PRSAIcon 2011 Recap: Eight Key Takeaways, From Storytelling to Link Tracking

October 19, 2011

by Amy Yen, Marketing Specialist, Business Wire Los Angeles

Business Wire at PRSAIcon 2011This week, Business Wire was once again a proud sponsor and exhibitor at the 2011 PRSA International Conference, aka #PRSAIcon. Our conference team had a great time meeting so many of our amazing clients in person and learning the latest about the always changing PR industry. We tweeted updates on our @businesswire feed throughout the conference of interesting lessons from many of the keynotes and sessions. Here are eight key takeaways:

  1. PR is about storytelling. It was only appropriate in Orlando, home to the most magical place on earth, that the unofficial theme of the conference was storytelling. Opening keynote speaker Soledad O’Brien of CNN talked about storytelling being more than a statistic. You have to find the character behind the statistic & tell the story with their passion. The closing keynote speaker, Joe Rohde from Disney, talked about compelling stories coming from the interruptions in expected patterns. “We don’t have time for things we think we already know.”
  2. Video and visuals make for compelling storytelling. YouTube is the number two search engine in the world behind Google. Video makes for great content and is not as expensive as it’s perceived to be. (After all, every phone is a camera.) It’s also a good idea to get your executives on video talking about your brand . . . it helps qualify them as spokespeople for journalists.
  3. Customer service is the new black. Like it or not, part of PR is now customer service. In fact, thanks to social media, PR people are often the first to hear about the problems. There is still a level of awe right now if you just reply when your customers try to talk to you.
  4. Media training is not just a C-suite sport anymore. Keynote speaker Chris Brogan talked about how everyone is on some kind of media these days, so everyone should be trained. Soledad O’Brien discussed media training from a journalist’s perspective, saying passion and emotion can’t be trained. Ultimately, what people relate to is the authenticity and passion behind the messaging points.
  5. You can’t ignore Google+. Chris Brogan pointed out that you have to care about Google+, if only because it’s the only social network currently being indexed on the top two search engines in the world. Every PR professional should at least be conversational about it. Additionally, Google+ profiles can help with personal online presence since it ranks so highly on Google. Optimize your title and introduction and include links to all your other sites and networks, as those appear in your search results.
  6. Empower your employees on social media. If you’re terrified to give control to others in your organization, you will not be successful in social media. Train them and have a social media policy so you can be. Your policy should be short and understandable without legal assistance and should be in every new hire’s packet when they start.
  7. If it can be searched for, it can be optimized. Keyword optimize your blog posts, landing pages, press releases, online newsrooms, multimedia and social content. In press releases, optimize in the headline and subhead, include links and a call-to-action. For photos and other multimedia, optimize the file name of the file you are uploading, include alt text and captions.
  8. We are all fighting for budgets. PR should get credit for the leads it generates. Set goals before your campaign so you can track conversions with tools like Google Analytics. Track traffic with tools like Google URL builder, which tags your URLs so you know where your link clicks are coming from (press release versus AdWords versus Facebook ads, etc).

At the conference, we also announced our new partnership with Critical Mention, which will provide clients with access to Critical Mention’s real-time television and radio monitoring platform. As an introductory promotion, Business Wire clients who subscribe with Critical Mention for 2012 will receive the remainder of 2011 at no charge.

We’d also like to congratulate Elizabeth Rowland at Strat-igence, who was the winner of our iPad Giveaway. And thanks again to PRSA, the speakers and all the attendees for a great conference!


Business Wire’s Inclusion in Google News Archives Means Press Releases Live Forever

June 9, 2011

Google News operates on a 30-day window for news content, meaning that when you do a standard search on Google News you are almost never going to find anything older than a month.

But did you know that Google News also works with news partners such as magazines, newspapers and wire services to archive historical news content?

Business Wire recently worked with Google News to submit data feeds of our past releases to be included in their searchable news archives.  The result is Google News users can now search as far back as the 1990’s and find hundreds of thousands of client press releases.

So if you’re a Google News fan or just looking for another way to search past Business Wire releases, take a trip down memory lane today by visiting Google News archive search and searching for: “businesswire.com” + Your Company Name.


Press Releases and Branding: Build Your Brand for Better SEO

April 19, 2011

With two billion active users and 130 million domains on the web, indexing the torrent of information is a challenge for large search engines and impossible for individuals. One way to distinguish your company or organization is to build a trusted brand within your niche. Press releases, done well, can play a role here.

Search engines have learned that brands are important to people making decisions in an information surplus environment and are seeking indicators of quality. Understanding how search engines judge and evaluate brands is imperative to building the trust that results in visibility.

