Business Wire Establishes New Standards for SEO with the 2014 Guide for Press Release Optimization

January 8, 2014

As we enter into 2014,  we are still receiving a lot of questions about how SEO should be used with a press release. One of the biggest misnomers we hear is that you cannot use any links in a release and that keyword research is not applicable anymore.  In an effort to clear up some of the confusion with SEO best practices for researching, writing and distributing a press release, Business Wire has put out a new guidance report titled “A Guide to Press Release Optimization.” The download is available for free and will answer all of the questions regarding press releases and SEO for 2014.

Business Wire PR and SEO in 2014The press release guidance report shows the major changes that have occurred with the press release including updates from Google that have redefined how the release is written. Additionally the report discusses best practices moving forward including future SEO and social trends in 2014. The guide is structured chronologically as a reference that will walk you through all of the steps of a press release from research and planning, through writing content, and into final distribution and measurement.

The idea is to have a standard that professionals in the communications industry can use as a guide when developing a press release for the New Year. All of the ten tips include examples and strategies including many free tools that are available to all professionals.

Tips include:

  • How to research and learn the behaviors of key constituents
  • Complete overview of the latest algorithms, and how to benefit from these updates
  • Recommended  press release layout improvements
  • How to properly use links
  • What you need to know about press release keywords and key phrases
  • The importance of high quality content
  • The role multimedia plays in increasing discovery and action in 2014
  • How to use social media strategically
  • Using a responsive design webpage for mobile
  • How to choose the proper news distribution method

The report can be downloaded, for free at http://go.businesswire.com/guide-to-press-release-optimization. Click this link to share it with your Twitter followers:  http://ctt.ec/4v0K3

Google Hummingbird

Need more incentive to download our report?  Business Wire will select, at random, 18 people who downloaded our guide to receive a hummingbird of their own!

We want to hear your comments. Let us know what you think of this guidance report and follow us on twitter @businesswire.


Understanding the True Risks of Utilizing Social Media for Financial Disclosure

October 8, 2013

By Serena Ehrlich, Director of Social & Evolving Media

Last week, Twitter announced to the world it was filing its S-1 via its own social media platform.   While a few vendors in the IR + social media space praise the recent decision by the SEC to allow public companies to disclose material news via social channels, most realize this method is far from a best practice.

What is disclosure via social networks? 

In April 2013, the SEC announced that public companies could utilize social media networks as material disclosure distribution outlets, if they first let investors know which networks they were going to use.  This announcement came with a wide range of support and backlash. Those in favor believe this decision is forward-thinking and a solid fit for the way people communicate today.  Many others believe that this decision will lead to uneven access to content and the sharing of misinformation, ultimately creating a more volatile stock price.

Why are social networks bad platforms for disclosure? 

Before we start, let me reiterate, I am obsessed with social media.  I love Twitter.  I love Facebook.  I’m a wizard at G+, and yet I strongly believe social networks are terrible platforms for disclosure as they simply do not provide immediate, broad access to the news.  Below are several of the road blocks facing this practice that should be considered by every public company before considering this step.

  • Does the news fit the platform?:  Each social network has its own personality and fulfills different end user needs and desires, most of which are not aligned with most companies’ investor profiles.  Facebook, for example, is an excellent recommendation engine.  Pinterest is an aspirational website and Twitter is a continually updating information sharing tool.  None of these sites are being utilized by the average user as legitimate investment forums.  It is important to note that while platforms like StockTwits do bring the discussion of stocks onto Twitter, it is not reflective of Twitter’s overall market use.
  • Lack of visibility of Tweets and social updates:  As noted in this infographic, many company updates are simply not seen by page friends and fans. In fact, 84% of Facebook newsfeed stories are never seen and 71% of tweets are ignored.  This lack of visibility directly affects the success of social network disclosure posts.
  • Manipulated news visibility:  Every social network has the technology and ability to change the visibility of tweets and posts.  Twitter, Facebook, and other networks are monetized by advertising.  Paid tweets, sponsored posts and trends and more increase visibility of “popular” news and take valuable visibility away from non-paid status updates and posts.
  • Potential platform volatility:  Let’s face it, social networks sometimes go offline. Whether it is for system maintenance, too much volume or a DOS attack, when you choose to disclose over a social network, you put yourself at the mercy of a network only a handful of years old.
  • The old game of telephone:  When news is shared out across social networks, people frequently include their own opinion before resharing.   This leads to the possibility of message alteration (on Twitter, these changes are frequently noted with an MT which stands for modified tweet), which could directly impact perception of both the company and the news issued.  Rumors spread quickly on social networks and once misinformation is shared, the company must focus on message correction or risk stock instability.
  • Lack of access to social networks:  In 2011, a study of corporate CIOs shows that 31% of companies did not allow access to social networks during work hours, directly limiting access to real-time breaking news.  As the New York Times noted in 2012, financial institutions continue to struggle with providing traders and analysts with access to these channels.
  • Lack of immediate access to full-text:  The other issue with social networks is that they do not allow for very much text.  This means a company must state the impact of their news in as little as 140 characters and include a link to the full text article.  This 2-step process decreases potential visibility of the full story, and delays access to the news for end users.
  • The impact of delayed access to news:  One of the big discussions this summer in relation to the investment community was the financial impact of Thomson Reuter’s product that provides elite traders access to key information milliseconds before the rest of the financial community.  This service allows traders to buy and sell before the rest of the financial community. Every second counts on Wall Street. CNBC notes that within 10 seconds, hundreds of millions of dollars in trades can be completed.  Social networks are unable to confirm equal visibility of news and tweets, making it very easy for trades to be made before the news has fully been disseminated.
  • The security issue:  While somewhat rare, every social network, every website, faces potential security attacks and risks. Even the AP’s Twitter account was recently hacked, causing  widespread sharing of a false report of a shooting at the White House.  How are consumers supposed to know if your update is legitimate or not?  How quickly can a stock price be halted if false news impacts trading?
  • By the way, who actually uses social networks?:  While many buy-side analysts praise the use of social networks as research tools for reporting (a practice we highly recommend), most social site demographics are not aligned with investor audiences. Pew Internet notes that only 16% of Americans who utilize social networks have a Twitter account while 67% use Facebook.

