The 10 commandments of effective press releases

If your New Year’s resolution is to write more successful press releases, use this list of commandments as your guide.

A lot has changed with press releases over the years, particularly in the last few months thanks to Google’s algorithm updates.

While the press release is still alive and well (not to mention useful), it’s undoubtedly in a transition period. That’s why I came up with a set of guidelines to keep in mind as you write your press releases. Some of these rules are new, and others date back to the press release’s origins.

Without any further ado, here are the 10 commandments of press releases:

1. Thou shalt be newsworthy and engaging.

A few years ago, press releases were one of the best tools for improving search rankings. As you might remember, people started abusing this by dumping tons of low quality, meaningless press releases on free directories across the Web. It didn’t take Google long to crack back against these manipulative practices. Today, press releases are no longer purely a search engine optimization (SEO) tool. They’re only effective if they are newsworthy and provide a great user experience.

2. Thou shalt not stuff keywords.

The days of stuffing keywords into your press releases to drive rankings are long gone. With the recent integration of the Hummingbird algorithm, Google is more concerned with conversational search and user intent than just keywords. Focus on creating content your audience wants and needs, and you’ll be fine.

3. Thou shalt use links to provide information-not boost SEO.

It wasn’t long ago that press releases were great for building inbound links to your website, but now press release links don’t carry any true SEO value. In fact, Google wants you to use no-follow links in your press releases, treating them like paid links in advertisements. That means you can no longer use keyword-rich anchor text in your press release links. Only include informational links that add to the user experience.

4. Thou shalt write tightly and to the point.

No one wants to read a long, meandering press release. Keep your releases concise and lean, and include only the most important information. Use numbered lists or bullet points to highlight key information in your press releases, which will make them easier to quickly scan.

5. Thou shalt make the press release easy to share.

If you want people to notice your news, you need to develop a social-sharing strategy. You want your press releases to spread across Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc., so make them easy to share. Include social-sharing buttons, and use short, tweetable headlines. Add visuals that people want to share.

6. Thou shalt include visuals.

I just mentioned it, but I’ll say it again: Include visual aids in your press releases whenever possible. Infographics, videos and photos can make your press releases more eye-catching and engaging. It’s all about dressing up your press release to make it as appealing as possible.

7. Thou shalt tell a story.

Incorporating storytelling into your press releases makes them more engaging, memorable and sharable. This is a great post with storytelling tips for press releases.

8. Thou shalt expand distribution.

It’s time to increase the visibility of your press releases. You need to expand your distribution. Use social networks to report important news, and use your blog as a news distribution channel. Do whatever you can to get your news noticed.

9. Thou shalt not use stale quotes.

Quotes are one of the most neglected parts of press releases. Too often we place generic quotes in releases as afterthoughts. What many people don’t realize is that quotes can be great tools for spicing up stories. They can add new layers to your stories, so use them wisely.

10. Thou shalt focus on building relationships.

PR still boils down to relationships. You need to build relationships with journalists, bloggers and customers. That’s how you’ll get people to notice and care about your news.

What would you add to this list?

Mickie Kennedy is the CEO and founder of eReleases. He blogs at PR Fuel, where a version of this article originally appeared.

Topics: PR

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