SEOs have been debating the relevance of press releases for quite some time now.
There’s evidence that supports the idea that press releases don’t impact search engine optimization in any way.
This then begs the following questions:
- Are press releases even worth the time and effort anymore?
- If they are, how can press releases help your brand?
- How do you write an effective press release?
- Where do you distribute press releases?
In this post, we’ll go over each question and provide you all the answers you’re looking for.
So buckle up.
We’re about to take a deep dive into the world of press release SEO.
What Is a Press Release in SEO?
Press releases have taken a whole new meaning ever since SEOs learned how to leverage the platform.
In the beginning, press releases had a simpler role in marketing.
They were simply a means of sharing information with the press. If a company was announcing a new product or holding an event, press releases gave the media a heads-up.
SEOs saw an opportunity.
Online marketers know all too well the value news sites bring to link building.
Getting linked by them can take you to the top of the SERPs.
So press releases became an integral part of SEO campaigns. Brands started using press releases for building links.
When a story was picked up by media outlets, it would include some backlinks pointing to the brand’s domain.
And to be honest, that strategy worked… at least for a little while.
The problem was, Google saw press releases as advertisements. Therefore, links placed in press releases were not considered to be organic.
For a link to count, they must be editorially placed and vouched for by the owner of the site where the link appears.
This placed news sites in an awkward position.
All of a sudden, they were in violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines.
As part of the solution, site owners were encouraged to add a nofollow attribute on press release backlinks.
Most press releases are uncrawlable for a search engine thanks to backlinks being treated like paid links.
Do Press Releases Help SEO?
Given everything we’ve discussed so far, can we still say that press releases are good for SEO?
The short answer is Yes.
But not in the traditional sense.
On its own, a press release backlink won’t do you any favors.
But as part of an overarching digital marketing campaign, press releases still hold value.
Here’s the thing:
Press releases shouldn’t be the backbone of your strategy. Instead, they should complement your link building campaign.
One of the benefits to press releases is citations.
Simply put, citations are mentions of your most important details in other sites.
These are your business name, address, and phone number.
Collectively, these three key details are referred to as NAP.
Why Is NAP Important?
On its own, NAP introduces your business to the public. It allows them to get in touch with you.
But they’re also beneficial to SEO — local SEO to be more precise.
Google leverages NAP information to deliver relevant content to its users.
The tech giant knows that 9 out of 10 consumers who search for local businesses are highly interested. They end up calling or visiting the business within 24 hours.
So Google is invested in providing accurate listings to localized search queries.
The more your NAP is distributed online, the more Google will present your business to its users.
This gives you a nice edge over the competition.
A Press Release Case Study
Savannah Dental Solutions was trying to rank for the keyword “Savannah dentist” and hired an agency to make it happen.
The agency proceeded to tune up their client’s site and added the business to relevant directories. Despite their efforts, the dentist only ranked 20 for the target keyword.
So the agency sent four press releases over the course of four months.
The press releases had nofollow attributes so all the links did not affect SEO directly.
But because of the citations, the dental clinic appeared in Google’s local map results.
The NAP details in the press releases contributed to the campaign’s success.
The full details of the case study can be read here.
Press Releases Are Still Relevant. Here’s Why.
We still haven’t unpacked the other benefits of using press releases today.
Here are even more reasons why you should start using press releases.
Generate Actual Traffic to Your Site
Some SEOs get too caught up in their link building strategy that they often forget about a link’s actual purpose.
Links Drive Traffic to Your Site
Press releases are posted on high-traffic sites. That means your content is exposed to lots of users at any given time.
They can serve as a gateway for readers to find and access your content.
Not only that, getting featured on a recognized news site gives you an air of legitimacy.
So even though your links will be nofollowed, it only makes sense to add some in your press release. But we’d advise sticking to having only two.
One link could be to your homepage. The other can be added to a target keyword anchor text in your citation.
A third link is often added automatically, a URL pointing to your domain in the contact section.
SEOs can argue that these results put the strategy on par (if not better) with PPC campaigns.
