How to Optimize Your Press Release for Social Sharing and SEO

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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 just a few 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 “Exact-match links” – anchor text links that use precise keyword phrases – are an outdated practice that search engine experts advise against. 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.
As best practices are constantly changing in an ever-evolving public relations world, one principle remains constant: high quality content written with a specific audience in mind is good for SEO and will increase your audience engagement. Use these seven easy-to-follow steps to improve your press release optimization and increase your message visibility.
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 and over.  Search engines understand synonyms – go ahead and employ them with confidence. Use a variety of words to give your content a more natural feel, and make it more relatable to your readers.
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 those 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.  Incorporate multimedia. Images make your content more compelling and increase reader engagement. There is research proving that the use of images can boost visibility for your message. Text releases that include multiple media assets – including logos, photos, infographics and video - increased visibility by 552%
5.  Share the content socially. Search engines pay attention to social interaction on content. They assume that content that has generated a lot of interaction on social networks is valuable and timely, and will give that content a boost on the search engine results page. In reverse, content that the social network audiences pass over is likely to also get the same treatment from search engines. Building a strong presence for your brand on Twitter, Facebook and other social sites will ultimately contribute powerfully to the visibility of your organization’s messages.
6. Be interesting and 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 – answer their questions, use the language they use and provide 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.
7. Write naturally. 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 email your press release to a media list, post it to your Web site or plan to distribute it broadly on PR Newswire, keep these tips in mind to help garner better visibility for your message – and results for your efforts.