SEO for Press Releases

Everything You Need To Know About Optimizing Press Releases for Today's Online Markets
How to write 'em and where to send 'em to get the biggest bang for your time, effort, and money! — by Casey Markee

With over 2000 press releases distributed online daily, it's a real challenge to get yours to stand out from the crowd. We're here to show you how to take that boring traditional press release of yesterday and SEO optimize it for the search engine savvy searcher of today!

According to industry research site Marketing Sherpa, 92% of journalists now use search engines to research their stories, with 81% using search engines daily. These same journalists are reading blogs, subscribing to RSS feeds and visiting social media marketing sites in record numbers.

To reach these journalists, nearly 75% of search engine marketers and PR professionals are writing press releases which are optimized for search engines and social media sites. This number has doubled in the last two years!

Add the fact that over 30 million people visit either Yahoo News or Google News daily and you can see how ensuring your press release is SEO optimized for maximum distribution is not only recommended, but essential.

7 SOLID Reasons to Optimize Your Next Press Release

  • Generate Top Listings in Search Engines: A correctly optimized press release which incorporates targeted keyword phrases can often result in a front page listing in Google, Yahoo and Microsoft.

  • Build Quality Backlinks: An optimized press release can result in dozens if not hundreds of quality authoritative one-way backlinks to your site. These backlinks can range from blogs and industry publications to big news sites with strong PageRank scores such as CNN or AOL.

  • Increase Targeted Traffic: Press releases can routinely result in both sudden large increases in traffic as well as steady longer-term increases that can show benefits as long as 60-90 days past the initial publication date. Correctly optimizing a press release to a specific target audience means achieving a higher response percentage from that specific target audience, resulting in more traffic.

  • Promote your Online Brand: More than 70% of Americans now get their news through online outlets as opposed to the daily newspaper. Positioning your company's website and its business in front of these online eyeballs will result in substantially higher brand awareness than continuing with traditional offline media vehicles. This is especially beneficial to new businesses desiring to establish a quick Internet presence.

  • Keep your Costs Down: Costing as little as a couple of hundred dollars, a well thought-out correctly optimized online press release can reach hundreds of thousands of prospective customers. When stacked up against the traditional costs of your average online Pay-Per-Click campaigns and offline print media campaigns, the press release may be one of the last truly great values in the advertising world.

  • Raise your Online Profile: Submitting press releases (when it's newsworthy) is a great way to raise your online profile. Not only do you ensure you stay in the public consciousness but you also encourage industry-specific editors and journalists to see you as an important player within their specific niche. These industry-specific journalists may in turn bookmark your site and subscribe to RSS feeds that allow them access to future happenings with your website.

  • Save on Pay-Per-Click Expenses: A quality press release can result in hundreds and even thousands of free visitors from sites from which you're already paying good money to receive traffic. We know Google AdWords and Yahoo Search Marketing traffic is not cheap. Bring down that overall cost-per-click by factoring in all the traffic you may receive from regular targeted press releases submitted to these same engines.

It's worth remembering that unlike traditional offline distributed press releases (who still uses those anyway?), the online press release never goes away. Years from now your press release will still be on the Internet, possibly still bringing you new leads— if you follow these optimization tips below before distributing your next release, that is.

How to Format your Press Release

While the focus of this article is to optimize your press release, here are some brief formatting tips to keep in mind when creating your initial press release:

Sample release (click to enlarge)  

  • Keep your press release between 400-500 words max—that's the sweet spot. If you can say it in two pages good, but if you can say it in one page, that's great.

  • Write the press release in the 3rd person (he, she, they and them).

  • Include a title and keep it to around 80 characters max.

  • Include a subheading that includes added details to compliment your title.

  • The lead paragraph should provide the roadmap for your release: cover the Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How (5 W's + H) of your story.

  • The main body provides the meat of your release, including quotes and further info to flesh out your story for the reader.

  • The boilerplate provides the final paragraph, which adds details about your website, its history and what it offers to the reader.

  • End your press release with the word End or by including ### at the footer of your release.

  • Provide contact information so that editors or potential customers can readily contact your site.

  • Most importantly! Make sure you're writing a press release about meaningful, newsworthy content.

    A new product launch, a sales milestone, an industry award, new services launch, are all newsworthy. A change to your company's logo and the announcement of a new website theme (for the most part) isn't worth the cost of a release. If nobody reads it, and more importantly, if nobody links to it, then you're wasting your money.

7 Tips to Optimize your Next Press Release for Maximum Effect

It used to be that press releases were written by marketing copywriters who wrote specifically for people reading the press release. However, for a press release to succeed online, you must also write for the search engines themselves.

In essence, you're writing two press releases in one—one for your target audience and one for the search engines who control how your target audience actually finds and views your press release online.

There's no secret formula involved, no absolute right or wrong way to do this—but there are characteristics shared by the most successful releases online that will increase your press release's effectiveness, including:

  • Keyword Research: The best press releases are optimized around 2-3 researched keyword phrases that are uniquely targeted to your niche audience. These keywords should be directly related to the topic of your news release and to what the average online searcher would use to find information covered in your press release.

    Keyword research is an important first step in press release optimization and you should ensure that chosen keywords are the most appropriate, high-traffic options available. A commercial keyword tool like WordTracker is invaluable in this step.

  • Keyword Placement: Once you have your 2-3 chosen keywords, it's time to optimize your release around them. Place your targeted keyword phrases in the press release headline, the subheading and within the body of the release itself.

    Try to repeat your keywords 1-2 times per 100 words or about 4-15 times during the course of an average 400-500 word release. Effective keyword repetition is essential to reinforce your message with the user and increase relevance in the search rankings.