So what makes a search friendly brand?

According to SEOMoz and Search Engine Journal as well as our own research and experience, top search “Brand” indicators include:

Company Name, Product and Service Searches   If people are searching for your company, product or service by name, it tells search engines you’re known within your niche. Measure this by checking search referrals on keyword variations of your name with tools like Google Analytics. Compare the data with what Google reports on their keyword tool. Make sure to always use your company name in press release headlines to increase brand exposure.

Media Coverage  Press release campaigns that boost coverage work double duty as a media relations tool, and by providing content to search engines, lifting brand value.

Brand Name” Links   If you see a link on a webpage to CNN, you probably know that click is going to take you to news on CNN.com. If search engines see a large number of brand links relative to keyword links in context, it may lead them to assume your brand is strong. These clicked-on links are viewed by search engines as votes of confidence.

Social Pages   At the least, your company should have a registered presence on the main social networking sites: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.   Even better, lock down your company name across the social web. Try a service like Knowem.com or better yet, interns.

Online Reviews   Check review sites such as CitySearch, Angieslist or Yelp to see if reviews exist for your company. Try to respond if appropriate. Set up Google Alerts and Twitter alerts to monitor for new reviews. Search engines often aggregate reviews from many sources on their “place” pages and positive reviews can be a good brand indicator, especially for local businesses.

Partners & Customers    Well known brands usually don’t exist in a vacuum and have public partnerships as well as testimonials on their websites. Partnerships and customers that make you proud should be prominently displayed in a descriptive manner digestible by search engines. Think Apple & AT&T… or Apple & Verizon.

Offices and Storefronts    Most established brands have offices or storefronts of some kind. Make sure yours are current and prominently listed on your sites in a way that can be digested by search engines.

Local & Business Directories   Once your locations are listed, make sure to let the search engines know by adding or updating local listings directly to Google, Bing & Yahoo. Don’t forget the countless local business directories. GetListed provides links and advice for some top national directories.

Overwhelmed?   Start by taking inventory of where your brand stands with search engines by collecting what you know. From there, determine strengths and weaknesses and where to focus your energy. Remember, search algorithms are opaque and complicated. Experiment and measure what you can to see what works.

With sustained effort, your brand is bound to benefit. Good luck building your brand!


Friday Fast Links: March Madness, Wire Service SEO and More

March 18, 2011

What do you know about your wire service’s SEO practices?

How big are the opportunities for brands and social media during March Madness? (A Google search for “March Madness” + “social media” returns nearly 2 million results.)

On the off chance you missed Rebecca Black blowing up the internet this week, you missed a great lesson on how to turn bad PR into good PR.

Eight tips for writing press releases that journalists will read. I think they’re just about in the right order, too.

The Canadian Investor Relations Institute reinforces the widely disseminated press release as the anchor of successful IR. Are they ahead of the US in setting standards?

If you need help building your online newsroom, register for our free webinar.

Do you or your company have a blog? A recent Minnesota court case has some interesting free speech implications for bloggers.

There are a lot of ways to sell jeans. Is this one of them? Takes edgy ads to a whole new level.

Have a great weekend!


Google Algorithm Changes Reward Best Practice SEO and Pay Off for Press Release Visibility

March 15, 2011
Matt Albers, Director of Web Services

by Matt Albers, Director of Software Engineering, Web Services

In an effort to find more high quality sites for its many users, during the week of Feb. 24th, Google rolled out their Panda update (aka Farmer).

This update was said to touch nearly 12 percent of all Google search results in an attempt to weed out or de-value content farms and “low quality” sites.  Wired.com offers more in depth coverage with Google engineers Matt Cutts and Amit Singhal weighing in on specifics about the change.  If you’re an engineer like me, you’d already heard complaints in the tech sector for a while now.

So how did this change affect the visibility of your press releases?  We’re glad you asked, because in the case of Business Wire, we’ve noticed a positive change.  That’s correct: since Google tweaked their indexing algorithm, Business Wire has seen an increase in traffic, and higher rankings for our client’s press releases.

Meanwhile, according to Sistrix, a German search research company, our competitors have not fared as well, some losing nearly 70% of their keyword rankings.  In addition, our rival says they lost 20% in traffic, showing a Hitwise graph of search clicks.  But look closely and you’ll see the only site on that graph trending UP is Business Wire.  Yes, quality rises to the top.

We don’t know specifically why some press release services were dinged.  We can only confirm that Business Wire was not affected negatively by the Panda update based on our analytics analysis.  Why the difference?  I suspect it’s because we’ve been following “best practice”, “white hat” SEO for years.

