Tag Archives: SEO

New School Press Release Tactics [Webinar Recap]

Last week’s webinar on New School Press Release Tactics was packed with great tactics and insights for innovative ways and new approaches for driving media coverage and generating business outcomes using press releases.

We’ve captured some highlights in this post, and if you missed the session, you’ll find a link to the full replay of the webinar at the bottom of this page.  Joining us on the call were:

Our own Sarah Skerik (@sarahskerik) vice president of content marketing, was the moderator.

New-School Media Coverage

Monaghan began the discussion by presenting the first case study, which was a press release they did for their client Vibes. Their goal with the press release was to position Vibes’ executives as thought leaders for retail marketers. InkHouse wanted to use data to insert Vibes’ point of view into the discussion about showrooming, which at the time was a hot topic in the press and retail segment.

The results they saw after putting the release over the wire included having media placements in 50+ top-tier outlets including Time and the Wall St. Journal, and the WSJ piece drove the top traffic day of the year.  They had zero coverage before putting the release over the wire, and had a 373 percent bump in coverage over the previous quarter. In addition, the press release had long-term news value – Monaghan noted they are still seeing reporters covering this story today.

There are several reasons why this particular case worked successfully.

  • Timeliness: It was a timely topic and putting out the release before the hype of the holiday season helped immensely.
  • Research-driven content: Also, in the release they included research-driven content; a contrarian point of view; practical strategies for combating showrooming.
  • Using a narrative headline:  The narrative of the headline helped, because they chose to lead with the topic vs. company name. When reporters would search for “showrooming,” they would find the press release.
  • Clear, fact-based writing:  The press release featured easy-to-understand content (i.e., no jargon) and was fact-based.

Building thought leadership

Blog traffic increases generated by using press releases to promote posts.

Blog traffic increases KCSA generated by using press releases to promote posts.

Donohue provided the second case study, which is on KCSA’s approach building thought leadership for the agency.  They realized they had an opportunity, as the agency generated a great amount of content that they weren’t leveraging.   To get started, the KCSA created a new section on their blog called “Diary of an IPO,” which included the expertise of KCSA’s CEO Jeff Corbin about investor relations. He had just released a new edition of his book, Investor Relations: the Art of Communicating Value, adding a section about investor relations and social media.  To develop that conversation, the agency capitalized on the Facebook IPO, which was underway at the same time.

To promote the new blog section and develop search visibility for Corbin and the agency, KCSA selected  blog posts from “Diary of an IPO” and distributed short abstracts, with links to the full blog post, in the form of press releases, distributing them via PR Newswire’s online press release distribution network.   The message was less like a traditional press release, and was instead more conversational in tone.  KCSA used this tactic repeatedly, capitalizing when was breaking news, and they wanted to again include Corbin’s message into the larger conversation.

Using press releases to drive discovery of blog posts, KCSA has seen blog traffic grow significantly, including a 77% increase in visitors and a 93% increase in page views.

Press releases & the digital marketing funnel

The digital marketing funnel, as described by Fathom.

The digital marketing funnel, as described by Fathom.

Before diving into her case studies, Pflaum first provided a new perspective on how press releases fit into the digital marketing funnel. The teams at Fathom are always looking for ways to loop people through the funnel and convert them into customers.  In their experience, the Fathom team has found find that press releases can really fit into any aspect of the funnel — acquire, convert, and nurture.

At Fathom, the main objective of the press release is to gain online visibility, and they focus the messages on their target audiences.  However, as you’ll see from the three examples Pflaum provided, the applications of press releases – and the outcomes they help achieve – are very different.

Example 1: A Missouri Law Firm (marketing funnel phase: acquire)

The legal search space is difficult to break into and expensive to show up in paid results. The goal of the press releases Fathom issued for this particular client was to help gain online visibility for and drive more traffic to their website.  Using press releases, the team promoted content that was emotional and engaging.  Over the course of this year, the press releases have driven about 500 visitors to the client web site this year, accounting for 1% of their total visitors.  More importantly, the visitors who arrive via press releases are engaged:  the visitors stay on the web site more than a full minute longer (on average) than the site’s usual visitors.

Example 2: ConsumerCrafts (marketing funnel phase: convert)

ConsumerCrafts, an online craft store, needed to increase sales. Fathom used press releases as part of a campaign that promoted Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, as well as other promotions.  In addition to increasing web site traffic, the client also benefitted from a corresponding increase in social interactions.  They’ve even been able to directly attribute revenue to specific press releases.

