SEO Friendly Press Releases

In our previous post, we have learned how to write a press release, now we’ll take a look on how to write one that will attract visitors to your website:

Today, studies indicate that the vast majority of journalists working a story or seeking ideas are likely to turn first to the search engine of their choosing.

Where the primary goal was once to get your printed press release opened and read, the new “job one” for publicity seekers is making certain that, when a journalist types in keywords that relate to your business, you’re right there, at the top of the rankings.
Of course, getting your main website as optimized and as search engine-friendly as can be is a hot and vital topic for all businesses, and it’s one that can fill entire books. For this article, however, we’ll focus on just one task: how to get your press releases indexed, and highly ranked by major search engines.
Many of the principles that apply to getting entire sites highly ranked are similar, but there are some things unique to press release-only search engine
optimization.
Let’s start with some words of wisdom offered by a fellow Free Publicity subscriber. Tim Leffel, author of The World’s Cheapest Destinations was kind enough lay out the steps he’s taken to assure that his press releases are well-indexed and ready to grab the
attention of any searching travel journalist. So let’s turn it over to Tim:

  1. Get as many links back to your web site as possible from like-minded sites (and return the favor)— this has more impact than anything.
  2. Always feature your web site address in any articles or press releases as this will often show up as another link if the article is posted on the web.
  3. Get as many relevant keywords that relate to your expertise/product as you can into the content of your web site pages, and not just the home page. The more specific, the better. (For example, “cheap flights” wouldn’t do me much good since there are probably a thousand sites using those words.)
  4. Pay to submit your sites to all the search engines at once, ideally several times per year. I use www.ineedhits.com, which is downright cheap.
  5. If it makes sense for your business, start a weblog and contribute regularly. For whatever reason, these tend to get high rankings in Google. Write about what you know and use targeted, relevant keywords in the title.
  6. I’ve read that static web sites don’t fare as well in search results, so it makes sense to update the site on a regular basis, even if you’re not changing much. Apparently the search spiders look at the “last published” date in your code.
  7. Some writers are adamant that you shouldn’t write without getting paid. I think that’s bunk. Every time you write an article for a web site, that’s another notch in your web search visibility and if you’ve put a link to your own site, another addition to your score.
  8. All this takes time to work, so people shouldn’t expect instant results. Over time though, it snowballs. When I pull up my name or the name of my book on the search engines, it goes on for at least ten pages. And yes, it always makes sense to have a few relevant keywords or phrases in all of your press releases, especially if you’re an expert in a specific area. Envision what words should lead someone to your web site, then make sure those are in there somewhere.

I’ll add a few extra tips that seem to be working:

  • Consider distributing your release through a paid service like PR Newswire. These folks practically invented the idea of search engine optimized press release distribution, and they consistently get their clients releases at the top of the engines.
  • Choose your keywords carefully. Again (and this is the Free Publicity mantra), think like a journalist! If a journalist was using Google to search for story ideas in your area of expertise, which words or phrases would he or she enter? Need some help figuring this out? Try the excellent service WordTracker (http://www.wordtracker.com). It’s a brilliantly-designed resource to nail down exactly the right keywords for your company. A free alternative is The Overture Search Term Suggestion Tool (http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinventory/suggestion/). My advice? Use them both!
  • When you write your press release, pick your main keyword or keyword phrase in the page title, the headline and the subhead. Then put it in the lead paragraph! Don’t try to jam more than one keyword phrase into the release and dilute your chances of a high ranking. Keep it simple. Let’s say you’re in the business of selling digital photography equipment. Your visit to WordTracker informs you that the most searched phrase
    related to your industry is “digital camera”. Your release deals with consumer tips to avoid fraud. Further research shows that the phrase “rip-off” is heavily searched. Thus, your keyword phrase is “digital camera rip-off”. Here’s how you might craft your release:
    Page Title: Avoiding Digital Camera Rip-Offs
    Headline: How To Avoid Rip-Offs When Buying a Digital Camera
    Subhead: Danger — Digital Camera Rip-Off Artists at Work!
    Lead Sentence: Digital camera rip-offs are on the rise, according to digital camera expert Joe Smith.
    One more thing: keep your release short so you don’t dilute your the impact of your keyword phrase!
  • Getting links to your release is vital. Link to it from your home page, and try to garner links from e-zines, blogs and websites with good Google Page Ranks (get the Google toolbar to help determine page rankings of
    other sites). What you’re shooting for would be something like this:
    Joe Smith has some great ideas about how not to get ripped off when buying a digital camera. You can see his tips at http://nameofsite.com/ripoffrelease.html
  • One last bit of advice — after you’ve done it once, keep at it! Build a library of search engine optimized press releases and the media will keep finding you. Imagine that: journalists coming to you without getting
    on the phone, begging, pleading or sending out mailing after mailing. You gotta love the Internet..