Business Wire has been known for excellence and customer service for 50 years now, and we have deliberately avoided SEO gaming, allowing our highly vetted content to speak for itself.  As an engineer and Director of Web Services, you can bet I place a high value on technology, but good decisions and people behind them are what really make a difference in the quality our clients enjoy at Business Wire.  It turns out taking the high road and considering long term over short term success results in excellent SEO outcomes for us and our clients.


BW Fun Fact: Business Wire Has Been Adding Multimedia to Press Releases for More Than a Decade

March 14, 2011

In 1997, Business Wire introduced the Smart News Release (SNR), which allowed users to embed photos, audio, video and other multimedia into press releases. Not only does multimedia help a press release stand out to reporters or readers, but it also increases the reach of a release in search engines. Although often overlooked, Google Images receives a huge amount of search traffic and can actually drive readers back to your release. Our research has found that releases with multimedia receive 1.7 times more reads than those without.

Back when we first introduced SNRs, clients would often provide us with hard-copy photos, which were then scanned by Business Wire editors to be made available in high resolution to media and web viewers. Today, we distribute hundreds of releases with multimedia every week.

Check out what some of our experienced editors have to say about how best to submit multimedia and best practices for writing photo captions.


Friday Fast Links

February 25, 2011


 


How to Keep Your Press Releases From Getting Rejected by Google News

February 24, 2011

For this edition of SEO Tip Jar I revisited the data sources from my popular post about getting rejected from Google News in order to see if anything had changed in the past year or if I could possibly discover any more tips for ensuring your releases are compliant with Google News’ automated system.  It turns out that there are still things to learn from Google News if you look at the data.

The most interesting departure from past conventional wisdom is that it appears that repeating keywords from the headline in your links in seemingly works against you in Google News.   (See #1, below.)  Until now, we’ve understood that redundancy has a positive impact;  apparently too much works against you.

For my study, I looked at reports we receive directly from Google News over a period of two weeks in January of this year.   This first post will look at releases rejected due to structure or contents of their headlines.  Google currently reports this error as “Title Not Allowed” or “Title Not Found” in their recently revised and expanded list of news rejection reasons, with the explanations of “The title that we extracted from the HTML page suggests that it is not a news article” and “We were unable to extract a title for the article from the HTML page” respectively.

Google goes into further detail and provides the following reasons which apply to your press releases distributed on a wire service such as ours (I’ve omitted those that are irrelevant):

  1. In your article page, avoid using the article title, or a substring of the title, as an active hyperlink.
  2. Don’t include a date or time in your article title.
  3. Ensure that your article title includes at least ten characters and is between two and 22 words.

Previously, Google’s only explicit condition was that headlines be between two and 22 words, so it’s nice to see the rules laid out in more detail.  However, do Google’s rules match reality? Let’s take a look.

Over the two-week period, our reports show 141 releases rejected due to “Title Not Allowed” or “Title Not Found”.    Of these,  88% (124) had headlines with 23+ words, violating rule #3 up above.  An additional  5% (seven) headlines included dates or times and 2% (three) did not appear to run afoul of any of Google News’ stated guidelines.

However, my most interesting finding came from looking at the remaining seven releases.  Granted, seven of 141 releases is a very small sample size, but all of these releases included anchor text links in the release body which used between 25% and 56% of the keywords from the release headline.

This would lead me to tentatively recommend optimizing releases to focus only on top one or two keywords within their headlines and use longer headlines as well.   Additionally, it’s probably a good idea to ensure your anchor text links within the body or your releases use less than 25% of the words in your headline.

Confused?  Here’s an example of this recommendation in action.

Headline (15 Words): AcmeCo Announces New Version of Widget Which Improves Factory Production Efficiency by up to 300%

Links in Body: AcmeCo , New Widget , Improves Efficiency

Outcome: Probably not good.  Links in the release body use 33% of the keywords in the release headline.

Recommendation: Eliminate two headline keywords from the body links or add five-six words to the release headline.


Marketing Professionals Go in Depth on Engagement at Social Media Masters

February 15, 2011

by Amy Yen, Marketing Specialist, Business Wire LA

Last week, Business Wire was proud to be a sponsor of Social Media Club’s Social Media Masters workshop, a one-day program in San Diego offering advanced social media training in a unique format. Brian Solis, author of Engage, was the keynote speaker for the event, which also featured dedicated workshops for Facebook (led by Murray Izenwasser), LinkedIn (Chuck Hester & Neal Schaffer), Twitter (Carri Bugbee) & social media monitoring (Paul Dyer & Kelly Feller).

