Small Business SEO: How to Optimize Press Releases

By James A. Martin | Posted May 24, 2010

Like practically every other form of communication, the Internet has transformed the press release. And small business owners who understand how the press release has evolved -- and how to use SEO techniques within them -- can help boost their bottom lines.

Press releases used to be mailed or blasted over wire services to journalists and analysts. The media would then decide, based on the release’s contents, whether to pursue a story or not. In the best of circumstances, the shelf life of a press release was roughly equivalent to that of a spotted banana -- extremely brief.

Now, you can instantly distribute news releases across the Internet and post them on your Web site for everyone -- journalists, analysts, partners, competitors, and most importantly, potential customers -- to see. They live online for months and even years.

And unlike yesterday’s simple text releases, today’s so-called social media news releases can include embedded video clips, infographics, links to relevant Web pages, and options for sharing the release on social networks. (Here’s an example of an optimized social media news release.)

“Think of the press release not just as a media relations tool, as it has been historically, but instead …as … a mini Web page on the news or topic being written about,” writes Lee Odden, CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, in his blog post “Press Release SEO Tips.”

Reasons to Create SEO Press Releases

Search engine optimization (SEO) plays a pivotal role in today’s press releases. That’s because many journalists and bloggers are unlikely to act upon an unsolicited press release sent in e-mail, opting to use search engines to get and research story ideas.

“Something like 25,000 press releases have been sent to me, resulting in no stories,” writes David Meerman Scott in his bestseller The New Rules of Marketing & PR. “Instead, I think about a subject that I want to cover in a column or an article, and I check out what I can find on blogs and through search engines.”

While blasting journalists with unsolicited press releases might not get you a lot of traction, optimized press releases distributed and hosted by services such as PRWeb and PR Newswire can help your business attract attention from journalists and customers alike.

  • Including a link to your business’s Web site in your press release, and posting that release on authoritative sites such as PRWeb and PR Newswire, can help improve your site’s search engine ranking. For more about links and SEO, read SEO Tips for Small Business: How to Get Good Links.
  • A press release can rank highly in Google News, Yahoo News, and other news search engines, giving your release greater exposure and the potential for more traffic to your Web site pages that are linked to in the release.
  • The more visibility your release gets in search engine results, the better your chances are that media and bloggers will write about you, gaining your business further exposure.
  • When others write online articles about your business and include a link to your site, those links help boost your site’s search engine ranking.
  • Is your business receiving negative word of mouth from bloggers, in Yelp reviews, or on other sites? Do the unflattering comments show up in search engine queries of your company’s name? If so, a timely, optimized news release addressing the bad press head-on may show up in the same search results as the negative reviews and help neutralize them.

How to Write SEO Press Releases

Here are 10 tips for creating press releases that will help drive targeted traffic to your site.

1. Identify the press release’s goals and target audiences. Having a clear picture of both helps you write a focused release and aids in your keyword research.

2. Know your target audience’s "pain points." Many people perform search engine queries to solve a problem, such as how to recover data from a dead hard drive. By clearly articulating your target customer’s problems using natural language (instead of jargon or hype), you’ll boost your press release’s chances of getting found in search queries.

3. Do your keyword research. Try to find one or two primary keyword phrases to optimize the release. Using the Google AdWords Keyword Tool, look for keywords that aren’t highly competitive but have a significant search volume. For more about keyword and SEO tools, see Top 10 Free Small Business SEO Tools and SEO Tips: How to Increase Traffic With Keywords.

4. Use target keywords in strategic places. Add your most important keyword phrase to the news release’s title, summary/description, a subhead, body copy, and link text. Try to work the keyword phrase into a quote attributed to an executive at your company as well, because some journalists and bloggers will run those quotes verbatim.

5. Don’t overdo the keywords. If the wording sounds unnatural to you, you can be sure it will strike readers as odd, too. And if you stuff a Web page with keywords, you risk getting penalized by the search engines.

6. Add keyword-rich links. Links are extremely important for search engine ranking. So your press release should include at least one keyword-rich link to a preferred landing page on your site.

A preferred landing page is usually a page that describes a specific product, service, feature, or customer problem, or that serves as an information resource of some kind.

For instance, let’s say your press release announces a new back pain treatment your physical therapy practice provides. The press release should include a keyword-rich link that points to the page on your site that explains back pain and the treatment for it your practice offers.

It’s not a bad idea to also include a link to your company’s home page. But by default, most home pages get more traffic than interior pages. That’s why you should focus on building traffic to preferred landing pages deeper in your site with links to those pages in your press releases.

7. Add relevant multimedia and images to your release. Images added to a news release can increase the click-through rate from standard and news searches by up to 25 percent, according to PRWeb. And video can increase time spent on a news release by as much as 500 percent, by some accounts.

Image search is becoming an increasingly popular way for people to find Web content and represents another SEO opportunity for your release. If you add an image to your release, make sure to use your target keyword phrase in the image’s file name as well as in its alt-text (the text used to describe the image to visually impaired readers).

8. Tie social bookmarking and social media to your release. Making it easy for readers to share your release via Facebook, Twitter, Digg and other social networks helps drive traffic to the release. And whenever you distribute a new press release, mention it on Twitter, Facebook, and your blog, with links to the release on your site.

9. Keep your press release focused, easy to read and brief. This isn’t about SEO as much as it is about engaging your readers. Stick to one topic per release. Use subheads, short paragraphs, bullet points and occasional bold face type to make the release easy to read and scan. Avoid run-on sentences, and try to keep the release to 400-600 words.

10. Limit, or better yet, eliminate, hype. Use natural language descriptions to explain what you offer, as opposed to overused terms like ‘industry-leading’ and ‘purpose-built.’ If you think like your customers, instead of like a marketer, you’re more likely to use the language they’ll use when they do a search.

James A. Martin is an SEO consultant who writes an SEO and social media marketing blog.

Do you have a comment or question about this article or other small business topics in general? Speak out in the SmallBusinessComputing.com Forums. Join the discussion today!

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