Did we mention that we love social networks?!  So what should you be doing if you want to socialize your news, increasing overall awareness and engagement with your organization?  Business Wire continues to recommend a mix of tools including:

  • Use broad distribution via a commercial newswire to guarantee your full-text press release is simultaneously put in front of reporters, analysts and interested online parties.
  • Include multimedia to enhance your news – analysts love multimedia, especially video from senior team members.  Not only does multimedia increase viewership and news sharing, it has been proven to both drive deeper company-to-consumer relationships and also humanizes the brand.
  • Blog about it:  One of the best uses for corporate blogs is the ability to provide additional context for corporate news.  These are perfect vehicles to showcase the “why” of your story. And blogs that answer expected media and analyst questions help reporters provide better news coverage, ensuring further approved message permeation, decreasing message confusion and stock volatility.
  • Sharing news socially is a great idea!  Once your news has been posted to your website, share it out across your social channels.  Include Tweet this links inside your release copy to make it easy for your readers to share your highlights.
  • Live tweet:  One of the best ways to use social networks to share out news is to live tweet major events or news.  Draft tweets based on key elements of your press release and tweet them out with links back to your news. Include created multimedia to drive even higher engagement and sharing.
  • Utilize video chats: Create a video version of your blog and share each video’s embed links with key reporters and analysts. Today’s news outlets crave video content, as it both engages readers and increases the time the reader spends on their website. Analysts like the opportunity to see as well as hear from senior management. And of course, just like the blog, this content continues to drive message permeation.
  • Monitor the Conversation:  This is the number one way analysts today use social media.  They use it to see what people are saying about you, your product, your reputation and company.  The best way for organizations to utilize social media for disclosure is to listen.  What are people saying about your company, what misconceptions need to be clarified, what message points are resonating and which ones are not? Through listening you can not only find where conversations are occurring about your brand, but major themes, providing you with a roadmap for future discussion points.

There is a real, legitimate place for social media tools and platforms in the news distribution process, just not for material disclosure.

What do you think? Do social media platforms meet the requirement for consistent broad disclosure? We would love to hear your thoughts below!

Have questions about the role social media plays in the news distribution process? Let us know!


Editor’s Corner: A Heads up on Headlines: 4 Rules for Maximizing News Visibility

October 7, 2013

Guest Post: Zara McAlister & Ciaran Ryan/Toronto newsroom

Headlines are like first dates. If you don’t peak your suitor’s interest early, he or she might take a fake phone call in the middle of dinner and claim their house is on fire. It takes time and effort to keep your date interested. The same goes for headline writing. A title should grab your audience’s attention and give an idea of what’s to come.

Follow these four tips to make your headline count:

Make it Short

The best way to appeal to a journalist is to write like one. Journalistic headlines are short and punchy, around five to six words and no more than 10. Columbia School of Journalism advises its budding journalists to use action verbs.  Humour is fine, but avoid clichés like the plague. That’s a good rule of thumb. Slang is also a no no.

Keeping a headline short isn’t just about looking good. Databases such as Yahoo! will cut off lengthy headlines. Your Business Wire editors will accept four lines of a headline or 264 characters.

Put Your Name on it for Google’s Sake

A headline that includes a company name helps to ground a news release in search engines and adds traction. A release with the headline, “Lab Develops Time Machine” is vague and misleading. What lab is it? Instead of leaving your reader hanging off a cliff of suspense, drop your company name in the headline. Something like “ABC Lab Develops Time Machine,” gives credit where credit is due. This release is more likely to pop up when a journalist or investor plugs in your company name to a search engine.

