Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past decade or so, you probably already know something about the importance of search engine optimization. What you may not know is that practicing good SEO is just as essential for your press releases as it is for the rest of your online communications.
Underscoring this, consider that the number of readers who were referred to our site directly from Google has nearly doubled since the start of 2017. In other words: neglect SEO at your own risk.
While that may sound ominous, the good news is that practicing good SEO with your press releases is virtually free and, when done right, can immediately add value to communications you were going to issue anyway.
To help lift the veil on SEO, I’ve put together five quick tips that you can use to help improve the search engine performance of your press releases.
1. Keep Content Relevant, Readable And Newsworthy
While SEO is an excellent tool for enhancing the visibility of online material, the hard truth is that even the best SEO won’t get readers to engage with content that’s just not that interesting. It is therefore imperative that you create content with your reader in mind from the outset.
Before you’ve started to write, ask yourself: what is it about this announcement that my readers will find compelling? What question is this news release answering?
This might seem like an essential point, but it is central to modern SEO. Google and other search engines have developed algorithms to more highly rank content which best answers user queries. On top of this, content which inspires real engagement — measured in clickthroughs, shares, tweets, repostings, etc., gets a significant boost on the search engine results page.
2. Pick Your Keywords
If you’re looking to optimize content of any kind, keyword selection needs to be top of mind.
To start, ask yourself what some of the main topics that your release discusses are. Next, put yourself in the shoes of someone searching for your release. What terms will they use to find it?
If you need help, there are plenty of online resources that will help you find the right keywords. You might also like this post on building a keyword library.
3. Write a Great Headline
Now that you have your topic and keywords, it’s time to write your headline.
From an SEO perspective, the headline is the most essential part of a successful press release. Not only is it the first thing your readers will see, but, in a digital age where attention itself is a commodity, it might be the only thing your reader bothers to read at all.
Your headline should be informative and written in natural language that is free of jargon —unless you’re writing your press release for a particular audience. This will maximize the number of readers who will be able to engage with your material.
It should also:
- Include your most critical keywords.
- Be a shareable length so that it can be used across social platforms. Keep in mind with Twitter moving to 280 characters that many legacy users will keep to 140.
- Include the heart of the story and your most important keywords in the first 55-70 characters, for clarity in search engine results pages.
- Contain a number (if appropriate), as headlines containing numbers have been shown to do better than those that don’t.
If necessary, feel free to use a subheadline to provide additional information or keywords.
4. Include a Call-to-Action (And go Easy on The Links)
A common mistake that users make is not providing a way for their readers to follow up on the material that they’ve just read. Immediately after finishing your release is the time when readers are most familiar with your news, and you need to capitalize on this moment with a Call-to-Action (CTA).
In a press release, this is typically done by placing a hyperlink on some good anchor text (not on the words “click here,” mind you, but rather on text that contains a relevant keyword. Doing it this way provides search engines an indicator as to what the linked page will be about).
The more logical the placement of this CTA the more success you’ll have (for example, placing a link to a donation page at the end of a paragraph which detailed an environmental catastrophe). That said, it’s also typically a good idea to include a link in your first paragraph.
Another quick word on links
While we’re on the topic of links, it’s also worth mentioning that too many links will not only overwhelm your readers, but can actually harm your SEO. Link spamming is considered a “Black Hat” SEO practice and can result in a site, or a news release, being penalized by Google and bumped off a results page.
To avoid this, aim for one to four logical and well-placed links instead.
5. Include Multimedia And Don’t Forget Social
If you’re looking for a way to push the SEO performance of your press release over the top, you need to include multimedia. Sending images and videos along with your press release is a fantastic way to increase visibility as it will mean that your press release will also be indexed by media search services like Google Images.
Perhaps most importantly, including videos or images increases the likelihood that your press release will end up being shared on social media. With so many people these days getting their news from Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, this is not an area you want to ignore.
There is, of course, a lot more to perfecting an SEO strategy, but if you follow the above tips you’ll be off to a great start in improving the online performance of your press releases. Just remember to keep the reader at the center of everything you post and you’ll be just fine. Good luck!
About Peter Mathewson
Peter Mathewson is a writer, editor and SEO specialist at Cision. With several years of communications experience, he has worked at Nasdaq, written freelance, and taught at Humber College. In 2016 he graduated from the University of Guelph with a Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing. Connect on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/petermathewson.