Yes, You Should Still Optimize Press Releases

Imagine that you are the manufacturer of the iWidget, a revolutionary product that can do everything from balance your checkbook to iron your pants. Sadly, you are forced to recall the iWidget after you discover that frequencies emitted from the device turn the docile family dog into a snarling, four-legged beast that would make Michael Vick proud. Your PR team immediately issues a press release telling consumers how to get the iWidget fixed. But because the press release wasn't optimized, when consumers search for the term "iWidget," your press release shows up on the third page -- right behind a YouTube video of a chihuahua devouring Grandma's credenza.

The story seems dramatic, but the principles hold true. And yes, you should be optimizing your press releases. The basics of natural search optimization and press release optimization were established long ago. But as the industry continues to evolve, so does optimization - along with all the reasons why search engine marketers and communications professionals should still make press release optimization a priority. If you don't currently optimize your press releases, consider this:



  • Online news wires such as PRWeb, PRNewswire and BusinessWire have become a direct source for content, and act as press release search engines that may require some amount of optimization in order to be found.

  • "Universal Search" means greater inclusion of news-based content in the algorithmic SERPs, and news releases hold greater importance as a naturally optimized asset. (Note: I'm not implying that releases get you directly in News placement; releases alone do not, but press release pickup by news outlets can.)

  • There is a substantial audience of journalists, bloggers and end-readers that rely on keyword-triggered alert systems to find news and press release content.

  • New people are always entering the search and communications fields, and may not be familiar with basic optimization of digital news assets, or with their own impact and influence on search and keyword-triggered alert systems. Continuous education and awareness are needed.

  • More news-based keyword research is becoming available to help you better understand how people search at the keyword level.

    Now that you have the background, let's get into the nitty gritty. These are not new concepts, but they're as important as ever with the evolution of the industry. Here, my ten tips for press release optimization:

    1) In the title headline, always include popular keywords and keyword phrases that correspond with the major theme of the release. Of all on-page attributes, the title element is the single heaviest weighted aspect in the way that engines determine search ranking. Press releases are no different. Choose your keywords carefully, because in most cases a release will not rank for a competitive keyword or phrase unless it is emphasized in the title. One best practice is to start your release with information about a partnership with a widely-recognized brand name company; you might even consider starting the release with the partner's name.

    2) Include popular keyword and keyword phrases in the release summary, or the secondary release heading. The secondary heading summary can also be a place to incorporate other valuable ancillary keywords and phrases that support your overall theme.

    3) Reinforce the major keyword theme in the body of the release. Once again, what works for optimizing Web pages goes for releases as well. Include your title keyword theme in the first paragraph to reinforce the overall theme of the release.

    4) Include the company URL in the first paragraph, after the company name. The engines put more emphasis on a link in the first paragraph or sentence of a page, so I highly recommend that you include the URL in that spot in each release. One of my contacts at one major newswire also recommends including the full path URL (including http://) so that all news-based content management systems will activate the link (some will not activate the link in their CMS if only "" is used).

    5) Use relevant keywords to describe the company at the end of the press release. Adding your generic keyword phrase or category to describe the nature of your business not only serves to describe and introduce what your company does, but it also gives the engines a little bit of keyword context to go by. Ensure that a generic and relevant description of your business is in the boilerplate ("Inc. manufactures widgets").

    6) Add relevant ancillary keywords to trigger the release via keyword alert services. Remember that keywords and keyword phrases placed anywhere in the document can trigger a release alert via Google, Yahoo Alerts, online news wires or any other keyword-based notification system, so it is important to use relevant trigger keywords throughout the release.

    7) Use keyword research to reach your target. Once again, just as search engine marketers regularly research keywords and phrases for SEM campaigns, understanding how your press or blog targets think at the query level can put your release directly in their inboxes, without having to make an additional phone call or send an email. Utilizing the terminology that searchers use to find information ultimately increases your chances of being found. Keyword Discovery offers a database of news-based keyword searches taken from its sample population, and this can provide direction in the level of interest around a particular keyword or topic.

    8) Educate your PR team on press release optimization. If you're not the person who is responsible for writing your company's press releases, talk to your team. Using best practices for writing releases to attract journalists' attention generally also helps with optimization.

    9) If your press release includes a public company (besides your own), request that its strategists give permission to distribute the release on that company's feed. This will increase pickup on financial outlets.

    10) The Associated Press and Reuters are no longer the only news services in town. Targeting a press release for a publication like can result in pickup in multiple local markets.

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