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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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.