Search engines continually update the algorithms they use to index, categorize and rank online content, and the SEO landscape is far different today than it was several years ago. Each day, customers ask our advice on how to generate online visibility for their press releases. So, here it goes:
Write for people, not machines.
The days of structuring content first and foremost for search engines are over and gone. You no longer need to repeat the same keyword over and over in the text, to achieve perfect keyword density. “Exact-match links” – anchor text links that use precise keyword phrases – are no longer an important requirement. Lists of links at the bottom of the page and blocks of text stuffed with keywords are not only passé, they can now pose risks for those who still employ those tactics, as the search engines are starting to penalize content they consider ‘over optimized,’ and many of these tactics are likely to be red-flagged.
Rumors are rife in the search world of yet another big shake up of Google’s search algorithms, but whatever happens, one principle remains constant: great content written with a specific audience in mind is good SEO and will increase your chances of being found. So when you take your seat at the search wheel of fortune, use the seven easy-to-follow steps in this infographic to improve your press release optimization and increase the chances of your message hitting the jackpot, rather than losing your shirt on a busted flush.
1. Focus your messages, and have a specific audience in mind. Many writers make the mistake of trying to cram too many themes into one message, with the intent of appealing to multiple audiences.
Here’s the problem an unfocused message can create. People seek specific information, and search engines reward it. Unfocused content is likely to fall by the wayside in social networks, going unshared. Furthermore, search engine algorithms – which are designed to analyze on-page content and categorize the information accordingly – are likely to conclude the content is effectively about ‘nothing’ when the focus is too watered down.
Use these five questions to test and focus your press release’s copy:
- Who is the audience?
- What is the press release about?
- Where will it have the most effect?
- When is the best time to distribute it?
- Why should my audience care?
2. Use the language of your audience. The rules for keyword use have really changed, but in reality, if you’ve produced a well-focused piece of content, you’ll probably be in good shape when it comes to keywords. Remember, however, that you don’t need to repeat the same term over an over. Search engines understand synonyms – go ahead an employ them with confidence. Using a variety of words will give your content a more natural feel, and make it more relatable to your readers.
Put the most important keyword phrase as close to the beginning of the headline and repeat it somewhere toward the top of the press release text. Search engines to place more weight on words and phrases found at the top of the page.
3. Include a direct link to the most important relevant web page: Providing a URL for readers to click on for more information provides an important service for person interested in learning more about what your press release is promoting. To adhere to current search engine best practices, avoid using exact-match, optimized anchor text links, and instead, simply include the URL of the most relevant page on your web site for interested readers to click upon.
4. Add a photo and include your key phrase at the start of the photo caption. Images make your content more compelling, and there’s research showing that the use of images in this way can boost visibility for your message in search engines and on social sites like Facebook that also favor multimedia.
5. Share the content socially. This is another very important factor in building online visibility, because search engines are really paying attention to social interaction on content. They are assuming that content that’s generated a lot of interaction on social networks is valuable and timely, and they will give that content a boost on the search engine results page. On the other side of the same coin, content that the denizens of social networks pass over is likely to also get the same treatment from search engines. Building strong presences for your brand on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other social sites will ultimately contribute powerfully to the visibility of your organization’s messages.
Be interesting & useful.
Any discussion about generating online visibility for content would be incomplete without a mention of the simple fact that in order for any of the above-mentioned tactics to work, the content must be interesting and useful to the audience. Writing with the audience in mind – answering their questions, using the language they use and providing tips and other useful information – is ultimately the best way to generate traction for your brand’s messages. You can craft a beautiful headline, use a popular keyword phrase and artfully link the content, but if it’s boring and of little utility to your readers, it will sink into search engine oblivion.
From the ‘speed bump’ that starts many press releases, (e.g. “Company Name, a global innovator and provider of world-class end-to-end turnkey solutions for ….” to stilted quotes from execs declaring their excitement about some sort of mumbo-jumbo, many press releases are the antitheses of natural, interesting writing. Jargon and stiff “corporate-speak” slow down (and turn off) readers, and they distance your audience from your organization by being less relatable. Journalists conclude “Nothing new here…” and hit delete, and readers get through half the lead and then bail. Additionally, search engines are amazingly good at detecting natural language, and they reward it. Content that is too machine-like may be penalized. We’ve said it before, but we’ll say it again: write for people, not machines.
Whether you’re simply e-mailing your press release to a media list, posting it to your Web site or are planning to distribute it broadly on PR Newswire, keeping these tips in mind will help you garner better visibility for your message – and results for your efforts.