SEO tools help, but the proper wording holds the key to widely read releases.
Gone are the days of writing press releases only for journalists. Search engines can make them available to anyone online. The trick is optimizing releases so search engines deem them relevant to certain keywords.
Newswire search engine optimization (SEO) tools can help get releases to highly targeted audiences and drive them to your Web site to buy something or take action.
"Releases can now be used in a direct-to-consumer way," says Laura Sturaitis, VP of new media at Business Wire (BW). "Clients [can] generate traffic to their own site and track who clicked on the release all the way to how many dollars they put into the shopping cart."
Pew Internet & American Life reports that 97 million American adults use the Web on an average day, while 60 million use search engines. Sarah Skerik, VP of distribution services at PR Newswire (PRN), reports that search-engine use is the second most frequent online activity, behind e-mail.
"The days of the 400-word release are gone," says Paolina Milana, VP of marketing and media relations at Market Wire (MW). "A release has to be interactive and completely connected."
Newswire SEO tools help with keywords, hyperlinks, delivery, and measurement, and they also archive releases, which is advantageous in the blogosphere. PRN's SEO partner is iCrossing, and the process is automated. It recently became the first to offer mobile optimization. BW partners with Newsforce, while MW's interface allows for embedding streaming video.
But SEO tools are only as good as the information. The more integrated language and messaging is across your Web site, PR, and advertising, the more powerful such tools become.
"One challenge is getting clients to think about ranking before the 'hurry-and-get-it-out' stage," Sturaitis says.
Good writing is a must: Keywords and headlines are vital. Search engines are logarithms that use keywords to associate you with a topic. Releases should use keywords that
your audience is likely to use when searching, and include hyperlinks to specifics.
"Words in the release must match how consumers will find you in the search engine," says Sturaitis.
"[Be] consistent in sending out releases and in word choices within each release," says Milana. You're training the search engine to think you're the most relevant for a specific term.
"Choose four to six keywords," she adds. "Search engines think you're trying to spam them if you use more. Don't populate the release with the same word over and over. It won't sound organic." Similarly, don't use every possible description of your product or service.
Newswires can help with keywords, and staffers often call clients to work on corrections if they see excessive keywords or ones unlikely to work. Keyword reports also can be useful.
"PRN's keyword reports reveal which keywords get people to look and which are inspiring action," says Skerik. "A savvy PR pro can evaluate this continually and fine-tune releases."
Headlines are the audience's point of entry and must be short - most search engines cut them off after 70 to 80 characters. They should include company name and keywords.
Search engines like documents with relevant hyperlinks because they aid efficiency. Links serve as portals to additional information and business development. Link directly to the most relevant information for your audience, but, Sturaitis advises, use links judiciously, so you don't get tagged as spam.
"Hyperlink to exact pages that tell customers who you are, what you do, how you do it, why are you different, and why they should buy from you," says Steve Kayser, PR manager for Cincom, a software company and MW client. "It's a business-development tool. Embedding links to drive traffic back to our site helps cost-justify PR."
Cincom's press releases previously were generating 100 to 200 unique hits per day to its site - it now gets 650 to 850. Kayser's press releases average 375 words, down from 1,200, but at the other end of the spectrum, it's also having great success promoting its white papers.
Newswires offer regularly updated measurement reports, and look for even more detailed information in the future.
"It really justifies efforts, and we've really just scratched the surface [in terms of what we can measure]," Sturaitis says.
Choose keywords that your search audience will use
Analyze your own Web site, and optimize it for improving user click-through measurement
Use newswire measurement reports to help future releases
Overload a release with too many keywords or hyperlinks
Write long headlines, and don't forget to include company name and keywords
Hyperlink to anything that isn't relevant to your audience