Here are some highlights from Brian Solis’s keynote and the closing panel discussion on integrated marketing:

  • Social media is an earned privilege. A ‘tweet this’ or ‘like us’ button on its own doesn’t mean anything. Ask yourself why audience should care. You have to compete for every ‘like’ by being compelling.
  • Influence is not popularity. A large number of Twitter followers or Facebook likes doesn’t necessarily equate to the capacity to change behavior or perception.
  • What used to be an audience is now an audience with audiences. An average Facebook user has 130 friends. An average Twitter user has 140 followers. Everyone is now their own distribution channel.
  • Context, not content, is now king. People want to feel that the great content they are seeing was created for them specifically, on the network that they are on. Don’t blast your message identically on every network, customize it to the platform.
  • Social media marketing should not be done in silos. Tactics like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc should be integrated and linked with traditional marketing channels. Don’t focus so much on the tools, just focus on what you want to do, then find the right distribution point for your message.

Speaker Chuck Hester talks about LinkedIn

Here are some tips & insights from Chuck Hester & Neal Schaffer’s session on LinkedIn:

  • A LinkedIn profile is not an online resume. It’s an online portfolio. LinkedIn is not just for job seekers.
  • Optimize your LinkedIn profile for search by putting keywords in your headline & summary. Don’t leave your headline as your current title; use the terms people are likely to search for.
  • When adding people to your network, don’t send the generic “I’d like to add you” message. Personalize your invitation & ask what you can do for the connection.
  • Include up to three URLs in your profile. Besides your website, one good one to include is the URL for your media center or online newsroom.
  • Users can follow & recommend companies on LinkedIn. Company pages have a section where you can highlight specific products & services.
  • LinkedIn groups are a good way to promote best practices & position subject matter experts. Leave your group open to ensure discussions get indexed. Be descriptive in the titles of your groups: use keywords you want to come up in search.
  • Consider creating subgroups to enhance the SEO of your LinkedIn groups. Each subgroup & main group gets indexed separately, so you can target keywords in your descriptions to different audiences. For example, a subgroup for “LA tech jobs” under the main group “tech jobs” further targets by geography & would show up under a search for “LA jobs” when the main group might not.
  • Include your LinkedIn, Twitter & other social media profiles in your press release contact blocks.
  • Treat your connections on LinkedIn & other networks like they are physically in front of you.

For more tips on LinkedIn, see Guy Kawasaki’s classic blog post, 10 Ways to Use LinkedIn. You can also find Business Wire on LinkedIn.

See more live updates from this event on Twitter: hash tag #smm11


The 50-40-10 Rule of Optimizing Press Releases

January 28, 2011

The 50-40-10 Rule of Optimizing Press Releases

Have you ever wondered how much energy you should put towards optimizing your press releases?  If so, please consider adopting my 50-40-10 optimization technique for your next press release (it’s great for blog posts too, by the way!).

So what does 50-40-10 mean?  50-40-10 is a technique for allocating your time and energies efficiently when optimizing releases.  Take a look at the graphic below for a visual breakdown.

Here’s how it works:

Spend about 50% of your time optimizing your headline. These days, we are inundated with information and being compelling from the outset is often crucial to getting your message heard by an audience of journalists, bloggers and newsreaders that have no shortage of articles to read at any time. Your headline is also the most important element in your release from an SEO perspective as it serves double duty as your Title tag and headline in search results.

Dig deep to craft a headline that incorporates important keywords while also conveying your key points and hopefully even grabs the reader’s attention from the start.  Here are a few recent release headlines I love that also performed quite well:

LinkedIn Says Most Overused Buzzwords Are “Extensive Experience, Innovative and Motivated”

NBA Bans Basketball Shoes by Athletic Propulsion Labs Based on League Rule against “Undue Competitive Advantage” That Increases a Player’s Vertical Leap

With your headline written, now spend the next 40% of your time optimizing the body of your release. While ensuring that your release continues to deliver on the promise of the headline, repeat your most important keywords or related words multiple times.  Also be sure to link to key webpages using relevant anchor text closely matched to the content of the destination page.  Use your body optimization time to find the balance of readability and optimization.

Finally, use your last 10% to optimize your multimedia elements. I recommend allocating a significantly smaller amount of time for this because there are no headlines, links or body copy to deal with here.  Simply write unique and compelling descriptions of each attached photo or video multimedia element.  Incorporate relevant keywords into each description, give each element a unique file name and you are done.

Give this technique a try next time you optimize your press release and let us know how it goes.


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