Back in the day just about everyone had a press release. In fact, a lot of companies abused the value of press releases by “releasing” anything and everything — whether it was truly newsworthy or not. But, when Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s webspam team, announced that PRs won’t help SEO ranks, website owners went into a panic. Now business owners and other professionals are worried the time and resources they put into press releases won’t do them much good anymore. Or will it?
Press Release, SEO, We Think So.
PRs Back Then
Back in the day, before Panda, PRs were miracle workers. Search engines indexed press release distribution sites higher and links from those sites helped boost SEO ranks, according to AuthorityLab.com. As more SEO experts caught onto this nifty trick, press releases were exploited. The number of useless, copied and poorly written news releases on the web grew exponentially.
Think of the last time you searched through a PR site. How many newsworthy pieces were there versus useless junk? You can thank that exploitation for all of the useless posts. So, is this why Google is telling you press releases are worthless today?
Not necessarily. While there is some truth to what Google has to say about press releases, there are a few details they’ve left out.
Don’t Use Press Releases as a Sole SEO Tool — It Won’t Work
PRs today are about the news — not quick distribution of keywords and links. When you publish a release for your company and/or website, it should talk about newsworthy content — such as a company promotion, new product release, sale coming up, etc. Press releases are, however, searchable by Internet users looking for a particular topic, industry, company or product. So, they can still boost your SEO, but if you send out hundreds of useless press releases you’ll get back little to no results for it.
Yes, You Can Still Link Up
Press releases can still have links, but the number of links and what’s considered safe is still up for debate. You should, however, include one to two links back to your website, blog or product, according to Cheryl Conner in her article on Forbes.com. If you’re going to put links in your news release you need to do so strategically and when it’s contextually necessary. Don’t just add your link randomly; instead, add it where it makes sense to add it, and where the reader can benefit from the link being there.
How Press Releases Have Been Effected
The Panda and Penguin releases have taken their toll on traditional press release SEO, but SEO specialists still report higher rankings with the use of effective newsworthy releases. PRs, however, don’t have the same short term effects they used to have; instead, are used for long-term benefits.
Go Big or Don’t Go At All
If you’re going to write a press release, write a high-quality, relevant one. Most companies ignore how critical the PR process is and they waste money on low-quality, useless writing attempts. Press releases are still successful, if you’re willing to invest in them.
Press releases, according to SearchEngineWatch.com, fuel the fire for social media. They encourage engagement and social interaction and can be used as a launching pad for company information. Press releases are all about getting the message delivered to the audience, encouraging clicks to outside sites and increasing social sharing.
So, if you’re going to spend the money and take the time to make a press release, it needs to be something people:
- Want to read
- Want to share on social media
- Want to click and learn more about
Before you release your press release, make sure it’s well-researched and creatively written. A quality press release is something that:
- Is newsworthy and something that must be announced
- Isn’t selling someone something, but still has a purpose or call-to-action (i.e. follow on social media, visit the website, contact the company, etc.)
- Doesn’t focus solely on keywords
- Is authoritative and pleasant
- Is written in a professional, journalist style
Press Release Reality Check
Now that you know the PR is still valuable, it’s time for a reality check. While press releases encourage visitors to click through and can increase traffic, that’s not their sole purpose. They help increase your company or brand’s social exposure and they increase user experience. Press releases build your company or brand’s authority and reputation and they inform your audience on what’s new.
Press releases, however, cannot do everything. They’re not meant to make inbound links nor should they be your only SEO marketing tool. If PRs are part of your link building strategy, you’ll be disappointed in their limited (or nominal) results. And, lastly, press releases are not meant to target or increase SEO based on keywords.
Google might have limited what press releases can do, but one thing that is for sure is Google didn’t limit the impact a quality press release can have on your company or brand.
Reasons Why Your Press Release Isn’t Working
These days’ news releases are just a way of life for companies and brands. Hired someone new? Distribute a press release. Have a new product? Get a press release. Planning a sale? Well, everyone wants to know about that.
You might be thrilled about your newsworthy content, but if you don’t write a quality newsworthy release, your news isn’t going to attract anyone — including those who might actually be interested in what is going on with your company. The reason most press releases flop is because the person writing a press release doesn’t understand the difference between a press release and a general blog post, article, or social media announcement.
Press releases are:
- Created to inform the public about an event, product or something that has occurred in your company.
- Written in a concise manner that gets to the point and doesn’t drag on with useless sales content.
- Written short — about 300 words will do just fine.
- Have a sense of urgency — there’s a reason you’re releasing the press release today versus six months from now.
So why do you need a press release? The reasons for a PR vary depending on the company or brand, but some common reasons press releases are out there are because:
- You need to announce something
- You need to tell people about developments
- You need to highlight or summarize something
- You need to remind the public of what you do
You might have newsworthy content every minute of the day, but there is a line that you have to draw on what is urgent and reader-worthy and what can stay internal. If you start releasing press releases over every tiny bit of news, you’ll flood the system and readers will quickly lose interest. After all, why would they jump all over news that isn’t critical news, right?
I Wrote a Newsworthy Press Release, So Why Isn’t It Working?
Most companies make the mistake of writing their own rather than hiring a professional to do the writing for them. Or companies put too much emphasis on SEO and links in their press releases, which doesn’t benefit them long-term, according to SearchEngineWatch.com.
The common reasons press releases don’t work:
You Wrote It Yourself
Even though you’re saving money by writing your PR in-house, you’re actually costing your company more because your press release isn’t going to pack that media-worthy punch a professional press release service can provide. Professional writers don’t just write something newsworthy, they make it seem urgent and interesting. Skilled PR writers can even slide in a few sales pitches that no one will notice, but everyone will remember.
Your PR Doesn’t Have News Content
Just because you received a reward or you gave your assistant a raise doesn’t mean you need a press release — unless the reward was for something nationally recognized or revolutionary. Press releases should answer the who, what, when, where, how and why. Why are you releasing this news? Does it answer a question? Solve a problem? It should, otherwise it’s not news.
It’s Just a Sales Advertisement
There’s nothing worse than opening a press release and feeling like you stepped into a car dealership. Press releases aren’t supposed to sell — they’re meant to inform. Sales copy should never be in a press release, which means words like “you”, “our”, “we”, and “us” need to be erased.
If you’ve over linked your press release, remove those too. According to an article by Forbes, you should only have one to two links back to your blog, product or website. More than that is pushing it with the readers and search engines.
Your Headline is Long and Boring
Headlines capture attention, so they need to compel readers to keep going, but they don’t have to tell them everything. When you’re crafting a headline, remember that:
- Search engines only show the first 65 characters — anything after that isn’t going to be seen.
- According to PR Newswire, headlines are best at 120 characters for readers and social media.
Your Press Release Drags On and On
News releases are concise and to the point. If your press release goes on for 500 words, you’re going to lose your readers. Stick to just one page — 400 words max. It should also be meant to encourage the readers to get more information elsewhere; not receive it all in the PR. Yes, your press release should cover the news that you need to share, but any fluff details should be left on your blog or website for the reader to follow up with later.
You Skipped the Quotes
Press releases need to quote someone. Whether you’re quoting yourself or someone else, quotes add insight and opinion to your newsworthy piece. Also, quotes add emotion and give a touch of storytelling. Don’t use quotes to announce facts and figures either.
A quality press release will get you noticed, bottom line. Learn more about what makes a PR pop in Entrepreneur’s article. If you don’t have the time to invest into your press release, hire a press release company instead. They’re skilled copywriters can generate a newsworthy press release that embeds keywords, links and sells while still getting your message across.