Press releases written for an online audience and distributed via PR wires and social media sites are an intrinsic part of any effective search engine optimization strategy. With branding, link building and link baiting advantages, even the smallest of businesses can now benefit from a strong online PR program. This phenomenon is relatively new though and just three or fours years ago, only the very experimental were using press releases as part of online marketing works. In fact, their continued production and regular use as an SEO tool was almost unheard of.
Although times have now changed, the fact remains that press release writing still calls for a niche skill set. While many business owners are happy to put pen to paper and create a PR or put a budget in place to outsource the task simply because they know they should, the newness of the genre means that problems can crop up very easily and in many instances, not be noticed or put right.
To help you craft front-page-worthy press releases, here are three common mistakes made by those writing press releases and what you can do to put them right…
1. Keyword Stuffing
A common error with any press release writing task is to try and fit too many keywords into the body of the text. As with any form of online content, whether it be an article or a web page, keyword stuffing should be avoided at all costs. If the keyword density is too high and the PR is then published on site, it will have exactly the same impact as any other stuffed content would — it will appear to be too spammy to Google and to the reader. It’s easy to spot a release that has been created as nothing more than a vehicle for keywords and more often than not, it will leave a poor impression of the brand concerned and possibly lead to difficulties with Google.
Avoiding keyword stuffing can be hard for those who are inexperienced in press release or more general online writing. Keyword density is a notoriously tricky thing to get right. Too few and there’s no point, too many and you do more harm than good. For those struggling, an easy rule of thumb to help you find your feet is to include one keyword in the title, one in the first paragraph, and one in the final paragraph.
2. Sales Above News
A press release can be used as a sales tool in that it can paint a very positive impression of your business. A great release can set your brand apart, particularly if it focuses on a newsworthy event such as an award nomination, local charity work or the launch of a groundbreaking new product.
A press release should always prioritize the news angle – the main point of a PR after all is to tell the press about an achievement they should take note of. Those new to PR writing or lacking in inspiration for a regular release will often fall prey to the temptation to come on too strong with a sales pitch – this is an immediate turn-off for most editors and can mean that a genuinely interesting or newsworthy story is consigned to the trash folder.
Consigning the ‘salesy’ information to the boilerplate of the release is an easy way to avoid falling into this trap. The main body should focus on the ‘who, what, where, when and why’ – basically all of the facts that tell the reader why they should read on and why they should care.
3. Spelling and Grammar
Spelling mistakes and grammar errors are rife online, and press release writing is no exception. These two factors are becoming increasingly important to Google as it searches for ways to recognize good quality, trustworthy content. Most (if not all) word processing packages offer both spelling and grammar checks – just make sure they are set to check as you type.
Even professional writers employ the services of editors. If there is no one else in the business you trust to read through and correct the release, set to one side for a few hours after writing and then come back to it and read through thoroughly once again. If you proofread your content immediately after you finish writing it, the eye tends to skip over mistakes such as “of” instead of “off” or the extremely common “you” instead of “your.”