How much do you know about press releases? Here’s a little history lesson for you: back in the day, press releases were sent to journalists who would (hopefully!) read them and then decide whether or not to tell the rest of the world.

But today – thanks to the internet – reporters are no longer the gatekeepers. Instead, you can distribute a press release through an online newswire service and it can be re-posted on various news websites. And anyone – whether it’s a partner, competitor or customer – can find and read your great news from different online sources. It’s another way, along with email marketing, to let others know about your product or service.

You might be wondering what happened to those journalists … a 2010 PRWeek survey found that 95 percent of reporters conduct online research for a story; even more reason to distribute your releases online!

That’s pretty awesome, right? Yep. As long as your press releases actually show up in searches. As fabulous as the Internet is, it’s also more cluttered than Dad’s garage.

So the challenge is how to increase the chances of your releases appearing in search engine results. Here are a few search engine optimization (SEO) tips for press releases:

1. Identify Keywords: Identify two or three of your top keyword phrases. What words might customers type into search engines to look for your product or service? Also, think about your competition. If you’re a coffee shop in Portland, Oregon, the term “coffee” might not be your best keyword because you’ll be competing with not just Starbucks (good luck with that!), but the gazillion other pieces of coffee-related content. Instead, the phrase “Portland Oregon coffee shop” is a lot more specific and relevant to what you are.

2. Consider Company Name: Include your company name and most important keyword phrase in the press release headline. Your headline also is usually your title tag – title tags are the text that appears in your browser’s title bar (see circled text in image below), and search engines deem them very important. Tip: Keywords in the beginning of a title tag tend to have more weight and ranking power than those near the end.


3. Think About Your Headline: Keep your headline between 60 to 80 characters, including spaces. Google only displays about 65 characters in a headline, so you want to fit it all in there if you can. I know, that’s not a lot of space. It’s OK if you go over, just make sure the most important stuff is in the first 65 characters or so. A subhead is a great place to go into more details.

In the screenshot below, we wanted to get in front of those researching if we received any awards lately (we’re big on awards). We selected our keywords based on that, included them in the headline, and lo and behold, our press releases appear when someone searches “VerticalResponse business awards.” AND you get the gist of the news in the headline, even though it’s cut off a little.


4. Key in on Keywords: Include your top keyword phrases in the first paragraph of the press release. Search engines place more weight on text that appears in the beginning of a piece of content. This makes sense; the first few paragraphs are usually the most relevant anyway, right?

5. Link Hyperlinks: Hyperlink those keyword phrases to relevant pages on your website. For example, if one of your keyword phrases is “fair trade coffee,” you want to hyperlink that term and have it go to a page on your website that describes how your coffee is fair trade. This tells the search engines that your keyword is highly relevant to content on another site, and search engines value relevance above all else.

6. Share Real News: Make sure your press release communicates something that’s actually newsworthy. OK, this might not be directly rated to SEO, but it’s super important to PR success. Just because you’re not going through traditional media to get your information out there doesn’t mean that readers don’t expect real news and professional writing. They do. If your press release sounds like advertising or has errors, you compromise your brand. And once it’s out there, there’s no taking it back.

And one more thing to remember: SEO takes time, so don’t expect your press release to get on Page 1 of Google for your keywords overnight. Also, search engines tweak the way they rank stuff all the time. (They like to keep us online marketers on our toes.) Be patient, consistent and in time your press releases should start moving up the list!

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