Every PR professional knows the power of the press release.
Whether you’re launching a new product, announcing a merger, or have any other notable information you want to share, the press release is a great way to distribute that information.
But does it have any impact on your SEO efforts?
If you’ve been around long enough, you may remember when search engine optimizers used them as a way to pack keywords into their sites. Does that still work?
And what’s more – if there is a link between search rankings and quality press releases, how do you walk that line between optimizing them for search engines while still adhering to journalistic guidelines?
Obviously, these are not simple questions to answer, but have no fear; we’re here to guide you.
Read on for more information about press releases and how to employ them as part of your online strategy.
What Is A Press Release?
You probably already know that a press release is an official statement giving information to journalists about a noteworthy event.
It allows you to quickly distribute news (and help shape the narrative around it) to a network of journalists, with the ultimate goal of having it featured on a reputable news platform.
Here’s an example of a press release from Google Cloud:
As you can see, this press release gives readers a quick overview of the news in a headline, fleshes out that information in the subhead, and then dives deeper into the details as the piece continues.
Students and fledgling journalists are often instructed to write these in what is known as an “inverted pyramid,” where the most important information is given upfront.
In case you hadn’t figured it out by now (and we’re sure you did), organizations send press releases for several reasons, including:
- To build a reputation.
- To gain media coverage.
- To control a crisis – publishing your side of the story first is beneficial when things go wrong.
As media technology improved and we moved to a shorter news cycle, companies gained a new reason to send press releases: to gain links from reputable news sites.
And, therefore, boost SEO.
A (Brief) History Of Press Releases For SEO
While press releases have been around since 1906, when Ivy Lee released the first one to cover a railroad accident, they took on new importance in the digital age.
And like everything that boosted SEO success, press release links started out well.
And then came the abuse. (Shocking, right?)
Once people figured out links from top-notch new sites could help with rankings, they began writing all kinds of press releases for all sorts of things – even on non-relevant events like hiring new employees (unfortunately, still common) or changing the color of their carpet. (True story. I seriously saw this one!)
All the spam led Google to notice and penalize sites that carried these links.
“Newswire” sites have added the nofollow attribute to links.
So yes, you can still get links from press releases.
But since they’ll be nofollow links, they may not help your SEO.
Here’s what Google’s John Mueller said about it in 2018:
“(W)e try to ignore links from things like press releases because we know, in general, companies put the press releases out themselves. So any links in there are essentially placed by themselves.
But if these links happen and they’re out there, it’s not something you need to worry about, because you can’t really take them all back.
I just wouldn’t rely on kind of press releases as a strategy for building up links for a website, because, like I said, we do ignore most of those.”
Are Press Releases Still Relevant Today?
So, if you’re not getting the SEO credit for links from news sites, is it still worth including press releases in your digital strategy?
Short answer: Yes.
However, there’s one important thing you absolutely have to keep in mind. That is why you’re sending a press release.
Is it to:
- Inform people of a big event your company is hosting?
- Announce the release of a new product or service?
- Gain attention for your brand?
- Prevent a crisis from exploding?
If you can answer “yes” to any of these, then go ahead and write that press release.
But if you’re doing it to gain links for your new site, stop immediately.
Even if the “newswire” does link to you, the link may not do anything to help you on Google’s SERPs.
But here’s the thing: That last sentence isn’t strictly true. There is a way press releases can be used to boost SEO; it’s just not in the way you think.
How To Optimize A Press Release To Benefit SEO
While press releases don’t directly impact search rankings, they can boost them indirectly.
For example, you could get featured on a news site and attract people’s interest.
Intrigued by your release, they flock to your site, thus boosting your traffic.
If they love your site, they’ll stay and click through to different pages.
And if your content is amazing, they’ll share it on social media or link to it on their own sites, gaining you (you guessed it!) quality links.
And these will boost your SEO.
So, spammy backlinks gained through low-quality news?
A ton of traffic and backlinks from new fans?
That’s how you “optimize” a press release for SEO.
How To Create & Share A Press Release
Now that you’ve been sold on the importance of using press releases in your digital marketing efforts, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of creating and sharing them.
Writing them is a lot easier than you may think. To create your first one, follow these three easy steps:
1. Do Something Newsworthy
No, changing the color of your carpet doesn’t count. Unless you work in the Oval Office – then it might be of some minor interest.
But “newsworthy” doesn’t necessarily have to mean “huge.”
You can simply host an event.
Or you can do a study on something your audience cares about.
You can also tweak a product or service to make it better.
Once you’ve decided on your newsworthy event, make sure to over-deliver.
Give it your all.
2. Write A Catchy Press Release
Start off with an attention-grabbing title your audience will care about.
Like this one from Starbucks.
Make sure your press release is short and reads like a newspaper article.
Journalists love when they can copy and paste directly from it when writing their story.
Important tips to keep in mind when writing your press release:
- Write in the third person.
- Keep it brief (400-500 words is a great rule of thumb).
- Add screenshots and other interesting media.
- Get straight to the point (kill the fluff).
- Speak straight to readers (cut the jargon).
3. Share Your Press Release With The Right Journalists
Whatever you do, don’t spam a hundred journalists, hoping that one of them will write about you.
Do your research first.
For instance, you just did a study that revealed that 56% of mothers are unhappy with their school’s lunch program.
Instead of distributing your press release to anyone whose email address you can dig up, find someone who writes in a related field.
Using a tool like BuzzSumo is a great way to get this information.
3 Successful Press Release Examples To Emulate
Ready to write your own press releases?
Check out these three examples for inspiration.
Mars’ Pledge Press Release
This press release was so successful that several sites picked it up and wrote stories on it.
Boston Beer Company’s New Product Announcement
This press release from the Sam Adams brewer was so successful that several large sites, including CNBC, picked it up.
Vans’ “Stranger Things” Line
Capitalizing on the Netflix hit show, Vans’ “Stranger Things” collection received a lot of coverage in sneaker trade publications, including Sneaker News.
How To Use A Press Release For SEO
Hopefully, by this point, it’s been made clear: Press releases can be a useful tool for SEO, but only if they’re used correctly.
Spamming media sites, journalists, and bloggers with releases for everything in the hope that you’ll receive some publicity aren’t going to help.
On the other hand, if you’re contacting relevant (often niche) publications or other people who are likely to be interested in your newsworthy (never forget this point) event to attract traffic, fans, and following links, then they’re very useful.
Just remember what you’ve learned in this piece: Keep your releases relevant (again, no carpet color changes) and distribute them to the right people; they can play an important factor in driving your site higher up the rankings.
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Featured Image: Pressmaster/Shutterstock