SEO 101: Questions From Our Press Release Optimization Webinar

July 26, 2010


For this edition of SEO Tip Jar I culled some questions from last week’s webinar on Press Release SEO presented by Alison MacDonald, Raschanda Hall and  yours truly.  We’ve held this webinar a few times now, and some questions keep coming up.  In that vein, I thought I’d start a mini-series answering your basic press release SEO questions.  Here we go!

What does it mean to optimize your press release headline?

When you are talking about search engines and your press release, optimizing headlines means incorporating your most important keywords. Keywords being the words or phrases you’d like to rank well for in search engines. This is not a simple task, as your headline should also be compelling to your target audience and convey the content of the release.

Since search engines heavily factor page titles when determining rankings, optimizing the headline is the single most important task within press release optimization.

What is a deep link?

A deep link is a link, be it on a press release, blog post or webpage, to somewhere other than your company’s homepage.  For example, a link to Business Wire’s webinar archive rather than homepage. Typically, your homepage will receive the lion’s share of links and highest search ranking for broadly relevant terms, but it’s important to link to pages within your site to help unlock their ranking potential.  These pages often address specific audiences.

What and where is the title tag?

The Title tag is part of the HTML code that makes up a webpage.  Depending on the browser you are using, you’ll often see the Title in action on the top of your browser or tab window.  The title tag is also used when displaying webpages in search results.

Don’t fret.  You don’t need to know HTML to add a Title tag to your press release.  Your headline will become your press release’s title and is automatically inserted into the Title tag.

What does SERP stand for?

SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page.  This is the page of results served up by search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing when you search for something.  It is typically composed of both organic and paid search results, as illustrated below with an image from Google’s SEO guide (pdf).

What is rich text?

In the context of online press releases, rich text is copy within your press releases that is formatted with styling such as bold or italics.

How many words should comprise my press release headline?

There is no hard limit for the number of words in your headline, but if getting into Google News is a priority, you should make sure headlines contain fewer than 23 words to be within Google News’ guidelines.  In addition, Google SERPs often limit titles displayed to roughly 67 characters, so you should limit your headline  67 letters and spaces if at all possible.

That’s it for now.  Please let me know via comments, e-mail or Twitter if there’s any questions you’d like answered.


Want Your Release to Fit In? Use These Words!

June 30, 2010

– by Phil Dennison, Senior Marketing Specialist

About a year ago,  we wrote about gobbledygook phrases — words that are used over and over in press releases and other marketing materials, but serve little purpose other than cluttering up your news. We included a link to the HubSpot Gobbledygook Grader, developed by David Meerman Scott, where you could evaluate your own copy for that kind of language.

A year later, Adam Sherk has taken a new look at overused buzzwords in press releases. Sherk developed a list of 75 phrases, then searched the PRWeb archive using Google to see how frequently those phrases were used.

I thought it would be interesting, since Sherk limited his search to the PRWeb site, to see how often those phrases have appeared in Business Wire press releases over the last year. Below is a list of Sherk’s top ten most-used phrases, ranked by their frequency in Business Wire releases, and compared with the ranking in PRWeb releases.

Rank               Buzzword          Mentions on Business Wire       PRWeb rank
1                  leading            168,000                           2
2                  best*              102,000                           3
3                  leader              96,400                           1
4                  largest             21,900                           6
5                  innovative          75,900                           7
6                  unique              65,400                           4
7                  solution            56,500                           5
8                  exclusive           25,600                          10
9                  award winning       24,200                           9
10                 innovator              866                           8
*Note: My search excluded the phrase "Best Buy," as Best Buy is a Business Wire user and would have skewed the results.

Interestingly, the top three buzzwords were the same, just ranked in a different order. In fact, all of the top ten were pretty consistent, with the exception of “innovator,” which does not seem to be a word favored by Business Wire users. At least not in the last twelve months.

Since these words are so unlikely to add any value in describing your own company, service and products, one wonders why they’re used so often. Certainly, they’re unlikely to be the terms that consumers or reporters use to try to find your news online. Rather than continue to clutter your press releases with these kinds of phrases, you’re better off concentrating on using the proper keywords to improve your search results.


Use Google Trends to Find the Best Time to Send Your Press Release

June 3, 2010


It’s the age old question.  As long as companies and PR practitioners have been sending releases, everyone has wanted to know when is the best time to send my release? In fact, one of our most popular blog posts took this question on three years ago.

Everyone still wants to know because there is really no true right answer.  Hindsight is 20/20 and it’s easy to research the past and give an armchair opinion, but until Google starts mining data directly from our minds (Google Thoughts anyone?) predicting the future will continue to be a difficult endeavor.  However, with the power of free tools and site search it’s become relatively easy to get a read on the present and measure short term opportunities.

Here’s my basic premise: using tools like Google Trends and site search on the major press release distribution sites like Business Wire to gauge the amount of competition, you can increase your chances of catching a wave and contributing to a hot story.

Sometimes the trends are obvious.  You can tell from this chart that Father’s Day trends upwards as the holiday approaches (it’s June 20th in the US this year).

Searching headlines on Business Wire shows only a handful of Father’s Day related headlines so far in May and June.  To me, this looks like a great opportunity for interesting Father’s Day stories to get the jump on the trend.  If I were creating such a story, it might be a good idea to get it out now or keep watching the wires and distribute it just as things start to pick up.

Read the rest of this entry »


Nielsen Search Results Show Google Still Leads the Pack

April 28, 2010

Nielsen published their latest data on US Search Providers today, showing Google far ahead of all competitors with a healthy 65.7% of all search traffic, representing more than 6.3 billion searches in the month of March.  The next closest competitor, Yahoo!, had 13.4%.  Guess that makes our recent SEO Tip Jar advice on making sure your release gets into Google News even more relevant!