According to a 2010 PRWeek Media Survey, 95% of journalists use search engines to research a story. Google recently launched a new search algorithm dubbed Hummingbird. Hummingbird looks at your search query as a complete phrase and not as a collection of individual keywords. Having a detailed headline will make your release more searchable.

Think Before you Link

Hyperlinks belong in the body of the release, not the headline. Google’s algorithm searches for blocks of text that look like a typical headline. So headlines that contain hyperlinks to a company’s website for instance may confuse the algorithm into thinking it’s a random block of text, preventing the headline from being included in Google News. Same goes for Yahoo! and CBS Marketwatch which may not recognize hyperlinks in headlines.

Follow the Rules

Punctuation and grammar matter. If you don’t believe us, take a look at any online forum, newspaper comment field, or a friend’s Facebook status. You will likely find someone correcting someone else’s grammar.  Journalistic writing is simple, straightforward and grammatically sound. Do the same. Avoid flowery, jargon laden headlines.  And watch out for common mistakes, such as unnecessary periods at the end of headlines.

Style is also important. Your company’s news may be so exciting that you want to scream it from the mountain tops. But please, step away from the caps lock button. IT’S NOT YOUR FRIEND!!! All caps conveys an aggressive tone, much like shouting at your audience. That’s a big faux pas to avoid.  Your headline should not have anything in common with the social media musings of a teenager on the subject of Justin Bieber’s present fall from grace. So keep your headline title cased. Associated Press (AP) style dictates capitalizing principal words and prepositions that are longer than four letters, and maybe think twice about adding that exclamation mark.

These are four simple rules every writer should follow to ensure the best news visibility and engagement possible.  Have any other tips to share?  Let us know!


It’s All About Marketing and PR Convergence with Our New Smart Marketing Page

May 8, 2012
For professional communicators today, there is a growing understanding that PR and marketing efforts must work in unison to be most effective.  For example, the cost of the keywords that marketing bids on in their advertising outreach can be reduced when PR successfully gets those same keywords embedded and issued/posted/shared in their audience engagement efforts.

With press releases, we know that multimedia enhances click-thru rates and improves audience engagement.  When public relations leverages existing marketing assets, it reinforces brand messaging and helps marketing achieve the multiple touch points needed for audiences to act.  Both marketing and PR ultimately engage many of the same audiences by the very nature of how content is found and shared online.

For PR practitioners, this provides an opportunity to show how they can cost-effectively and measurably complement and boost the overall marketing impact.  As you build your next press release, work with marketing to develop and use common campaign keywords, add SEO-relevant, measurable touch points such as links from press release content deep into the organizations website, include “buy this” buttons and add multimedia visuals and videos, all driving measurable traffic, revenue and engagement tied to shared campaign objectives.

The launch of our new Smart Marketing Page provides a tremendously cost-effective new platform to achieve marketing/PR message unity that is measurable.  It helps PR grab a larger share of the marketing voice by pushing out press release and multimedia content via the powerful Business Wire news network to media and online audiences across the country, deep into your industry and around the web.  It also posts to our EON: Enhanced Online News platform, all designed to provide easy audience engagement and SEO-boosting exposure.

The Smart Marketing Page gives marketers a branded platform that is SEO friendly with assets that are easy to share, allowing for the inclusion of polls, multimedia galleries and custom branding.  It provides both with valuable multimedia tools and measurement metrics to evaluate and adjust campaigns against marketing objectives.

Check out the Business Wire SMP and see for yourself why we’re so excited about this new platform. Then contact your local BW account executive to get started.


Social Media Press Releases, Like Color TVs, Have Been Coopted: They’re ALL Press Releases

November 1, 2011

by Sandy Malloy, Senior Information Services Specialist

Sandy Malloy, Senior Information Specialist

The term “social media press release” surfaces from time to time to describe a release crafted especially to appeal to the tweeting/blogging/posting crowd that comprises its purported target audience.  On its face, there is nothing wrong with this concept.  We advise crafting Google-friendly, keyword-rich headlines to make sure search engines can find press releases.

But using a separate label and special (sometimes truly ugly) formatting to create a press release specifically for sharing misses the point.  That idea may have had merit when introduced five years ago, but it now seems as dated as hailing color TV or air mail.    Today, EVERY press release should serve as a “social media press release” (search-engine-friendly and easy-to share press release) if the person crafting it does the job properly.

Business Wire recently revamped its news display to encourage and facilitate sharing.  Many of these features  enhance the social media value of releases without making them unreadable by a person with a normal attention span.  The most significant enhancements from a social media perspective are the prominence of sharing icons for popular sites (Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook) and the ability to share photos and videos as discrete assets.

