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Optimizing Your Press Releases For the Web

According to David Meerman Scott, author of the bestselling book, The New Rules of Marketing and PR, the old rules of PR no longer apply. Thanks to the Internet, marketing and PR professionals shouldn't write press releases for journalists in the hope of getting ink.

No, they should write press release for buyers -- in order to increase sales. That's because your potential and current customers, suppliers and vendors are online and searching for products and services. In fact, over 30 million people visit either Yahoo! News or Google News daily according to Search Engine News.

Call it taking PR to the streets.

So how do you ensure your prospects, buyers, and customers find your press release among the 2,000 or so releases that go out daily? The answer is search engine optimization. To use Search Engine News' phrase, optimizing your press releases is not just recommended -- it's essential.

Tips for optimizing a press release for online distribution

The rules for writing a good press release still haven't changed: develop a newsworthy angle, write a headline that succinctly states the news, and summarize the news in the first paragraph.

Writing a press release for the online marketplace requires new ways of thinking and writing, however. What follows are the strategies I used to optimize a release for a client's white paper lead generation campaign. (You can view the release here.)

  1. Keep it brief -- Because you no longer have an editor taking his or her mighty pen and editing your wordy press release down to size, you have to do this yourself. I try to keep my press releases to between 400 and 500 words -- and yes, that includes boilerplate! Anything more than that is just too long.

    Along the same line, break up large chunks of text into smaller paragraphs to make your release easier to read online.

  2. Develop a compelling summary -- I learned this lesson the hard way. Some distribution sites, such as PRWeb, allow you to add a summary -- which is then displayed on the main page of the site once the release is live. Well, I left the summary field blank, so when my release went live, it looked bare with nothing but the hyperlinked title. And, without the summary, the press release title alone wasn't enough to compel people to click through. I never made that mistake again.

    As you can see with the white paper release example, I used approximately 40 words in the summary, about 10 more words than I wanted. However, I also wanted to include the technical terms that software engineers use when talking about sockets errors.

    I've seen some summaries as long as 80 to 100 words. That's too many -- your online readers' eyes will glaze over.

  3. Use the right keywords -- My client initially gave me a list of keywords, which I promptly ran through Keyword Discovery, a keyword search tool, only to learn they were keywords no one was using in their searches.

    Instead, we focused on "sockets programming errors" as the primary key phrase, and "winsock errors," "fix winsock errors," and "windows sockets," as the secondary key phrases.

    I then used "sockets programming errors" in the headline, the summary, and throughout the body of the release.

    If you type "sockets programming errors" into Google, the #1 listing (as of this writing) is for the client's optimized landing page. The #2 listing is to a site that lists the press release.

  4. Include a link to a specific landing page -- If you're promoting a new product, service, or information, such as a white paper or report, send online searchers to a specific landing page versus your home page -- for two reasons. One, sending people to your home page instead of a specific landing page means they have to click around for the information they want. They'll probably click right back out, too. And two, you can track clicks from the press release to your landing page, which helps you determine how to improve future campaigns.

    As you can see in the white paper release, I included a link to the white paper landing page in the first paragraph of the release so that readers don't have to scroll to the bottom of the release to find it.

  5. Don't forget images! -- Many distribution sites now let you upload graphic files, such as photographs, images, and logos, to your release. Take advantage of this option to "brand" your release. I had my designer make a small GIF of the white paper cover, which I then added to the release (and the landing page, too). The image adds credibility to the copy and helps compel people to click through to the landing page.

    The results of this optimized release? A number of "techie" Websites picked it up and within hours after it went live, my client was already getting downloads. According to him, he's received significantly more leads than he received from previous online efforts he did on his own. Plus, the press release lives on at other sites and continues to be a lead generation tool -- while also bumping up the search engine ranking of the landing page due to the number of inbound links.


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Dianna Huff is a B2B marketing communications consultant and copywriting expert. You can subscribe to her e-newsletter, The MarCom Writer, at the DH Communications website. To download her latest free e-book, "Five B2B MarCom Strategies to Increase Sales Now," visit MarCom Writer Blog. Click here to read more articles by Dianna Huff.

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Comments from our users:

Friday February 15th 2008, 10:41 AM
Comment by: Susan B.
I appreciated the link to the keywords site. Bookmarked it.

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