By Christine O'Kelly
Press releases tend to rank quickly in organic search and news results - often within minutes of publication. That is, if they are optimized and distributed following established SEO and editorial guidelines.
In the past, print media acted as an information gatekeeper. Companies would send press releases to the newsroom, hoping the editors deemed the announcement fit for publication. With limited space and a subscription demographic to please, most press releases ended up on the cutting room floor. Times have changed.
With instant publishing and search engines to filter information, individuals can filter and find the news that is useful to them. While news of a revelation in model train technology might not ever grace the pages of the local paper, model train enthusiasts can now freely find that news online through search engines - assuming that the creator has announced and optimized that news so that it can be found by those who crave it.
Publishing effective news releases online requires a three-pronged optimization approach that consists of search engine optimization (SEO), conversion optimization and editorial optimization. When all three sides of the triangle are balanced, press releases can have a dramatic impact on your online visibility.
Editor's Note: This content is from Website Magazine's January, 2011 issue - a professional-level monthly issue. To ensure you don't miss a single issue of Website Magazine, upgrade now to a professional-level subscription. Get 25% off a one-year subscription right now!
PR Optimization Segment #1: SEO
In order for news to be effective, it must be discoverable by those who are interested. Optimizing your news so that it can be found in the search engines for strategic keywords provides a powerful way to reach highly targeted customers and influencers.
Title Optimization: The most heavily weighted factor that determines for which keywords a press release will rank is its title. Placing your primary keyword phrase toward the beginning of the title tends to have the strongest impact on ranking for those keywords. However, the title needs to reflect the news angle and be written with clickthrough in mind, and not only keywords.
Summary Optimization: The second-most heavily weighted SEO factor is the summary. The summary is an ideal place to introduce one or two additional keyword phrases while elaborating on the news angle introduced by the title. Within a well-optimized press release distribution site or news site, the title becomes the title tag and the summary becomes the meta description. The same technical rules apply to optimizing a title tag and meta description in terms of keywords as they do when optimizing a press release title and summary.
Keyword Anchor Text Linking: The ability to build strategic anchor text backlinks from trusted sources is one of the SEO's most exciting reasons for publishing press releases. Because some press release distribution sites push full-page reprints of your press release out to additional partner sites, a single press release can net a significant number of backlinks using your chosen keyword phrases.
PR Optimization Segment #2: Clickthrough Optimization
The purpose of a press release is to hook the reader with the news release and then direct traffic to your website. Online press releases are essentially landing pages for your business designed to drive traffic. Optimizing for clickthrough helps you achieve that conversion goal.
Make Use of Multimedia Features: Including images, videos, logos, file downloads and links to other Web properties and assets allows readers to become immersed in your message through a variety of senses. When given the opportunity, make use of as many multimedia options as your press release distribution site allows.
Embedded Website Navigation via iFrame: If you have the option to add an iFrame in your release, choose to link to a page that is a natural extension of the message announced in your press release. For example, if announcing a new product, display the product page in the iFrame instead of the sites' homepage.
Include a Call-to-Action: A press release is a tool used to entice readers to visit your site - give them clear direction on how and why to do so. Some ideas are to send them to your website to download a free ebook, or to read full details about the product, or to subscribe to your mailing list for tips and information related to the announcement.
PR Optimization Segment #3: Editorial Optimization
Press release sites are news sites and they take their role seriously in order to stay in good graces with Google. Submitting a press release that risks falling outside of the criteria of a press release in Google's virtual eyes is likely to get kicked back for further editing.
In order for your press release to pass the human editing process, it should adhere to the following three critical editorial points:
A Valid And Clearly Stated News Angle from Within Your Company: The purpose of a press release is to announce something new and timely such as a new product or service, limited time sale or contest,
participation in an upcoming event, etc. That news also needs to originate from the company announcing the news. Writing about another company's news is an article. The reader should be able to determine exactly what the press release is announcing by reading the title and summary.
Written in Third-Person: Aside from a direct attributed quote, a press release is written in third person and does not use causal language such as referring to the reader as "you" or the author as "I" or "we."
Attribution of Claims: Claims that could be interpreted as opinions should be attributed in a press release. For example, instead of opinions like "...the best real estate software on the market," present attributable facts such as "...deemed the best real estate software on the market by XYZ magazine."
Done correctly, press releases can be a powerful part of your online marketing and visibility mix. The release itself ranks well in the search engines - few other types of user-generated content can rank almost instantly upon publication. Furthermore, optimized backlinks within the release work to build link value for your site for years to come.
Christine O'Kelly is an SEO content marketing strategist specializing in optimized press releases. She is the co-founder of OnlinePRMedia.com, an SEO and multimedia press release distribution resource.