Example 3: A health care screening company  (marketing funnel phase: nurture)

This Fathom client needed convince customers who had shown interest and were conducting research prior to a purchase that health screenings are a good investment, and overcome negative information was at the top of the search engine results page. Using press releases to promote positive branded content, such as blog posts, earned media and new research, the Fathom team was able to build the visibility and authority of positive websites, profiles and articles to outrank negative articles in the SERPs.

How SEO tactics make press releases convert

The final example was presented by Jive Software’s Jason Khoury.   Jive needed to increase traffic to web sites and app downloads, and they were looking at their press releases as potential sources of visibility for these efforts.   Khoury first explained that the primary goal of press releases should be to drive awareness and education.  However, once someone is reading the message, there is real opportunity to inspire them to take another step, or in marketing lingo, to “convert.”

According to Khoury, the first job was shifting SEO from afterthought to forefront when creating headlines and subheads on their press releases.   Additionally, the Jive team realized it needed to abandon the old-school approach of simply putting a link to the company web site at the bottom of the press release.   New-school tactics Khoury advocates include:

Put a variety of links that serve as calls to action at various points in the release.

SEO terms need to be a key part of the initial story, which means you need to think about where you are putting the keywords while developing the content, namely the headline, subhead and lead paragraph.

Add tracking codes the links you embed in press releases, to connect the content to your company’s to marketing automation systems (meaning the embedded links will have backend code within them.)

Khoury also strongly recommended working closely with your demand generation/SEO marketing counterparts to review the keywords, but he also cautioned against going overboard, warning the audience to not overload the press release with keywords.

Using these tactics, the Jive team has seen a 200% increase in traffic to the web sites they highlight in press releases.

In addition to the slide deck at the top of this post, we also archived the webinar, in which you can hear the presenters discuss their tactical approaches and the results generated in more detail.  We invite you to view the webinar here:New School Press Release Tactics 

Written by Polina Opelbaum, editor of ProfNet, a service that helps journalists connect with expert sources, and Sarah Skerik, our VP of content marketing.  To read more from Polina, check out her blog on ProfNet Connect.  

How Content Curation Attracts Audience & Powers SEO

If you want to position your organization as a thought leader or enhance your brand’s reputation on line (or, for that matter, do the same for yourself), honing your ability to curate relevant content is crucial.

You may already know some great curators – they are those people on Twitter who share links that you consistently click on, or that friend on Facebook who always finds the most interesting stuff.  They are those people whose boards on Pinterest seem to be full of the most compelling ideas.

In short, they are the people who have earned (and kept) your attention.

Curation is a lot like editing.  In addition to having their fingers on the pulse of a particular topic, good curators winnow out the valuable nuggets from amidst a veritable mountain of chaff: and this ability is what makes them so valuable to their followers.

Developing a stream of relevant and interesting content is a worthwhile endeavor.  In addition to attracting and keeping interested followers, doing so effectively creates an audience for the communications you develop (again, for either your brand or yourself) and deploy into the stream.

A free webinar later today featuring Cameron Uganec (@CameronU)  of Hootsuite will be exploring these benefits, and also discussing how curation can improve SEO and web site traffic.  Simply put, it’s difficult to understate the importance of developing a relevant audience for your brand, and the benefits that can accrue to organizations that make the investment in doing so.   Social buzz, thought leadership, SEO, lead generation — it’s all connected, and it all starts with sharing great content.

I’ll be tuning in, I hope you can, too.  Here’s the registration link:

A Guide to Content Curation: How Social Media Changed the Game — Wednesday July 10, 2013
2:00 pm-3:00 pm ET

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of the e-book “Unlocking Social Media for PR.”  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik

The 3 Cornerstones of Driving Message Discovery

DISCOVERY VENN

Over the last two days, we’ve talked about how PR Newswire optimizes press releases, and about press release tactics authors can employ to generate better search results.   There’s one more piece to the puzzle, and that is discovery.  Discovery is a vital component to generating visibility for your organization’s messages.  

The mechanics of discovery 

Before we dive in, let’s think about how people find information:

  • Through search engines
  • By querying peers
  • By word-of-mouth (often via social networks)

3 WAYS FINDING

Search engines rank the content that has proven most popular highest in their search results.  The “proof” of popularity the search engines look for includes things like the amount of traffic a web page receives, the amount of time visitors spend on that page and the subsequent actions the page visitors take, such as clicking on an embedded link or sharing the page with their social networks. And those actions visitors take are the backbone of peer-to-peer communications, which drive word-of-mouth discovery.  Point is,  they’re all connected.

Set your content up for success – distribute it to people who care

If a piece of content is going to have a shot at generating quality traffic and interactions, it needs to be seen by people who are likely to be interested in it.  This is where distribution comes in – in order for a message to be discovered, it needs to be distributed to the people who are most likely to care about it.

