ensure your images show up in a web search.
Remember to Promote Your Release on Social Media
While you’re waiting for your press release to get picked up and distributed, don’t forget that you probably already have a powerful distribution tool available: social media. Once you’ve put together a press release, quickly share it on all of your social media outlets, linking to the newswire as well as your website. FUSIONWRX director of marketing, communications, and design Ed McMasters refers to this practice as Promote the Promotion.
But don’t stop there, says McMasters: “Once a news agency posts your release and/or follows up for more information about the release topic, share that too,” he says. “You want to be certain to tell your audience about every share of success the press release gains. That is why we call it promote the promotion. You can build momentum for your press release as more and more outlets share the release you will entice larger and larger outlets to review and share your release as well. We treat press releases as seeds that we try to grow into a huge tree.”
Luca Alessandrini, digital marketing specialist with Online Optimism says sharing your content on social media can have several effects on search engine optimization. “Sharing your press release increases visibility, which in turn increases the potential to land a link,” he explains. “If your post is seen by a blogger or reporter, they might decide to share it or write about it, linking the original content back to your site. Social media is also a great way to increase the volume of traffic to your site, which impacts your search engine ranking. If the content is engaging, attracting people to browse your site, you will be rewarded by search engines who track these metrics.”
Be Extremely Careful How You Distribute Your Press Release
You want your press release to be shared and seen as much as possible, so naturally, you’ll want to give it to every journalist, newswire, and distribution resource possible, right? Not necessarily. Submitting press releases to distribution centers may have a negative effect on search engine optimization, experts say.
The James Agency digital marketing strategist Dallas McLaughlin explains: “Press releases were once a great source for ‘dofollow’ backlinks from high authority sites such as PR Newswire and PRWeb. Due to the paid nature of these sites, Google now flags these backlinks as ‘advertorial’ which eliminates any organic gains. While the initial publishing of the press release on these sites has no SEO benefit, there is the benefit of high quality, authoritative domains using quotes from the original press release on their own sites and providing a backlink to your business.”
What can you do about it? “It’s not directly controllable, but my recommendation would be to use a strong, highly searched keyword phrases as the link anchor text in the original press release, along with a corresponding landing page, if one exists,” says McLaughlin. “For example, if your press release is announcing a new men’s outerwear line, anchor text should be something along the lines of ‘men’s outerwear clothing’ with a link directly to that category on my website rather than the homepage. If the site syndicating the press release copies the original release and maintains the anchor text and URL, your business will begin seeing a lift in search impressions on the anchor text phrase.”
Burton warns that you should never — ever — submit to a free press release website. Why? “Free press release websites get hammered with submissions of news of Viagra, Nike shoes, sunglasses, and just about anything else that is spammed in other ways,” he says. “Because they’re free, they’re abused. Because they’re abused, they’re worthless for any SEO benefits. If you submit to free press release websites, you will likely be guilty by association to the other shady announcements and could suffer negative SEO results instead of positive.”
Optimising SEO consultant Lachlan Wells recommends avoiding distribution services altogether. “You’re far better off using that time to select a handful of super-relevant media and tailoring your press release for each of them,” he says. “Not only will you have a much higher success rate, but any links and citations that you pick up will have a greater impact on SEO. If Google finds your press release repeated verbatim on three websites, they’ll only attribute value to the one that was published first, so you need your copy to be unique for it to work as well as possible.”
Think Local for News Releases
Getting the word out means spreading your news release far and wide, right? Not necessarily. The best target is one that’s interested in publication, and often, that’s local news outlets. Don’t neglect your neighbors when you’re sharing press releases.
“Your local news outlets and blogs are always looking for new content to publish online,” says Allesandrini “Leveraging local publications, with high domain authority, can be an effective link building strategy.”
Alessandrini says that being published on just one high authority website can have better results than many other link building efforts. Not only will your publications be more targeted towards specific audiences, but your chances of planting a link increase with content relevancy to the publisher, he says.
Press releases should also be optimized for local citations. These are the name, phone number, and street address of your business in authoritative locations — and they don’t need a hyperlink to be successful. Bryan Clayton, GreenPal CEO, says this is important because Google’s algorithm treats these local citations just as importantly as links.
“Google uses this information to understand and establish trust around the local presence of a particular business and thus rank it accordingly for local queries,” says Clayton.
That means when you’re writing your press release, be sure to add a section at the bottom with your full address, phone number, and business. Make sure it’s consistent with your Google Places listing to establish authoritative citations and improve local SEO.
Similar to local citations, schema makes it easy to share structured data in published press releases. This data talks directly to search engines and tells them what you want them to know within the page.
Blue Compass digital marketing strategist Katrina Reger encourages press release writers to use schema to their advantage, implementing news schema in press releases. By doing this, you’ll allow for the possibility of showing up within the News section of search engine result pages.
Don’t Be Afraid to Break the Rules
Sticking to standard writing rules may feel more comfortable and polished, but sometimes, these rules don’t work well with search engines. You may have to break some rules to maximize your search engine visibility for press releases.
Jody Lamb Communications principal Jody Lamb explains: “Young PR pros are taught to write press materials using Associated Press style, which is the industry standard writing style for journalists. However, it’s important to remember that AP style adds hyphens and unique styling that differs greatly from how most people write.”
With these hyphens and styling, you may be interfering with effective search engine optimization. Lamb’s recommendation: “Use Google Trends and other search-engine tools to determine how a keyword or phrase is searched. Odds are that the hyphen-less keyword or phrase is significantly more searched than the hyphenated version. In that case, you may consider dropping the hyphen.”
Want more information on using press releases effectively for reputation management? Check out our Press Release series to learn how to develop, write, and promote press releases with reputation management in mind.