Below we’ve listed basic tips for building effective, web-friendly, news releases that will be found, seen and shared.  Take a look:

  • Create a short but descriptive headline
  • Put the most important information in the first paragraph
  • Don’t just tell, SHOW–include multimedia
  • Know the audience you want to reach
  • Be clear about why that audience should care

I recently reviewed videos submitted by public relations students for Business Wire’s College Video contest on The Future of Public Relations. Even though the students acknowledged the importance of social media, some speculating on future technological changes, an important thread emerged from their presentations:  effective press releases rely less on technology than on the personal connections that the press release content makes with the audience.

At its best, a “social media press release” makes that connection so those reading it feel compelled to pass it along.


PR Peeps Poll: 43 Percent Cite Driving Traffic as Primary Objective in Optimizing Press Releases

November 3, 2010

by Monika Maeckle, Vice President New Media

When it comes to optimizing press releases for search engines, most PR Peeps do it to drive traffic to their websites, the October PR Peeps Poll found.  Of 240 polled, 103–that is, 43%–cited driving traffic as their primary goal in applying search engine optimization (SEO) techniques to their press releases.

Standard SEO techniques for press releases include working keywords into the headline and lead, providing deep links to your web site, adding multimedia such as logos, photos, or video, and keeping the headline under 70 characters so it is most likely to be indexed by Google news.

The poll results are not surprising given that the objective of most press releases is to tell the story of the issuer.  One of the best ways to do that is to lure people to your website so they can hear your organization’s story in your organization’s words–full text, unedited, unfiltered by journalists, bloggers or others.

The second most common reason cited for optimizing press release for search engines was to “influence Google search engine results” with 69 votes, or 29%.   Shortly behind was “manage reputation” with 36 votes, or 15%, followed by 25 respondents who don’t optimize their press releases for search engines (10%) and 7 respondents pegging “generate link clicks” as their main objective in applying SEO tactics to press releases.

The poll was conducted throughout the month of October through Twitter, Facebook, email and Business Wire’s webinars.   Details below:

What is your primary objective in optimizing your press release for search engines?

103, or 43%–Drive traffic to our website

69, or 29%–Influence Google search engine results

36, or 15%–Manage our brand and reputation

25, or 10%–I don’t optimize my press releases for search engines

7, or 3%   —  Generate link clicks

To those who participated, thanks for taking the PR Peeps Poll.   How about helping us with the next one?  The November poll launches today.   What is your company’s preferred form of social media outreach?

Thanks for the help.

240 respondents via Twitter, email and Business Wire webinar polls. Poll conducted  October 1 – 31, 2010.


Breaking News: Press Release STILL Not Dead

September 28, 2010

 

by Monika Maeckle, Vice President New Media

Will the death wish for the press release never cease?  Something about the approach of Day of the Dead each Fall seems to provoke fantasies of its demise.

A recent article in AdAge is a case in point.  Media columnist Simon Dumenco suggested that Twitter has made press releases obsolete.  “The long-suffering, much maligned press release, I’d argue, finally died this summer,” he wrote.    Dumenco pointed to Kanye West and other celebs as models of  how Twitter can replace press releases.

This just in: Press release still not dead

But then PR  people  (including yours truly)  chimed in, vigorously  rising to the press release’s defense.          

Among the comments:

 

            

“Dead?! Oh, Mr. Dumenco, I disagree.” –nravlin,    Burlington, VT

“There will always be a need for someone to encapsulate that great story, that feature, in a form which has shape and rationale and the emotional appeal which is what resonates with people’s fundamental needs.”–JustWrite, Los Angeles, CA

“Press releases aren’t dead, so let’s try to be a bit less argumentative and bit more informed, shall we?”–cameronb129, Baltimore, MD

“Yes, my industry has changed. I used to type news releases on an IBM Selectric. Now I compose them in a word processor, and embed hotlinks and keywords….the purpose of the news release itself hasn’t changed. And, luckily for my clients, neither have my results when it comes to writing and distributing news releases.”–Kathleen Hanover, Las Vegas

The discussion has churned for years.   Silicon Valley blogger Tom Foremski stirred up the nondebate back in 2006 with a now infamous rant, Die Press Release! Die! Die! Die!  I wrote about it right here almost exactly two years ago.  A Google search of the phrase “death of the press release” returns more than 19 million results.  And the AdAge article referenced above provoked more than 20 comments, a slew of blogposts, and an active discussion in the PRSA group on LinkedIn.

Love ‘em or hate ‘em, press releases are here to stay.  They continue to serve as one of the most  useful, cost effective, enduring and yes–ubiquitous–tools in the marketing and communications arsenal. We can legitimately debate what to call them:  press releases, news releases, h-releases, social media releases, social media news releases.  But that’s another blogpost.     

For more on the State of the Press Release, check out our White Paper.


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