Building search engine optimization into your organization’s public relations workflow can significantly boost the results your online press release generate. And anymore, SEO also means tailoring press releases for sharing in social networks. The connection between social media, search engine optimization and public relations continues to grow in significance, and provides real opportunity to reach and engage wider online audiences for communicators willing to pay attention to a few important details, including:
- Disciplined selection of keywords
- Structuring press releases with search engines and social networks in mind
- Specific use of anchor text links
- Integration of SEO practices into the PR workflow – including offline pursuits.
Much ado has been made about the importance of keywords in SEO circles, and rightfully so. Keywords are not the term you think best describes what you’re promoting. Keywords are the terms real people use when searching for information online. In the following example, it’s easy to see that US-based internet users are much more likely to use the term “RV” over “recreational vehicle” when seeking information about those types of vehicles.
The implication for communicators? One must find a way to work popular terms – even when they’re informal, abbreviated or slang-y – into the organization’s lexicon.
Here’s why doing so is important. Online users now form an important public. People self-select to be members of online groups, social networks and communities, where they talk about specific topics. At the center of much online behavior is the search. People search Twitter, groups, forums, Facebook and, of course, they use search engines – in order to find what they’re interested in at that moment. That fleeting instant is the ripe opportunity that is there for the taking – and success will be based upon keywords.
Building discipline around keyword use is something more PR departments need to do. In addition to identifying the keywords used by key constituent groups, public relations pros need to use those keywords consistently in order to realize benefits. The good news – there’s plenty of opportunity to use keywords, including:
- In press releases. The primary keyword should be in the headline and lead. And that word should be hyperlinked from it’s occurrence in the lead to a relevant page on the organizations’ web site.
- In social networks. Get in the habit of using the keyword in social conversations – on Twitter, on the organization’s Facebook page.
- In your media training. Incorporating keywords into media training will help ensure that articles published online include that same language.
- By your experts. Your organization’s experts can build visibility as thought leaders and speakers by incorporating important keywords into presentations, white papers, and pitches.
Let’s face it – we live in a world that is increasingly speedy. Soundbytes and snippets inform consumer decisions to buy, act and learn more. At the intersection of searches and transactions resides the keyword, pointing to your messages.
Structuring the press release (or other document) for search engines & social media
I wrote a fairly extensive article on best practices for on SEO for press releases, but will paraphrase some key tips here.
Your most important keyword must appear within the first 65 characters of your headline – and the closer to the beginning of the headline, the better. Search engines place weight on the prominence of keywords on a page – those that appear higher on the page are assumed to be what that press release is really ‘about.’ Don’t save your keywords for the boilerplate.
Repeat your important keyword in the lead, and link it using anchor text to a relevant page on your web site (preferably a specific page related to that word, not the homepage.)
Write naturally, and use synonyms (e.g. “SEO” and “search engine optimization” and “optimizing for search engines”) to improve the readability of your document. Search engines understand synonyms, and readers appreciate them.
Don’t overdo keyword use. Focus the press release on just one or two, and use just one or two hyperlinks. Trying to cram too many keywords and links into one page is exhausting for y our reader, and dilutes the message in terms of search engines. Less truly is more in this case.
Anchor text is under-utilized in press releases – relatively few of the releases I see (and believe me, I see a lot of press releases) use it, and even fewer use it correctly. Inserting links into documents is easy, and thousands of the web sites PR Newswire sends your news to will render those links, creating a channel straight back to your web site for online readers.
Another key best practice is to make your press release easy to share on social networks like Twitter and Facebook. The earlier blog post titled Twitter PR Tactics provides guidance that is useful on other social networks, but key tips are:
- Keep the main headline to 100 characters (including spaces) to make it easy for people to share on Twitter
- Use bullet points to highlight key points – these can also be quoted on Twitter and other networks.
- Focus on emphasizing the information that is most useful to your audience.
This may seem to be a lot to think about when authoring a press release – but consider this – when you send out press releases over the wire, or when you post information online – it’s instantly visible, but competition for audience attention is fierce. Tweaking your content to help it appear more prominently in search engines and making it easy to share in social networks are practices that can elevate the success of your entire campaign.
Authored by Sarah Skerik, VP-Social Media, PR Newswire