Brand Mentions on Authoritative Publications and Websites
Nofollow? No worries.
Though syndication sites strip your press release links of any link building value, you’re still able to get your name out there.
Mentions from high-authority sites like those from news organizations still carry a lot of weight in Google’s eyes.
It’s a great way to build co-citation and co-occurrence for your brand.
The Role of Co-Citation and Co-Occurrence
Google is getting better at determining context.
So it’s no surprise that it can now determine the connection between two sites based on content.
It can do so without relying on links.
This is exactly what co-citation does. Co-citation lets Google know that two websites are related.
But for this to work, both sites should mention each other and both should talk about the same thing.
This is usually the case with press releases.
Co-occurrence is similar to co-citation although it differs slightly on implementation.
Rather than looking at exact match keywords, co-occurrence checks phrases that are topically relevant. It’s reminiscent of Google’s latent semantic indexing.
This means press releases can put less emphasis on anchor text keyword links and more on your actual content and branding.
In fact, SEO expert Rand Fishkin predicts that co-occurrence and co-citation will play a bigger role in the years to come.
So you simply need to trust Google to have your back.
The search marketing company Wordstream ended up with 10,000 media mentions thanks to their well-timed press release.
Their research on Google banner advertising versus Facebook banner advertising came out at a pivotal time. It was when GM pulled out its Facebook advertising.
Whether or not it was the right decision is up for debate.
What mattered for Wordstream was that their press release was now a source of information. And the media sites started citing the research in their posts.
Their press release was seen by an estimated 10 million readers. One can only imagine how much traffic they got from a single press release.
And there’s little doubt that co-occurrence and co-citation played a role in all this.
Build Brand to Influence Google My Business Ranking
Anyone who’s not leveraging Google My Business (GMB) is seriously missing out on all its perks.
Not only does this free tool help business owners with their online presence, it enables them to rank for local search queries.
Having a great GMB ranking also makes your business a part of Google’s local pack.
What’s a Local Pack?
For those who are unfamiliar, Google local pack refers to local business listings that pop up whenever users make a query.
As you may have noticed, these listings used to be a whole lot longer. There used to be 7 listings in the SERPs.
But that is no longer the case.
Google trimmed the list down to 3 local businesses back in 2015 and haven’t looked back since.
The coveted three spots are collectively referred to as Google 3-pack.
This change was definitely a blow for local stores who didn’t make the cut. The 3-pack appears 93% of the time in the number one position.
If your business isn’t on that list, you really need to get on it right away.
Otherwise, it’s all wasted opportunity.
How Do Press Releases Help With GMB and Local Pack?
So you want to have a great GMB ranking and be part of a local pack.
But how do you go about doing that?
If you’ve been looking to improve your GMB ranking, press releases can get you there.
The more you send press releases to news organizations in your local area, the more your business becomes prominent. Especially if you insert links strategically throughout the release.
Even better, use your brand plus your keyword as one anchor text string and link to your Google Places Driving Direction Map.
Your second anchor text could be a geo-specific keyword that’s linked to Google Places Map.
Keep your NAP consistent. This will contribute to your press release success.
Optimize Silo Pages for Target Keywords
We’ve briefly touched on co-occurrence, Google’s way of checking the relationship between two pieces of content based on phrases used in the copy.
Co-occurrence and Google RankBrain exist in the same sphere and are similar in nature.
RankBrain is an AI that uses machine learning to deliver results for complicated search queries.
It parses your content for words and phrases that give your copy context. That way, Google is able to deliver much more relevant results to user queries.
Adding LSI Keywords to Silo Pages
Because RankBrain hunts for useful words and phrases, SEOs were incentivized to add keywords to help RankBrain assess your content.
These words and phrases are referred to as latent semantic indexing (LSI) keywords.
And unlike backlink anchor texts, LSI keywords are not hyperlinked.
They are simply there to give Google an idea of what you’re talking about in your copy.
As an SEO, you’ve probably inserted LSI keywords in your silo pages.
