Ideas, musings and inspirations.

Press releases have traditionally been relied upon for distributing current news stories and promoting announcements to targeted media contacts within a given industry and, often, a given locality.  They’re great for raising a company’s profile and brand awareness in the marketplace.

But, if you’re not optimizing these releases in support of your search marketing campaign, you’re missing out on some big opportunities.

Effectively optimized press releases, crafted strategically with your most important key terms in mind, can often appear at the top of Google, Yahoo!, and Bing news results.  With just under 9 million unique visitors (according to Compete’s February 2012 numbers) arriving at Google News each month from the U.S. alone, there’s probably a healthy slice of traffic available there for your top-priority search terms.

In addition to the visibility that’s available on Google, Yahoo!, and Bing News, as the engines continue to feature timely news stories more prominently within regular search results pages, the odds of well-crafted releases showing up on the first page increases.  Expect that trend to continue.  In Google’s latest search quality highlights post on the “Inside Search” blog, of the 40 algorithm changes that were rolled out last month, one focuses specifically on featuring more news stories within regular search results:

“Improvements to coverage of News Universal: We’ve fixed a bug that caused News Universal results not to appear in cases when our testing indicates they’d be very useful.”

To take all of this ranking excitement one step further, effectively optimized press releases even boost search rankings for the key terms you’ve decided to highlight.  We’re not just talking News rankings.  Search rankings are also affected by press releases.  And, the more releases you do, the better off your rankings will be.  Sometimes the ranking boost is small and fleeting; sometimes it’s significant and permanent.  Either way, when you factor in the authoritative links, brand awareness, and search engine visibility you’re receiving, it’s definitely worth the cost of distribution.

Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of your company’s press releases:

1. Craft your stories with key phrases in mind.

For every current event / announcement you’re trying to promote, there’s probably a corresponding key phrase in your search campaign to which you can tie it.  Think ahead.  Choose the phrase before you write the release.  It’s much easier to fit your phrase into the copy while you’re writing than to go back and try to retrofit it for a phrase later on.

2. Carve out a press section on your website.

Post and optimize all your press releases on your website.  These provide you with additional, valuable site content while simultaneously providing internal linking opportunities to other high priority pages within your site.  And, the longevity of ranking benefits, especially for less competitive key phrases, can be impressive.  At times, we’ve seen some releases rank for 5 years or more.  Take advantage.

3. Choose your distribution outlets wisely.

Choose a distribution service that makes sense for both your PR goals and your search goals.  Ensure industry targeting and search engine news visibility are both included in the cost.

4. Monitor results.

Be smart about repeating what works.  Which topics resonate most with your audience?  Which stories generate the most impressions and which are picked up by other news sources?  Do certain elements stimulate higher email shares?  Are certain key phrases ranking higher on news portals?  Over time, find the patterns and react accordingly to get the best results for your campaign.

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