Writing a good press release is a lot like building a house made of Lego. You amass the favored blocks and then fit them together to construct something meaningful. The same ‘slot it and see’ approach is often used to shoehorn a digital marketing strategy into a search engine optimization campaign. The foundations of any PR built this way are shaky and result in an end product that is flimsy at best, and likely to collapse in spectacular fashion at worst.
There is an art to crafting a solid PR that can stand alone as a solid piece of marketing just as easily as it can be considered an SEO tool designed to attract brand buzz and build inbound links. Approached properly, that’s exactly what an online press release will do. Join the modules together any old how and you’ll end up with a body of text that serves little purpose other than providing link fodder for some hasty bookmarking.
So what’s the secret to crafting a good, strong press release that makes a measurable contribution to SEO? The answer is in the methodology.
Consider Your Keywords
Although you’ll know the keywords you’re optimizing your site for, do these translate well to the press release theme? Let’s say you sell airline tickets between London and New York. As part of your search engine optimization activity, you’ve been focusing your attentions on phrases like ‘flights London to New York’ and ‘plane tickets London to New York’. You may have identified a search string – keywords like ‘cheap transatlantic flights’ or ‘cheap flights JFK’. The question is, which phrases are typed into the search engines most frequently by travelers looking to fly between the two cities? When you’ve armed yourself with recent search volume stats, you have the most important element of your press release; the title.
Unlike offline marketing where you have the time and space to reel your reader in, there is little point in falling into the clever headline trap. A search engine spider will not understand a play on words meaning a witty header is really just a missed optimization opportunity. A reader approaches a news item differently when viewing onscreen compared with browsing a newspaper or magazine and will glance quickly down returned results. The key to making your piece stand out with eye-catching bold type on your keywords is to keep it simple. Having already identified your most important search sequence, write the headline around that phrase.
Without resorting to keyword stuffing, the body of your press release should reference all related keywords. Each of these keywords can be deep linked back to the relevant page on your website, helping to direct the search engine spiders when crawling the text and providing easy access to key products and services to the reader.
Using an interactive press release for search engine optimization purposes should never be apparent to the reader. A poorly produced piece that strings keywords together with no regard for the reader experience will do your online presence more harm than good. To ensure that the release works just as hard for your brand as for your search positioning, stick to the tried and true five Ws (Who, What, Where, When, Why). Maintaining this universal standard will also make the distribution and link building stage of your press release that much easier.
There are a number of paid for distribution services available online, however, if you’re watching the budget and/or want to retain close control over exactly who receives the release, opt for the do it yourself route. Thinking about distribution as part of your link building strategy will give you a good starting point for building up the list of intended recipients. It’s always a good idea to include local websites and media outlets as not only are these a valuable source of links but they can help you drum up good quality traffic. From there, think of the independent, third party sites that contain a news section, product review or publish industry insight and add them to your list.
A good distribution list is a who’s who of potential inbound links and of targeted traffic so you may consider investing in a media service such as Bacons or MediaDisk to make the contact research easier.
The Follow Up
Don’t be afraid to get on the phone and follow up with any journalist or publication you have sent your PR to. It is in your best interests to answer any questions they may have, clear up any doubt or gently remind them that you have a newsworthy story that warrants a second look. This persistence will pay off. If you don’t have time to call every recipient, focus on the outlets with a good PageRank and a target demographic that dovetails nicely with your own.