And by doing so, you’ve helped Google understand your copy better. It’s probably the reason why your pages are popping up for relevant search queries.
What does this have to do with press releases?
Hold your horses. We’re getting there.
Strengthen Your Silo Page Keywords
Adding LSI keywords to silo pages is good.
Do you know what would be better?
Having LSI keywords on both silo pages and local websites.
Your LSI keywords are solidified this way. This makes it easier for RankBrain to connect the dots and determine the relevance of your semantic keywords.
How do you do that?
Add your LSI keywords to third-party sites so they match with your silo landing pages.
Tips on Using LSI Keywords
It’s important that your press release and landing page LSI keywords are consistent. Doing so makes them more effective.
You’re inserting contextual links. So no hyperlinks on your target keywords.
A general rule for silo pages is for them to interlink with each other. So before sending out your press release, double-check your silo structure to make sure everything’s been set up properly.
If done correctly, RankBrain will help get your landing pages rank higher in the SERPs.
How to Write a Press Release for SEO
You’ve discovered the advantages that press releases bring to the table.
Now for the fun part:
Writing the actual press release.
Hiring someone to write a press release can be expensive. It wouldn’t make sense for a new player to splurge on something that can be done on your own.
For reference, these are the going rates for press release writers:
- Rate per hour – $30 to $182
- Rate per project – $125 to $1,500
- Rate per word – 50₵ to $2
By writing your own release, you’d have better control over the copy and be able to hit all the important points.
Here’s how you write a press release that gets the message across effectively and meets all SEO objectives.
Before you begin: keep in mind that press releases are unlike blog posts. You need to format the content differently and include certain elements to get the desired results.
Write a Story and Not an Announcement
You now have 1 million followers on Instagram.
That’s an accomplishment worth announcing. But why should people care?
For people to care, you need to tell your story.
What’s the journey been like? What’s the significance of having 1 million people follow you?
Draw people in. Make your audience understand.
You are there to make readers take action.
Take this press release for Laffy Taffy Gone Bananas.
The company could have simply shared the news that they’re launching limited banana-only bags of Laffy Taffy.
Instead, they shared the funny story behind the launch where actor Joel McHale jokingly shared his frustration with the lack of banana representation in his Laffy Taffy on social media.
This makes the press release far more compelling for readers.
Identify Your Keywords
We’ve already talked about using LSI keywords for strengthening your silo pages.
And this is a great strategy for news sites that implement a rel=nofollow policy.
But on the rare occasion that your local press allows backlinks on press releases, you need to take full advantage.
Use online tools like Ahrefs to find relevant keywords to use on your press release.
Ahrefs has a feature called Keywords Explorer Tool. Start by logging into your account and launching the tool.
Type in a keyword phrase and click the Search button.
Note: You can change the country to specify the location you’re trying to rank for.
You will then be provided analytics data for the term you entered.
Scroll down a bit and you’ll find keyword ideas that are related to the one you entered.
You can even look at all the keywords used by the top results in the SERPs.
Unfortunately, Ahrefs is a paid tool. But there are free keyword tool alternatives like LSIGraph.
Answer the 5W1H On the First Paragraph
Who, what, when, where, why, and how.
These details should be made clear right at the very top of your press release.
People who are assigned to screening press releases go through a lot of them in a day.
They simply don’t have the time to read a release from start to finish.
Help make their lives easier by telling them upfront the message you’re trying to convey.
Take this press release from 60 Minutes as an example.
In one paragraph, the writer was able to explain what his press release was all about.
- Who: 60 Minutes
- What: Rainbow Railroad feature
- When: Sunday, May 19, 7 PM Eastern (6 Central)
- Where: CBS and CBS All Access
- Why: Show how the organization helps LGBTQ people in danger find legal pathways to safety
- How: Exclusive interview with Executive Director Kimahil Powell and survivors of anti-LGBTQ persecution
Write an Impressive Boilerplate
At the end of a press release, you’d usually find information that summarizes the business and its achievements.
These are called boilerplates.
And if you want press release sites to get back to you, your boilerplate should be really impressive.
