Climbing The Ranks with Optimized Press Releases

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Want publicity? Submit an optimized press release, say today’s leading online PR experts. Whether you’re targeting journalists, consumers or all of the above, an optimized press release can create endless possibilities for your business.

Unlike traditional press releases that for years were limited to providing news for the media, general business announcements have gained acceptance in a world in which we can reach millions of Internet users directly.

Online press releases are appropriate for almost any occasion, says Joan Stewart, president of The Publicity Hound, and can be powerful tools for growing a company or establishing a brand. Executed properly, the optimized press release can open doors that no business owner can afford to ignore.

The Big Picture

While SEO press releases are written to be ranked by search engines, people must be able to understand them, warns Mickie Kennedy, president and founder of eReleases.com and SEOPressRelease.com. Thus, respect your audience and always present your business professionally. If you get 10,000 search engine visitors to view an optimized press release that reads like a search engine tactic, you will damage your business’ credibility.

Creating an effective optimized release requires an understanding of public relations writing and the ability to enhance it with SEO-specific keywords. An online PR professional can provide these services as well as managing the distribution and any other facets of your campaign, or you may choose to try parts of the process yourself. Be advised, though, that poorly managed publicity is not necessarily better than no publicity at all.

Optimization techniques include adding technical elements to your website and seasoning the copy with keywords. Including photos and other graphical elements not only creates interest but also grows traffic when using captions and naming pictures in a keyword-friendly convention. In addition, adding keywords to anchor text links, along with embedding audio and/or video features in releases is helpful.

Understand that the optimized release doubles as a Web page. “In fact,” adds Sharon Dotson, president of Bayou City PR, “companies with no budget for a website can still get top search engine placement with an optimized online press release.”

Make the Commitment
Before looking for help in writing and distributing the release, define the intended goal and determine how to measure success. Developing a public relations strategy will depend on the quality of content and your dedication to PR efforts. An effective public relations campaign requires a schedule for press release distribution, an evaluation process and then adjusting the messages accordingly. According to Kennedy, a company will generally see a return when submitting quality content and committing to four or more releases annually.

“Services such as ours,” says Michael Schwartz, CEO of WebWire, “offer low pricing to encourage multiple submissions of similar press releases containing consistent messages that are packaged differently. For example, many customers participated in the Haiti relief efforts by submitting releases. It was an effective coat-tail technique to get into readers’ consciousness.”

To achieve the best results, adds Schwartz, press releases should be submitted before Wednesday of the traditional business week. When distributing releases later in the week, WebWire offers a “sponsored link” product called WebRelease that provides ranking with Google and/or Yahoo! search early the following week.

Ask the Right Questions
When shopping for a marketing or public relations firm to create optimized press releases for your business, experts agree that writing samples are the best way to judge prospects.

“Every PR or marketing firm will share winning results and testimonials,” explains Kennedy. “If a firm has 500 clients and 20 get real results, you see the problem that anecdotal results and testimonials will provide. The perception created is that the company does a great job while the reality is that 96 percent of its clients don’t achieve great results.”

Read sample releases created for actual clients to ensure a balance of keyword optimization and readability. Stewart also suggests asking the following questions:

• Does your price include keyword research?
• What is the fee for writing, and is there a separate fee for online distribution?
• Is there an additional fee for sending the release to targeted media outlets and bloggers?
• How many revisions does the price include?
• What’s your turnaround time?
• What clients have hired you to write press releases and what are their phone numbers?
• Can you tell me about success stories those clients have had as a result of releases you wrote for them? (If they tell you, call those clients yourself and ask for a reference.
Were they satisfied with the release? If not, why not? If yes, what happened as a result of the release?)
• What is the fee? (Most reliable services charge $150 and higher for writing a press release.)

Reap the Rewards
Well-written releases offer many advantages, from attracting a wider variety of audiences to improving search rankings. Writing informational copy rather than promotional content, for instance, will attract both journalists and consumers. In addition, optimized press releases will stay online forever, continuously pulling traffic and providing leads when employing the right keywords to attract the right target audience.

“An optimized release goes directly to the target audience,” says Dotson. “End users obtain relevant information without the filter of traditional print and electronic media. In addition, the optimized release will help build a website’s page rank and relevance. Search engine ranking improves since these optimized press releases link back to a company’s website due to relevant keywords strategically embedded in the copy.”

Therefore, Stewart adds, it is wise to create variations of the same release by altering the keywords to attract multiple audiences. Each release, then, will achieve better rankings for each search phrase rather than using a single release that targets everyone.

“And to achieve maximum return on investment,” she says, “remember to add a clear call to action telling readers what to do next — visit a website, call a telephone number, send an E-mail, look at a catalog, go to a sales page or request a free sample.”

What to Watch Out For
There used to be a vetting process by the media, says Kennedy, but today the decision-makers are the users who have access to and can scrutinize an overabundance of information. Hence, it’s easier than ever to make your information available, but more competitive than ever to win over an audience. Very little distinguishes your information from everything else available online.

Distorted traffic statistics can pose another obstacle. Many free services heavily stream RSS feeds that automatically create “hits” when RSS readers update their feeds. Therefore, the number of hits from people perusing releases is generally lower than the value reported.

Another challenge includes the anecdotal or temporary impact on search engine rankings resulting from backlinks to your website from the press release provider’s website. Kennedy advises that most SEO firms find these results only last about two weeks. Another hurdle can be avoided by using specific, long-tail keyword phrases such as “black patent-leather pumps” when trying to achieve page-one search engine rankings, instead of using highly competitive, short-tail phrases such as “women’s shoes.”

When optimized press releases are well-written and provide quality content, they can be a very powerful vehicle for any company. Even a sole proprietorship can look like a big business by leveraging optimized press releases correctly. Although there are no guarantees, writing and submitting an optimized press release can create new, long-lasting opportunities for your business.

About the Author: Michelle M. Wicmandy is the Director of Marketing for Southeast Media, a marketing communications firm, and specializes in mobile and e-mail marketing.

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