  • Anchor Text Optimization: This is really where you get the benefit of SEO optimization in a press release. Take your two most important keywords and link them from the release to pages on your site. Make sure these deep links lead to optimized landing pages. For example, if you're a travel site selling vacations and linking to the phrase Hawaiian vacations, deep link to an optimized landing page on your site dealing specifically with Hawaiian vacations.

    Any more than two (maybe three) keyword-rich links in your release starts to look a little spammy. Also remember that, the more links on the page, the less each link is worth. Two or three links is generally enough.

  • Text Formatting: Don't be afraid to use bold, italics, underlining, subheadings, and bullet points when formatting your press release. Start thinking of your online press release as a mini web page and you will accomplish two things: your press release will stand out more visibly to the online reader while appearing as more SEO enhanced than other similar press releases.

    Just remember, nothing will replace poor content in a press release. So keep it interesting and readable by avoiding repetition and spammy marketing copy.

  • Brand your Release: When possible, insert a company logo or embed photos directly in your release for SEO enhancement and branding. Most newswire services now allow file attachments or direct in-content placement of multimedia files including video files, audio links, podcast URLs, or a direct path to your company's online newsroom.

    A great way to SEO your release is to enhance your brand visually for the reader. All of the above will accomplish this nicely.

  • Add an RSS Feed: Setting up a simple XML-formatted RSS feed directly tied to your own press releases is a great way to streamline communication between your company and interested journalists. It is also a surefire way to generate quality backlinks from site subscriptions to the feed itself.

    Adding an RSS feed increases the ability of journalists within your targeted niche to find your current and future releases quickly and effortlessly by subscribing to future content at their leisure. RSS feeds are supported by most of the major newswires and can be bundled into the average release almost effortlessly.

  • Include SMO Tags: Including social media optimization (SMO) bookmarking tags in your release is surefire way to encourage Web 2.0 distribution online. These tags are really your targeted keywords in the release. Going back to our Hawaiian vacations keyword example, two tags arise: Hawaiian and vacations.

    These tags can be used by users on Digg,, Reddit, Newsvine, Technorati and other major bookmarking sites to save your release for sharing and future reference. Most of the major newswires now allow SMO optimization in their releases. Give some thought to the best tags with which readers can classify your release and you will increase the traffic it will generate in the future.

The 5 Top Sites to Submit Your Optimized Press Release

By now you've learned why optimizing a press release for the search engines is important, how to optimize the release for both SEO and SMO maximum visibility and what the benefits of this optimization can mean for both your release and website. Now comes the last step—the actual distribution of the press release.

There are literally dozens of both paid and free sites that will distribute a press release online these days. We're going to look at the top 5, which control over 95% of the 2000+ releases distributed online daily.

  1. Business Wire — A Berkshire-Hathaway company in business since 1961, Business Wire is the largest newswire dissemination service in the United States. Its ability to target your release is quite impressive and it has the latest in SMO bells and whistles (through a partnership with PR Web).

    Targeting can be either by industry, geographic locale, or key demographic. Membership is required ($200/year), and releases are priced higher than most other services at between $500-$600 per release. But this higher price often gets you exposure to the bigger media outlets.

  2. Market Wire — A close second in market share to Business Wire, Market Wire has over 3,000 corporate clients and distributes releases to over 60,000 journalists daily. Market Wire is also the exclusive provider for press releases to the NASDAQ and NASDQ-listed companies.

    If you're in the finance arena, Market Wire is probably the best choice for you. Market Wire has traditional SEO capabilities but is still working on SMO features. Membership is required ($200/year), and also starts at around $500 per release.

  3. Prime Newswire — Known for its large distribution network and its superior service at a lower price, Prime Newswire has had a lot of industry firsts. These firsts include a free online clipping service, an online customer service center, and delivery of daily news alerts via HTML email. No membership is required. A full SEO/SMO optimized release is substantially cheaper here and will run you a flat $250.

  4. PR Newswire — This service averages over 1.9 million views on its websites each month. PR Newswire distributes between 700-800 press releases a day and among its many SEO friendly tools is a nice account-level keyword density analyzer that automatically flags your release for suggested optimization changes.

    PR Newswire requires a membership fee of $195, and $400 per release which includes 30-day tracking, a clipping service and a full suite of SEO/SMO and multimedia customization features.

  5. PR Web: This site is definitely the most user-friendly of private press release distribution sites, used by over 40,000 organizations internationally, and our personal favorite. As this sample release from their site shows, they have integrated practically every SEO/SMO optimization widget possible within their releases.

    PRWeb's Online Visibility Engine distinguishes it from other newswires through its search-engine optimized and social-media enabled distribution platform packages. For as little as $80 you get your release into Google News and Yahoo News and can target your release by industry and metro area. Go up to $200 and add in all the SEO and SMO bells and whistles, including keyword-rich anchor text and trackback tracking. This is hands-down the best value of all the options we reviewed.

Why Optimized Press Release Are a Big Deal

Public relations agency TEKgroup International recently released results from a 2007 survey of journalists on media relations practices. Almost 70% of journalists read one or more blogs regularly, just over 28% visit social networking sites once per week or more, and more than 37% of journalists subscribe to RSS feeds.

50% of these same journalists visit Google News and over 30% visit Yahoo News daily. In fact, journalists usage of Google News surpasses their usage of the major networks, MSNBC and even CNN!

Optimize your press releases both for the search engines and the social media networks and you will more effectively reach both your target audience and those news professionals looking for hot, viral content. Ignore this market and you might want to consider an altogether new use for that press release ...we hear they can make nice paper airplanes ;)

Don't stop the presses!

Casey Markee
Professional Search Engineer

Casey Markee is a hired SEO top-gun who search-engineers sites for Planet Ocean clients.