Distribution can be achieved a variety of ways.  Content can be published on a blog, and shared via social networks.  And, to give it an additional boost, it can be distributed via PR Newswire.

When a press release is distributed via PR Newswire, a number of things happen.  As previously discussed, the release is hosted on our search-optimized web site.    But that’s just the beginning.

PR Newswire syndicates content to thousands of web sites which republish it for their own readers.  In this way, we’re able to immediately drive the discovery of messages.   In many cases, these third party web sites maintain the links our clients embed in press releases, creating portals from the press release directly to the client web site.

Additionally, many web sites (including PR Newswire’s) embed social sharing tools within the press releases, enabling readers to immediately share the content with their friends and followers.    This distribution gives the message a boost, and creating an initial opportunity for the content to connect with the audience.  Ultimately, the audience will determine whether or not the content is useful or interesting – and if that’s the case, chances are good that the campaign will be a winner, and will start to gather steam as more people amplify the message by reading it and sharing it.  This is the sort of social media success that can translate into lasting search engine visibility, creating a continuous visibility loop for the brand.

         Related reading:  

The 3 Components of Message Discovery 

As you can see from this week’s series of posts on SEO and press release visibility, a number of factors work together to deliver visibility for the messages your organization issues:

  1. Hosting on an optimized web site, such as PRNewswire.com.   Check  and compare the page rank and traffic volumes of the vendors who will be hosting your brand’s content, and stay on top of search engine trends so you can recognize the best advice.
  2. Creating content your audience finds useful.   All the optimization in the world achieves nothing if the audience doesn’t readily consume and share the content.  Make readership and social sharing a goal for all the content your organization produces.
  3. Driving discovery by distributing the content.  Develop and utilize a variety of channels to distribute your content to relevant audiences, in order to drive the discovery of your message by the people who are most likely to care about, read and interact with the content you publish.

Stay up to date with what we’re thinking about the interplay of SEO, PR and content marketing: http://blog.prnewswire.com/tag/seo/

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of the e-book “Unlocking Social Media for PR.”  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik

The Author’s Role in Press Release Optimization

12 seo factors

Yesterday we discussed how PR Newswire optimizes press releases. Today, we’ll focus on the role the content’s author plays in the whole optimization equation.

The search engines’ focus on the actual on-page content puts a lot of responsibility on the author of the content.  In fact, the content itself plays the most significant role in ultimately generating results.

All content has the same shot at generating visibility.  The difference between the web’s winners and losers isn’t in the optimization characteristics of the content itself.  The most popular content — specifically, the content that is at the top of the search engine results page — has been proven to be more useful and more interesting than its less visible brethren.

Creating content that generates visibility 

In addition to using PR Newswire to distribute press releases and other content, there are other tactics you can employ to improve the visibility of your press releases in search engines.   It’s hard to overstate the importance of the quality of the message itself when it comes to press release visibility; because the structure of our web site will amplify your message, and so will your audience.

For these reasons, we have written extensively on content optimization and  have just issued a mid-year update on press release optimization best practices that you can use right now . 

Out with the old, in with the new

Just as we have to continually fine-tune our web site, it’s also important that press release writers update their tactics, too. Our advice necessarily involves as search engines update and change their algorithms. Some tactics we recommended a few years ago, including keyword density guidelines and emphasis on using anchor text,  have fallen out of favor following the significant changes Google deployed in the Panda and Penguin algorithm updates, which started last year and continue today.

13 google guidelines

Google’s webmaster guidelines emphasize content quality and utility, not SEO mechanics.

Today, SEO tactics focus less on technical aspects and instead are focused on user experience.   You’ll notice that a lot of the advice that we offer as well as the advice offered by SEO experts centers around creating content that  earns credibility when people actually read, use and share it in their social networks.    These interactions generate positive signals about the content that search engine recognize and reward, and are a crucial to creating lasting visibility for the message.

Arguably, it’s harder to “optimize” content now, because doing so requires the organization to ascertain what the marketplace is interested in and where the gaps in available information are.   It’s no longer as simple as weaving a few important keywords and links into the copy.  However, the results can be more profound and long-lasting, in terms of visibility and audience engagement,  and are well worth the investment in time and energy.

Stay up to date with what we’re thinking about the interplay of SEO, PR and content marketing: http://blog.prnewswire.com/tag/seo/

 

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of the e-book “Unlocking Social Media for PR.”  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik

How Does PR Newswire Optimize Press Releases?