Writing a boilerplate is a delicate balance. You want to highlight your successes but want to remain objective.
It should never sound braggy.
This press release from Braze includes a boilerplate that mentions what the company does as well as a list of their most prominent clients.
They also subtly hinted that they operate on a global level by mentioning their offices in London, San Francisco, and Singapore.
Don’t Forget Your Contact Info
How embarrassing would it be to go through all that trouble only to forget your contact info?
So before you hit send, check if you’ve included your contact information in your press release.
And while we’re on the topic, make sure your NAP details are consistent with those on your Google My Business listing.
It’s absolutely important that your GMB listing matches the ones on your press releases.
You can also link to or embed a Google Map location so readers can drop by your store.
To embed a map, just go to Google Maps and click on your listing. Pop open the menu and click Share or Embed Map.
A window will open. Open the Embed a Map tab and copy the HTML code.
Paste the code on your online press release. You can also use the link provided in the Send a Link tab and add it as a hyperlink instead.
Format for Press Release
As mentioned earlier, press releases are not blog posts.
You want to format a press release the right way so they’re treated seriously.
What does a legitimate press release look like?
How do you write it the way news syndication sites want them?
Well, here’s an example of a press release that conforms to the right format and structure.
A couple of tips:
You can put FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE instead of a release date if the press release needs to be published ASAP.
Take your time developing your headline. It’s the most important detail in your copy. It needs to be eye-catching. Don’t go over 80 characters.
A subheadline gives readers a deeper understanding of your press release at a glance.
The location and date at the start of the first paragraph let readers know when and where the press release is coming from. It’s the norm to include this in each release.
Location and date should be in bold when submitted.
Where to Publish Your Press Release
After you’ve written your press release, you’ll need to find a site that can publish it.
Finding the right press release distribution channel can be boiled down to an exact science.
Consider the following questions when looking for a press release distributor.
What Are the Relevant Factors in Choosing a Press Release Site?
SEOs are always tempted to use a distributor with the widest reach.
However, a small business owner should be sending their press releases to journalists who cover news and events in their area of operation.
After all, there’s nothing wrong with small publications, especially if they’re hitting your target market.
You also want to deliver press releases to people you can establish a working relationship with. Leveraging social media to find these folks is encouraged. Twitter is a good place to start.
What Are the Best PR Sites Around?
The best press release sites are the ones that are FREE.
Fortunately, the sites featured here don’t charge you for anything. Some of them do operate on a freemium business model though.
PRLog is one of the most reputable press release sites out there. It has a wide media outlet network.
They even go as far as emailing journalists and media outlets to send press release notifications.
However, the site does look dated and its interface could use an update.
Newswire Today is free thanks to the advertisements they place on their press releases. And that could either be a pro or a con, depending on how you look at it.
And because it’s free, you’re likely to experience limited customization options. The site is also notorious for being difficult to work with.
But some SEOs are willing to put up with it because it doesn’t cost anything unless you upgrade to one of their plans.
PR.com has the best customization features of all the free press release sites mentioned here.
There is a catch. They only publish press releases on their own site.
But at least users are able to upload their own logos, add related keywords, select five industries, and attach files to their releases.
Are Press Releases Worth It?
Here’s the truth:
Press releases are absolutely worth it.
You just have to think of it differently. They are not to be used for getting backlinks.
Rather, they should aid your SEO strategy.
They help you build citations which increases your credibility as far as Google is concerned.
Even when backlinks have a nofollow attribute, they help drive traffic to your domain. They are also awesome for making your silo pages that much stronger thanks to RankBrain and LSI keywords.
And making press releases isn’t that hard to do. You just have to keep these things in mind as you write:
- Tell a compelling story and don’t treat press releases like an announcement.
- Do some research on the LSI keywords you’ll be using.
- Remember to answer five questions right from the start: who, what, when, where, why, and how.
- Use a compelling boilerplate.
- Add your contact information.
- Follow the correct press release format.
- Send your press releases to a trustworthy press release publisher.
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