Copyright 2008, Stoller & Bard Communications, Inc. all rights reserved. http://www.publicityinsider.com

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Press Release Secrets

Every press release is different, but, regardless of its content, I try to make each release I write conform to these 10 Press Release Commandments:

  1. Thou shalt be professional. No goofy fonts, rainbow paper or silly gimmicks. Even lighthearted press releases represent a communication between one professional and another.
  2. Thou shalt not be promotional. If you can’t get enough objective distance from your company to write a press release that’s not filled with hype and puffery, hire someone to write it for you.
  3. Thou shalt not be boring. Even the driest subject matter allows for some sparks of creativity. Journalists like knowing that there’s a human being communicating with them, not some corporate robot.
  4. Thou shalt be brief. Learn to cut out extraneous words. Keep your sentences short. Include only the points necessary to sell the story. The well-crafted one page press release is a thing of beauty.
  5. Thou shalt know thy recipient. A feature or specialty editor is a very different creature from a city desk editor. If you’re promoting the opening of a new winery, the food and wine editor may be interested in all the details about what kind of aging process and wine press you’re using. The city desk editor just wants to know when the grand opening is and what’s going to happen there.
  6. Thou shalt use the proper tense. When writing a hard news release — a contract signing, a stock split, a major announcement, etc.) use the past tense (Acme Industries has changed its name to AcmeCo, the company announced today…) When writing a soft news release – a trend story, a personal profile, etc. — use the present tense (Jane Smith is one of the best marathon runners over 40. She’s also blind. Thanks to new technology from AcmeCo, Jane is able to…).
  7. Thou shalt think visually. A press release is more than words — it’s a visual document that will first be assessed by how it looks. I’m referring to more than font size or letterhead. I’m talking about the actual layout of the words. Whether received by mail, fax or email, a journalist — often unconsciously — will make decisions about whether to read the release based on how the release is laid out. Big blocks of text and long paragraphs are daunting and uninviting. Short paragraphs and sentences make for a much more visually inviting look.
  8. Thou Shalt Tell a Story. How to arrange the facts of a hard news release is pretty much cut and dried. The old “who, what, when, where and how” lead and “inverted pyramid” concepts still hold. So let’s focus on a soft news release. The trend story, the feel-good company story, the “gee-whiz, I didn’t know anyone was doing that!” release. The difference between these releases and the hard news release is simply a mirror of the difference between a feature story in, say, the entertainment section of your newspaper and the breaking news report on page one. The hard news story is about cold, hard facts (A mudslide closed portions of Interstate 70 last night, causing massive delays). A feature article about the guy who spends all day looking at seismograph readouts trying to predict where the next mudslide will occur will be very different. It’s likely to be in present tense, it won’t load all the facts upfront and it will be designed to draw the reader deep into the text. It is, in short, all about storytelling. Here’s the formula I use for these kinds of releases. I call it the 3S approach — Situation/Surprise/Support.The first paragraph sets up the situation. The second paragraph reveals the surprise. The third paragraph supports the claim made in the second paragraph. One very typical 3S is discussing a common problem in the first paragraph (For centuries, people have accepted memory loss as an inevitable result of aging.) The “surprise” paragraph announces the solution to the problem (But one local man says he’s ready to prove the medical establishment wrong.) The ”support” paragraph then tells the story. (John Smith, an Anytown entrepreneur, says he’s found the key to retaining a strong memory function far into old age. His “Memory Maker” software is based on ancient Chinese texts that were used more than 2000 years ago to…)  Another 3S — let’s revisit our mudslide watching friend. How would you start his story using this method? While John Smith’s colleagues at the National Atmospheric Center are watching the skies for signs of lightning and tornadoes, his attention is focused elsewhere. John Smith is listening to the mud. As the Chief Mudslide Analyst at the NAC, Smith spends his days glued to a seismograph, eyes and ears peeled for the telltale signs on an impending slide. Along with the 3S in action, I also followed the 7th Commandment. That really short second paragraph is a visual grabber, and will keep the journalist reading right into the meat of the release.
  9.  Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness. This may seem an obvious point, but it always bears repeating. Tell the truth. Don’t inflate, don’t confabulate, don’t exaggerate. Don’t twist facts, don’t make up numbers, don’t make unsubstantiated claims. Any decent journalist will be able to see right through this. If you’re lucky, you’re release will just get tossed out. If you’re unlucky, you’ll be exposed. It’s a chance not at all worth taking. Make sure every release you write is honest and on the level.
  10. Thou Shalt Know Thy Limitations. Not everyone can write a press release. A good feature release, in particular, isn’t an easy thing to craft. If you just don’t feel like you have the chops to get the job done, hire a professional.