We’re hearing this question a lot, so we thought we’d take time out from our regular programming to dig into how PR Newswire has created the best platform for hosting press releases in the business, and to discuss some of the elements that go into optimizing a big site like ours, as well as granular pieces of content like press releases.   This is the first of a three-part series we’ll be running this week.  Check back tomorrow and Thursday for discussions about what you can do to improve press release visibility, and how distribution of press releases factors into the visibility equation.

SEO vs press release SEO

When it comes to press releases and SEO, there are two sides of the coin to consider:  web site SEO, which is concerned with building visibility for a website for specific keywords used by Internet searchers, and press release visibility, which focuses on optimizing the visibility of the specific message.

That said, the two are not mutually exclusive. Good PR messaging can definitely be incorporated into the successful SEO strategy.  The credibility of earned media is beneficial to not just a brand’s reputation, but for the brand website as well.  And, as you’ll see below, the two work hand-in-glove to display online content to its best advantage.

Press release optimization on PR Newswire’s web site

 Search engine traffic is the primary driver of visibility to the press releases on PRNewswire.com. More than 60% of the traffic to the press release section on our website comes directly from search engine queries.  We know this traffic is vitally important for our customers who issued the press releases, and we want to do everything we can to ensure that press releases are seen in relevant search results.

The PR Newswire web team is continually updating and fine-tuning our website according to Google best practices and other guidelines from major search engines.  In recent months, we have implemented a host of updates, including:

  • Configuring metadata to meet search engine requirements, i.e. optimized title tag, meta tags, canonical tags & meta keywords
  • Maintaining fast page load speed
  • Adding microformat/structured metadata tagging for Google, Facebook and Twitter
  • Optimizing user experience through methodological testing

Our approach ensures that every press release hosted on our web site is effectively optimized for search in terms of how the content is hosted and presented to search engines, and content from the release (company, geography and descriptive elements from the headline and body) is embedded within the underlying page structure. 

13 pagerankWhile we never stop testing and updating our web site, we’re satisfied that we’re on the right track – PRNewswire.com has the highest page rank in the commercial newswire industry and we lead our peers in traffic, unique visitors and page views.

Keeping up to date with SEO practices

Given the speed at which search engines update their algorithms, maintaining good SEO practices requires the practitioner to abandon old, outdated tactics the search engines no longer value.  For this reason, PR Newswire does not invite customers to provide keywords for use in the meta-keywords field within the HTML code of the page hosting their press releases.  We get a lot of questions about this, because some of our competitors still encourage their clients to submit keywords for inclusion in this field.  While this tactic may have been useful 5 to 7 years ago, it’s actually something that can be damaging if done incorrectly these days.

Google is on record as noting that they no longer use this field when ranking web pages.  And some of the best minds in the SEO space stridently advise against over-utilizing this field.  So we don’t.  We do populate this field with data from the release itself, adding a layer of information but also insuring that there is no discrepancy between the on-page content and the data in the meta keywords tag.   

Related reading:

25 Ways to Get Penalized in 2012

Google Penguin Update Recovery: Getting Better At Keywords

What’s important? The content on the page. 

In fact, the search engines are now very good at evaluating on page content – meaning the content that humans see when they look at the page — and are no longer relying on the underlying HTML code of the page.  Instead, they are looking at content almost as humans do, ascertaining meaning and evaluating related content on the page.  That’s why, for example, you will see that we surround your press release with other information, including other announcements from your company, as well as industry news. This is best practice, from both the search engine and user standpoints, and it’s one reason why our website ranks higher than other news competitors who do not do this.

Coming tomorrow:  Your Role in Improving Search Engine Visibility of the Content You Publish 

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of the e-book “Unlocking Social Media for PR.”  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik

Updated: Optimizing Online Press Releases & Other Content

It’s impossible to write about search engines without referencing change, and this post is no exception.  We’ve updated the advice we’re offering for optimizing press releases and other content for maximum online visibility.

There are some important changes, including:

  • An increased focus on creating content that is useful.  Search engines are putting a lot of emphasis on whether or not people like a piece of content, as gauged by the amount of time they spend reading or watching it,  whether or not they share it socially and any other actions taken on the page, such as clicking on embedded links. If content doesn’t generate these kinds of activities, it doesn’t matter  what keywords were used in the headline.   
  • Abandoning our old “Headline, Lead & Link”  tactic, which advised using an important keyword in the headline and lead sentence, and then linking from that keyword in the lead to a related page.   In today’s world, that would be over-doing it.  Instead, write naturally, and use anchor text VERY sparingly, and link from a related phrase, not an exact-match keyword: e.g. use “car insurance for teenagers” instead of “car insurance” in copy about insuring younger drivers.
  • Emphasizing interaction, such as including a distinct call to action within the message, as well as employing tactics to encourage social sharing.  Getting your audience act, not just read, is crucial.

