Are you taking Google into account when writing press releases?
A considerable number of releases are distributed over the wires and added to online pressrooms every day, so search engine optimization—or SEO—remains an important tactic for PR professionals.
Why wouldn’t you try to increase the search engine visibility of your press materials?
Recently, I dusted off a press release optimization checklist that I’d written several years ago, so I thought I’d share it.
There are also a number of other good resources out there. Todd Defren published a useful checklist back in 2008 and Lee Odden, probably the strongest advocate, has written multiple posts such as Essential Press Release Optimization Tips.
Follow these guidelines when writing press releases, but remember: Search engine optimization should be an enhancement, not the main thrust. You’re still writing for humans to convey a newsworthy announcement. Take care when working keywords into your copy.
Press release optimization checklist
Keyword Planning. Your press releases should include keywords, which are the words that people enter when they search for information on Google and other search engines. First, you need to identify those words for your company or client. Here’s how to select the main keyword phrase for the release:
- Your press release will already include brand and product/service names, so choose a literal, descriptive phrase that matches how people search for the topic.
- Use keyword research tools such as Google AdWords Keyword Tool and Google Insights for Search to evaluate and refine words and discover popular variations. Look for keyword phrases with reasonable search volume that accurately convey the key concept.
- Check what news stories and press releases currently come up for your top candidates in Google News and Yahoo News. How much competition is there?
- Use Google Trends to compare keyword candidates, seeing how often they have been searched for in Google over time and how frequently they have appeared in Google News stories.
Content optimization. Now that you’ve identified your keywords, you need to build them into your press release. Here’s how:
- Include the main keyword phrase in the title, close to the beginning when possible;
- Reduce unnecessary words to improve keyword weight;
- Put the most important information first.
2. Subheading/summary (when present)
- Include the main keyword phrase or a common variation.
3. First paragraph
- Include the main keyword phrase in the first paragraph, ideally in the first sentence.
4. Rest of body
- Include the main keyword phrase (and/or variations of it) approximately one time for every 100 words. This is a very rough guideline, not a strict rule. The key is to blend in keyword support without harming readability.
- Total length: 250 to 500 words total is optimal, however longer releases are often necessary and not a problem.
- Avoid over-use of “marketing speak.” Use direct, straightforward language.
- Use the full form of terms throughout the release, unless the shortened forms or abbreviations also have search demand.
- As possible, include the keyword phrase in executive quotes as that content may be highlighted by some services or used in resulting media coverage.
- Optimize and tag images and multimedia content with target keywords.
- Link directly to specific pages in the release (not just the home page);
- Use keywords in the anchor text of links;
- Three to four links per release maximum.
6. For press releases on your own site
- Optimize the page’s title tag, URL, and META description tag based on SEO best practices.
One thing I want to emphasize is not to put too much focus on keyword frequency or density in the release. You certainly want your target keyword phrase in the title and it should appear within the body, too (ideally in the opening paragraph). But there’s no need to get caught up in making sure it appears X times or represents X percent of all words.