Do special characters in press release headlines matter?

April 9, 2010

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Judging from my recent experiment, they do.

For years, conventional wisdom suggested  avoiding special symbols such as ® (registered trademark) and ™ (trademark) in press release headlines.  The assumption has been that search engines and downstream sites to which releases are pushed have difficulty digesting words with symbols attached and your release may be misconstrued.

With that idea in mind, I conducted a small experiment to see the present state of how search engines are actually interpreting releases with symbols in headlines.

Results suggest that search engines are getting smarter about handling symbols and it’s still best to leave symbols out of your headlines whenever possible.  Instead, focus on including keywords in your headlines and properly formatting your release for Google News.

For my experiment I chose the two most common symbols, ® (registered trademark) and ™ (trademark), selecting ten releases including each symbol in the headline.  For each release, I conducted two searches on Google, Yahoo and Bing based on headline content–one with the symbol and one without.  Since it’s safe to assume most searchers are not including the symbols unless copy-pasting, this would tell me if the search engines treated the queries differently and how “searchable” these types of releases are.  I also performed searches with ten releases from the same period with headlines that didn’t include special symbols to serve as a control group.

Here’s what I found.  This chart shows whether the search engine provided the same results whether or not symbols were included in the search.  For example, searching for Acme™ versus searching for Acme.

Identical Search Results Returned With and Without Special Characters

You can see that Google does the best job overall.  Even the single instance when Google’s results were not the same, there was only a very minor difference that could be attributed to Google experimenting with different search result presentation.  Bing is not far behind, doing even better than Google with TM symbol searches.  Yahoo is the real outlier here.  Yahoo actually showed zero results on 7 out of the 10 searches with TM symbols, just a handful of results on two searches, and was the same only once.  That’s not to say that releases with TM symbols were not found; the lesson here is that Yahoo cannot handle people including the TM symbols in their searches.

Another way to confirm this strange behavior is by searching each search engine for the symbol alone.

Google Trademark Symbol Search

Bing Trademark Symbol Search

Google and Bing ignore the symbol, but Yahoo seems to interpret it as the letters TM and has many disparate results on the first page.

Yahoo Trademark Symbol Search

The chart below shows the “success” of each search.  I defined success as finding the release content within the first page of search results when searching for headline terms.

Search "Success" for Press Releases

You can see that every search engine does an admirable job finding the releases, especially when a TM symbol or no symbols are in the headline.  However, if you are concerned about performing as well as possible in Yahoo and Bing, the safest thing is still to exclude symbols if possible.


Why Your Release Might Not Make It In to Google News

March 24, 2010

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For many companies and agencies distributing press releases, appearing in online news outlets such as Google News is a significant benefit and often an important part of their PR or SEO strategy.  And from their perspective, getting in may seem quite straightforward when using a wire service such as Business Wire:  Write the press release, Send the press release, Appear in Google News!  What could be easier?

Well, what you may not know is that we do many things behind the scenes to deliver our content in a way that best complies with standards and rules laid out by Google and monitor performance to ensure the vast majority of our releases make it in to Google News.  On top of that, there are 18 reasons Google News may provide to us detailing why an individual release still doesn’t make the cut to reach their news index.  Some of these reasons are quite technical and are handled automatically by our world class technical team, but others vary based on the actual content of each individual release.  In this edition of SEO Tip Jar, I want to give you some insight into why Google News may reject your release and what you can do to best ensure that it doesn’t happen to you.

Before I get into it, please note that even if your release doesn’t make the cut for Google News, which in and of itself is an exceedingly rare occurrence, you will still be indexed by Google and available in the standard or “universal” search results.  Also, you can find the full list of rejection reasons in Google’s support section.  Of the 18 reasons Google may give, we tend to only see about five with any frequency.  Without further ado, here they are, in order of most common to least common:

“Article disproportionately short” /  “Article is too short”

Google does not give an exact word count to qualify for this criteria, but in my research this is most likely to occur when a release is less than 125 words.  However, I have seen instances when this reason is given in error as well with releases as long as 700 words.  In any case, these two errors constitute about 50% of the total errors we see, so be sure to make your releases at least 125 words to maximize your chances of inclusion.

“Page too large”

This is the most straightforward error in Google’s system.  Any page larger than 256KB may be flagged with this error, and most of the offenders tend to be very detailed and lengthy earnings reports with large tables and lots of text.  These releases are still indexed and available in Google Finance, which is usually the more appropriate and valuable venue for discovery.

“Title not found” (Title too short or long)

This is a deceptively named error, since it really means the title/headline of your release is too long.  According to Google, “…the title is required to be between 2 and 22 words, inclusive,” and headlines that don’t match this criteria are flagged with this error.  So be sure to check the word count in your headline and keep them relatively brief!

“Article Fragmented”

This error is very rare and only seems to occur on advisory releases with one sentence paragraphs or a very large number of bullet points.  It occurs when “The article …appears to consist of isolated sentences not grouped together into paragraphs.”  Avoid this error by ensuring the first paragraph of your release has at least two or three consecutive sentences.

Key Points

So if you want to best ensure your release gets into Google News, be sure to do the following with each release:

  • Write at least 125 words
  • Keep your headline between 2 and 22 words
  • Start your release with a three sentence paragraph

A Look At EON From An SEM Pro’s Perspective

March 17, 2010

Ben Plomion heads up SEM Valet, a Search Engine Marketing firm that builds pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns for its clients, so he’s a guy you can trust to know his stuff.  Following a recent meeting, Ben took a look at EON: Enhanced Online News for its possible value in building backlinks to clients’ websites and being part of an online marketing or PR campaign.  Take a look at Ben’s thoughts and let him — and us! — know about your successes with EON.


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