The nature of some of the advice may surprise some.  It’s not technical.   In fact, the emphasis the SEO crowd are placing on the value of authentic earned media plays right into the hands of the PR team.    Search engines are placing extremely high value on credible earned media – and that’s right in the public relations department’s wheelhouse, and happily, the updated tactics revolve around great writing, clear messaging and telling a fantastic story.  

Related reading from SEO authorities Wordtracker:  10 Shameful SEO Mistakes emphasizes the move toward useful and interesting content, and away from mechanical SEO tactics.

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of the e-book “Unlocking Social Media for PR.”  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik

PR: The Big SEO Trend for 2013?

A lot of search engine optimization professionals are incorporating PR tactics into their optimization strategies these days, and there’s a very good reason for this trend: the search engines are placing premiums on authentic earned media.

The very nature of earned media has evolved, however. In addition to pick up in the mainstream media, earned media credibility also occurs when content generates social shares and develops high-quality website traffic.

seland

So, as we are writing press releases and other content intended for online publication, it’s a good idea to be thinking about how to encourage social sharing and to keep readers on the website page posting your content.  And to achieve these objectives, first and foremost, it’s crucial to attract readers are truly interested in the message topic.

Thinking like a marketer when it comes to outcomes

This means we need to take a critical look at the press releases and other content we’re publishing, with an eye toward garnering reader attention, holding it on the page, and inspiring some sort of action such as social sharing or clicking through on links we serve. 

These types of outcomes aren’t traditionally found among the intended outcomes of a campaign, but these are the sort of things the digital marketing crowd pays close attention to, because of the importance of these factors to everything from search engine rank and social buzz to lead generation and conversion rate.

And let’s face it.  If we fail to grab reader attention, hold it and inspire the reader to take some sort of positive action, the press releases we send out and the blog posts we publish won’t be seen. Content that is overlooked by readers does not generate any of the positive signals that search engines are looking for that ultimately increase the visibility of a message,  and also improve the rank of the corresponding website.

Put the audience first. 

What is coming next may surprise you, however.  Instead of picking apart the the structural mechanics of the press release, I believe it’s important to spend a little time thinking about the overall message and the focus. We have to do a better job of presenting content in our readers’ context, not within the brands messaging framework.

How do you build that audience context into messaging? A good way to start is by answering the following questions pertaining to the announcement you’re drafting:

  • What are the problems are opportunities the readers want to solve or harness?
  • How does what you’re promoting improve their lives or make it easier for them to do their jobs better?

These are the sorts of questions we need to be asking ourselves as we start to build our message strategies.  If we fail to incorporate the audience’s point of view into our messaging, our brands are going to feel out-of-touch, inaccessible and uninteresting.

Forget SEO tactics.  Focusing the message is job one. 

Another problem I see often in press releases is jumbled messaging, with angles and themes piled haphazardly on top of one another. The release may start off talking about a partnership or a new product, for example, but then all of a sudden it veers off into a discussion of business strategy, a new hire or the upcoming product pipeline.  It starts to read like a late-night infomercial.  But wait! There’s more!

Content that has too many topics jammed into it presents a number of problems for both the readers and for search engine.

Readers lose interest when the content fears away from the topic in which they were pursuing more information.

And search engines have a hard time understanding what the content is about when it involves too many themes. That causes problems for them when it comes to indexing and categorizing the content and ultimately serving up to interested searchers.

Simply put, that once thousand word press release containing three months’ worth of announcements is probably doing the issuing brand more harm than good. Important resources were expended in the writing and distribution, but because it’s so long and so unfocused, readers are dropping off the pages, they’re not sharing the content and search engines frankly can’t make heads or tails of the meaning. The content doesn’t have a fighting chance. Before long, it will sink under its own weight, all the way down to the graveyard of boring stuff at the bottom of the interwebs.

The embedded slide deck offers some additional insight into developing content designed to attract engage and hold audiences and encourage interaction. Included in the deck are some tips for structuring the content and tactics you can employ that will make it easier for your readers to understand and scan your press releases, blog posts and other written content.  If you want to drill into this topic even more, scan the copy in the SEO section of our blog.  Here’s the link: http://blog.prnewswire.com/tag/seo/

Author Sarah Skerik is PR Newswire’s vice president of content marketing, and is the author of the e-book “Unlocking Social Media for PR.”  Follow her on Twitter at @sarahskerik .