80% of Press Release Headlines Too Long for Google, According to New Study

February 14, 2012

by Amy Yen, Marketing Specialist, Business Wire Dallas

Are you optimizing your press release headlines? For the second straight year, our friends at Schwartz MSL Research Group have put together a study on the SEO of press release headlines using data from Business Wire releases. As we’ve previously noted, Google only displays roughly 65 characters in their search results and therefore releases with headlines 70 characters or under are best optimized for SEO.

For this year’s study, Schwartz looked at the headlines of more than 16,000 Business Wire press releases from 2011. Of those, only 19.5% of all releases had headlines with 65 characters or fewer and just 23.7% were at 70 characters or fewer. This suggests that the great majority of press releases do not have headlines fully optimized for search.

The average headline length is 123 characters, which is the same as last year’s results. The study also looked at buzzword usage and completed a geographic headline face-off to determine which cities hosted the SEO-savviest press release headline writers. You can download the full report here.

Check out more press release optimization tips here. You can also read up on why your press releases might not make it into Google News.


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.


Short rules: Most Press Release Headlines too Long for Google News

October 26, 2010

When it comes to press release headlines, short is better, a research brief by Schwartz Communications found recently.  

Most SEO specialists suggest headline lengths of 65-70 characters in order to pass muster for inclusion in Google News.  Yet 77% of  16,000 Business Wire press releases reviewed by Schwartz exceeded that recommendation.   Here’s how headline character counts broke down:

23% were 65-70 characters: IDEAL

24.3%  70-100 characters

24.8% 101-150 characters

15.1% 151-200 characters

10.8% 201-300 characters

2% 300+ characters 65

In a “headline showdown,” Schwartz reviewed datelines to determine which cities hosted the SEO savviest press release headline writers. “Based on our analysis, Chicago, New York and Philadelphia produce the highest percentage of news releases that are under the 66 character limit,” the report found.

Schwartz also took a look at buzzwords in headlines and found that 86% of news release headlines are buzzword free.

You can download the report on the Schwartz website.


Getting into Google News: All Things Press Release Podcast

June 25, 2010

Getting your press release into Google News is a priority for those who issue press releases.  While we go to great lengths behind the scenes to ensure that happens, the structure of your press release also plays a huge role.

In this edition of the All Things Press Release podcast, our EON Product Manager Joseph Miller provides simple tips and tricks for improving your Google News performance.

Please take a listen and let us know what you think.

If you like what you hear, subscribe via RSS or iTunes. You can enjoy all our podcasts by clicking on the All Things Press Release tab at the top of this page (third tab from left).

Have ideas for a future podcast? Please let us know. Email blog_group@businesswire.com or connect with us on Twitter at http://twitter.com/businesswire


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

Google Comments Offers New Opportunities for Communicators

October 30, 2007

 Google News 

One of the goals of our Business Wired blog is to provide readers with better tools for communicating their messages in the ever-changing media landscape. Today we are happy to highlight a service we’ve been following with much interest that we and our friends in Google News thought would be of value to Business Wire clients.  

Earlier this year Google News launched a comments feature that allows individuals or organizations that are mentioned in news articles to add their own comments. Comments are then served up alongside those articles on Google News.  

Josh Cohen, Google News’ Product Manager explains: “Google News has always tried to present as many sources as possible to give our users a wide spectrum of views on the news.  Comments is an experimental feature that we believe will continue this goal by letting readers see exactly what people in a story think about current news.  We think this will help us increase the number of diverse and meaningful points of view on the news.”  

So how is this different from any comment section or discussion board? Well, on Google News only persons or organizations who are specifically mentioned in the story can comment. Google News then contacts the person submitting the comment or others in their organization to verify their identity. As a result, each story is expected to have only a handful of highly relevant comments that give readers a more in-depth look at topics in the news. Cohen adds: “their insight will both help readers understand the news, and cover views that may not be well-published or well-understood within the current coverage”. 

For PR professionals and marketers, this is an excellent opportunity to provide greater detail or clarifications when their press releases receive media pick-up. Also, it creates a new channel to follow-up on a press release with updates, success stories, or links to other relevant stories. Finally, it is another form of reaching out to your audience and participating in the conversation. While these comments differ from commenting on blogs or engaging in social networks, they can be a valuable part of the new communications mix.  

So how can you comment on a story that is relevant to your company or client?  According to the instructions on Google News you should send an email to news-comments@google.com containing the following information:

  1. Your comment (hyperlinks allowed, but no attachments)
  2. A link to the story you are commenting on
  3. Your contact details: name, title, and organization
  4. A way to verify your email address

Verification is one of the central components of Google’s comments feature. Therefore it is highly recommended to provide as much information that Google News staff can use (for example adding contact details of persons who can verify your credentials, or, if you are submitting a comment on behalf of a client, demonstrating that you are indeed authorized to speak for them). Keep in mind that Google News will not edit comments once the sender is verified, so they will be posted exactly as you emailed them. 

So the next time your press release or related articles are shown on Google News and you feel you have more valuable input to share, this can be a great new outlet. Please look at the Google Comments instructions page for more details. 

As usual, we’re happy to hear what you think. If you’ve already used Google Comments or would like to share your own thoughts about it, feel free to comment below.


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