Press Releases and Search Engine Optimization

Many companies still don't take advantage of SEO. There are many, however, that issue press releases on a regular basis. What they don't understand is that press releases can be part of your SEO efforts, and can be used to gain presence in the editorial results of the search engines, even if it's not a direct presence for your actual domain.

Press releases, in the traditional sense, were meant to reach out to journalists with the hope that a publication would pick it up, call someone within your company for comment, and gain a presence within the traditional media community (television, radio and/or print) to enhance your image and further your business.

Press releases in the digital media environment can do all of that, plus a bunch of other cool stuff. Even though many continue to issue press releases, few have made adjustments to their efforts to include press release optimization for the digital community and to further their interactive marketing -- and specifically SEO -- efforts.

By paying attention to a few important details, it's possible to craft an interactive press release and create synergies within your other marketing efforts:

Step 1: Creation of the Press Release

Write for the editors you're trying to reach traditionally, as well as the search engines.

  • Headline: You must have a catchy headline or else no one -- aside from the search engines -- will read it. If you want the most from your efforts, include at least one relevant keyword phrase that people search for.
  • Copy: Mention the keywords of focus for the release within the first paragraph.
  • Linking: Many press release distribution companies allow you to include keyword-rich anchor text in links. These links should be directed to specific URLs within your Web site that, ideally, have a title tag, header tag, and content that supports this same keyword phrase. There's great SEO value in having links on other Web sites linking to you, using keywords that you'd like to rank for within the anchor text of the link.
  • Tags: Many distribution partners allow you to tag your press release with keywords that you'd like to have this release associated with.

Step 2: Distribution

Many companies offer varying levels of service for distribution. I'll outline a few:

  1. Business Wire. The leading source for press releases, photos, multimedia, and regulatory filings from companies and groups throughout the world, and suited for businesses of all sizes. Pricing for their optimized releases is currently $225 per release with a Business Wire circuit, and $295 if ordered standalone (a free membership to Business Wire is required). These releases via EON (Enhanced Online News) offer the use of anchor text and links, trackbacks, Web site preview, and customization of the permanent URL. This is also great for targeting long tail terms.
  2. PRNewswire. More than just an online network, they'll distribute through the traditional and interactive outlets. Hyperlinks are often removed from online releases, although the releases can rank well in the organic results. The newsline you select and the length of your news release determine the distribution cost. Each newsline covers a specific geographical area: local, regional, national, and international. Their optimized releases are included in US1 releases for $680 or can be added to any other release for an additional $255. Membership is $195 annually and releases start at $180 depending on the location you're targeting.
  3. PRWeb. Great for small to medium-sized businesses, PRWeb is a leader in online news and press release distribution:
    • Standard Visibility: Basic submission, inclusion on Google and Yahoo News, two-day distribution, $80.
    • Social Media: Basic plus social bookmarking links for increased Web 2.0 distribution (tagging, etc), $140.
    • SEO Visibility: Allows for controlling anchor text of links in the release, next day distribution, and advanced SEO statistics (keywords referring traffic to the release, etc.), $200.
    • Media Visibility: Guaranteed distribution through the AP and top U.S. newspapers, addition of embedded video, $360.
  4. PRLeap. This newest and least expensive outlet also has the fewest press releases being submitted on a daily basis, and is great for smaller businesses. My company has successfully distributed press releases through this channel into Google's universal results.
    • Basic: Google and Ask News inclusion, text links, inclusion in PRLeap RSS feed (600 word limit), $49.
    • Plus: Basic plus AP and UPI distribution, social media tagging/bookmarking, allows for one media attachment, and next day service (1,000 word limit), $99.
    • Premium: Plus benefits and allows for five media attachments (2,000 word limit), $149.

Step 3: Publish Press Releases on Your own Web Site

While you're going through the trouble of creating and submitting all of these press releases for distribution, don't forget to publish all of your press releases on your own Web site to aid your SEO efforts. The search engines love sites that add keyword-rich pages on a regular basis. The more pages, the better. And, if you can organize your press releases by category (similar to how you might organize blog posts), all the better.

One other note: if your press releases are posted correctly (i.e., a unique title tag, header, and other content), this will avoid duplicate content issues with the release that exists on the distribution partner's Web site. There can be issues with other syndicators of this content (they may not go through the trouble of creating unique title tags, headers, etc.), but the good ones will rank.

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About the author

Mark Jackson, President and CEO of Vizion Interactive, a search engine optimization company. Mark joined the interactive marketing fray in early 2000. His journey began with Lycos/Wired Digital and then AOL/Time Warner. After having witnessed the bubble burst and its lingering effects on stability on the job front (learning that working for a "large company" does not guarantee you a position, no matter your job performance), Mark established an interactive marketing agency and has cultivated it into one of the most respected search engine optimization firms in the United States.

Vizion Interactive was founded on the premise that honesty, integrity, and transparency forge the pillars that strong partnerships should be based upon. Vizion Interactive is a full service interactive marketing agency, specializing in search engine optimization, search engine marketing/PPC management, SEO friendly Web design/development, social media marketing, and other leading edge interactive marketing services, including being one of the first 50 beta testers of Google TV.

Mark is a board member of the Dallas/Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association (DFWSEM) and a member of the Dallas/Fort Worth Interactive Marketing Association (DFWIMA) and is a regular speaker at the SES and Pubcon conferences.

Mark received a BA in Journalism/Advertising from The University of Texas at Arlington in 1993 and spent several years in traditional marketing (radio, television, and print) prior to venturing into all things "Web."

Read more of Mark Jackson's columns at ClickZ.