Press Release Optimization Checklist and Tips

Press release optimization doesn’t get the attention it once did, at least within the SEO community. But a considerable number of releases are distributed over the wires and added to online pressrooms every day, so it is still an important tactic for PR professionals. Why wouldn’t you try to increase the search engine visibility of your press materials?

Last week I needed to dust off a press release optimization checklist that I’d written several years ago, so I thought I’d share it here.

I hadn’t published this previously because there are already a number of other good resources out there. Todd Defren published a useful checklist back in 2008 and Lee Odden, probably the strongest advocate, has written multiple posts such as Essential Press Release Optimization Tips.

But since SEO and PR are my main areas of focus I thought I’d share my version as well.

I’d originally put this together in 2006; I found it interesting that there wasn’t too much I needed to update. Some of the research tools have changed but the fundamentals for optimizing the headline, body text and links are largely the same.

One thing I want to emphasize is not to put too much focus on keyword frequency or density in the release. You certainly want your target keyword phrase in the title and it should appear within the body too (ideally in the opening paragraph). But there’s no need to get caught up in making sure it appears X times or represents X% of all words.

Press Release Optimization Checklist

Keyword Planning

1. Select the target keyword phrase for the press release

  • Brand and product/service names will be naturally supported so choose a literal, descriptive phrase that matches how people search for the topic
  • Use keyword research tools such as Google AdWords Keyword Tool to evaluate and refine candidates and discover popular variations. Look for keyword phrases with reasonable search volume that accurately convey the key concept
  • Check what news stories and press releases currently come up for your top candidates in Google News and Yahoo News. How much competition is there?
  • Use Google Trends to compare keyword candidates, seeing how often they have been searched for in Google over time and how frequently they have appeared in Google News stories

Content Optimization

1. Title/headline

  • Include the target keyword phrase in the press release title

2. Subheading/summary (when present)

  • Include the target phrase or a common variation as appropriate

3. Body

  • Include the main keyword phrase in the first paragraph, ideally in the first sentence
  • A limited number of additional mentions, as appropriate, are helpful. The key is to blend in keyword support without harming readability. This should not be a major focus
  • Total length: 250-500 words total is optimal, however longer releases are often necessary and not a problem
  • Avoid over-use of “marketing speak.” Use direct, straightforward language
  • Use the full form of terms throughout the release, unless the shortened forms or abbreviations also have search demand
  • As possible, include the keyword phrase in executive quotes as that content may be highlighted by some services or used in resulting media coverage
  • Optimize images and multimedia content with target keywords

4. Links

  • Link directly to specific pages (not just the home page)
  • Use keywords in the anchor text of links (3-4 links per release maximum)

5. For press releases on your own site

  • Optimize the page’s title tag, URL slug and META description tag based on SEO best practices

So that’s my checklist. Have any additional suggestions or a different approach? I’d be interested to hear from you.

Comments

  1. Thanks for the clean and concise recap on these essential practices.

  2. This is one area that it comes in handy to have keywords in the company title, since a press release title often begins with the company name. While keywords are important, you never want to force it. Readability should always be the priority. You don’t want to submit something that looks spammy.

  3. Thanks for the additional thoughts Nick.

    And glad you liked it Rich.

  4. Great suggestions about how to do your keyword research for your press release! Though one has to agree with Nick, the keywords are of course important but readability has to come first. If you stuff the press release with too many keywords and phrases you could make your release a mumbled mess too hard to read or understand.

  5. The keyword selection is very important point……followed by readability is very hot too.. ( i agree with Jennifer) .Very informative post.thanks for sharing

    Also i would like to add that you need to include max 1-2 links on the press release…am i right?

  6. Jennifer – I agree with you and Nick. You’re still writing for humans, and to convey a (hopefully) newsworthy announcement. Optimization should be an enhancement, not the main thrust.

    Dimitris – I say 3-4 links max as a rough guideline, but 1-2 is ok too. The main thing is not to over-do it.

  7. Awesome post, Adam! A few additional suggestions from the SEO field (hope you don’t mind):

    1. Most importantly, don’t write for search engines, write for humans. Search engines are almost human-like today.
    2. Pick one main keyword phrase per page, and 3 supporting words (e.g. main: Kobe Bryant, and supporting: Lakers, Staples Center, and Mike Brown).
    3. Watch for the “volcanic” trending keywords in Google Trends (also, add GTrends and GInsights widgets to your iGoogle page so that you’re informed daily).
    4. Try to avoid bolded keywords, it doesn’t add to the readability of an article.
    5. Make certain keywords anchored text (linking to another page) but ONLY if it adds value to the article. For example,
    6. If you’re going to talk about it, SHOW IT. For example, Randall was accused for his “infamous tweet,” or “…wearing a very unflattering dress!”
    7. Google the phrase: “on page report card” and use the first tool you see from SEOmoz, to see how “optimized” your page is for your main keyword.
    8. Create Google alert for news events before they happen and you’ll likely break the news before others (“kardashian court settlement”, “kate middleton baby girl”, etc…)

    Lastly, make it sharable! If it’s a great page (which I’m sure it is) it should have the capacity to be shared with others on social networks. Thanks- @RoDr1g0

  8. Great suggestions Rodrigo, thanks for sharing!

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