One last tip: right before you start writing your release, spend an hour or two reading your daily paper, paying special attention to stories similar in feel to yours.
Immerse yourself in how the pros do it and you’ll be in the right frame of mind to tackle the job!

When Writing Press Releases, It’s all About Style

Write a great lead. The lead paragraph in a press release should, theoretically, be able to stand alone as a news item. A standard news lead answers the FiveW’s — Who? What? Where? When? Why? Successfully answer those five questions in one paragraph and you’ve summarized everything beautifully.

Write in Third Person. Perhaps it’s a silly convention, but press releases really should be written as if they’re coming from an objective outsider to your company, not from within your business. Of course, the journalist knows better, but nonetheless, they expect releases to be written in the third person. In short, here’s the difference between first person and third person:
• First person: We’ve developed the Acme X100. It’s our most advanced model ever.
• Third person: Acme Industries has developed the X100, which a company spokesperson called its “most advanced ever”
Attribute all opinions. Never flatly state an opinion. If you want to state an opinion or, as in the above example, make a claim, always attribute it to a representative of the company (which very well may end up to be you!). Anything apart from entirely factual info (dates, store availability, product features, biographical information, etc.) should be attributed.
Again, the best way to get a feel for this is to read wire copy. Start sorting out the things a reporter feels comfortable including without attribution and things
for which he uses a named source.

Remove all “stoppers”. A “stopper” is something that will stop a journalist in her tracks and distract her attention. Once that happens, your release is toast.

The point of your press release: to present information in the least obtrusive way possible. Consider it this way: the journalist isn’t dumb — she knows full well that you’ve sent her the press release for purely commercial reasons, hoping to get publicity that will make you more money. She can live with that as long as [a] there’s something in it for her (a good story) and [b] she’s not reminded of your commercial desires too often. A “stopper” breaks the suspension of disbelief needed for this little dance to be successful. It’s the boom mike showing up in the frame of a movie — once you’ve seen it, it’s hard to convince yourself that you’re really experiencing something that happened during, say, the Middle Ages.
Here are some ‘stoppers” to avoid:

  • Clunky language. Journalists keep their language pretty simple. Long words, compound sentences and lofty, pretentious phrases are no-no’s. Keep your sentences short. Don’t try to present more than one idea in a paragraph. Avoid words you wouldn’t use in everyday circumstances.
  • Hype and puffery. The ultimate “stopper”. Confusing press release copy with advertising copy is a pervasive problem with businesspeople. Don’t call yourself the greatest, the hottest, the coolest, the most unique or anything of the sort. If you must make a claim of superiority for your product, service or company, attribute it. Acme President Joe Blow said the X100 “has the opportunity to revolutionize the industry” is much better than The revolutionary Acme X100 is the greatest industrial advance since the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk.
  • Trademark Symbols. Including © or ™ or ® screams “hey, check me out! I’m a press release! I come from a business! The legal department made me include this stuff!”

The bottom line: write like a journalist, avoid the stoppers and answer the Five W’s and you’ll succeed!

Copyright 2008, Stoller & Bard Communications, Inc. all rights reserved. http://www.publicityinsider.com