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.


Upcoming Event: Best Practices for Online Press Releases

January 3, 2011

Upcoming Business Wire Events

Start the new year right — sign up for our upcoming webinar, “A Successful Online Press Release: From Start to Finish.”

Join Market Motive Online PR Professor Greg Jarboe and Business Wire Product Manager Joseph Miller to learn cutting-edge practices for the modern optimized press release. This workshop will cover current best practices of the online PR process: creation, distribution, and measurement. You’ll learn headline creation techniques, SEO, strategy, and multimedia best practices. Then you’ll be shown step-by step wire distribution processes and timing, and finally explore how you can measure success of your online PR campaigns. Online press releases are a powerful and often-misunderstood marketing channel for getting the word out and the links in. Join us on January 11th to learn more and keep your skills up to date.

The hourlong webinar will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 11 at 11am ET/8am PT. Go here to register.

For more upcoming local Business Wire events or to see what’s coming up in our award-winning webinar series, visit http://www.businesswire.com/portal/site/home/business-wire-events.

Follow Business Wire events on Twitter! Hash tag #bwevents


Multimedia Still Makes Better Press Releases

October 21, 2010

by Joseph Miller, EON Product Manager, Business Wire Austin

Business Wire’s distribution and technology products have evolved considerably throughout the years (we’re celebrating our 50th anniversary next year!).

With the advent of Internet distribution and other standards along with prolific creation of digital media such as photos and videos, we’ve been quick to adopt multimedia distribution solutions along with more traditional “text” distribution of our press releases.  Today, we distribute hundreds, if not thousands, of releases with attached photos or videos every week.

And while it will likely always be true that journalists do not prefer to be bombarded with attachments, a succinct release with links to relevant multimedia and related resources can be extremely useful in telling your stories.  This is especially true as newsrooms continue to evolve and journalists across the world are being asked to do more with less every day.

With that said, let’s get on to the data!  Thinking of the impact multimedia has on release performance, we recently examined data from our internal NewsTrak reports across all Business Wire releases year to date.  One metric we examined was the Top 500 releases based on “release reads”, an analog to page views, of each release.  Of the top 500, a full 23% of our Top 500 releases include multimedia (photos & videos beyond logos), while only 5% of all releases include multimedia.

From this, we can conclude that including multimedia greatly increases your chances of distributing a “hit release.”

Beyond that, we looked at the average number of release reads across all releases.  Once we segmented out releases with and without multimedia, we found that the average release with multimedia has received 1.7 times more release reads than those without.

So there you have it.  If you want to increase the odds of your press releases outperforming their peers, it’s a great idea to add multimedia.


Seven Traits of Highly Effective Press Releases

May 6, 2010

For this edition of SEO Tip Jar I wanted to look at hit releases and see what attributes they tend to have in common.  My methodology was simple and straightforward.  I defined hit releases as those getting the most release reads (or page views) and took the top 10 releases on EON: Enhanced Online News for each full month so far in 2010.  I looked at 40 releases in total.

For each release, I counted the words in the body, the date and time of release, whether the release included a photo, and so on for a total of seven main traits.

The “Average” Hit Release

Across the board, these releases were an average of 642 words, with the longest being nearly 1500 words and the shortest being just over 250 words.  The word counts were quite evenly distributed as well, and there didn’t seem to be any word count exceptionally more likely to hit than another.  In total, 58% of releases were over 500 words.

The most common day of the week to release was Thursday, which was the date of choice for 22.5% of releases.  Tuesday and Wednesday were close behind with 20% of releases each and Monday and Friday were slightly less likely at 17.5%.  Just one lonely hit was released on a Saturday and no hit releases premiered on Sundays.

Moving on to the best time of day (rounding to the nearest hour), 10am and 12pm ET were tied for the most frequent, each with 12.5% of releases.  Additionally, 40% of all the hits were released before noon, 35% between noon and 3pm, and 25% from 4pm onward.  It looks like news consumers tend to be early risers, so get your release out during the workday if you can.

Traits from Top to Bottom

  1. 87% of releases included at least one link in one form or another in the body of the release, with many of the top releases containing quite a few very descriptive links.  If your company happens to be a holdout in the release linking game, I hope this may persuade you to start adding descriptive links to your press releases.
  2. 73% of releases incorporated some special formatting within the body of the release, whether it be bold, italics, underlining or an embedded image.  In today’s xhtml world, special formatting can be an excellent way to emphasize key points of your releases, break your content into distinct sections  and provide cues for ‘skimmers’ to gather meaning as they quickly scan content for relevant information.
  3. 68% of releases had a subheadline.  This stat was the most surprising to me.  The subhead seems to have an unclear role in press release SEO, since it’s not really the headline and not really the body either.  While the robots digesting releases may not pay it much mind, it’s clear that the subhead offers valuable supplementary guidance to readers as they consider whether to continue on reading a release and possibly even share that release.
  4. 58% of releases included the company name in the release headline (Ex. Company X releases XYZ app).  Of course, this also means that 42% didn’t include the company name and still performed quite well with readers.  There is very little real estate available within your headline and if it is more than 22 words you might not make it into Google News.  With this in mind, consider the goal of the release and campaign when making your choice.  If company branding is a chief concern, including the name is probably a good idea.  However, if the focus is more product or service focused, for instance, maybe the company name should take a back seat.
  5. 35% of releases included a photo or video, with the vast majority of those including a photo only.  It’s safe to say that much fewer than 35% of all releases include multimedia, so it’s clearly a good idea to include multimedia in order to help your releases stand out.  Product photos, charts, infographics, company executives, high-resolution logos . . . the list of possibilities is nearly endless.
  6. 23% of releases encouraged social sharing or engagement within the body of the release, typically Facebook or Twitter.  All EON releases already offer social sharing chicklets covering all major social networks, so it’s not absolutely critical to give them additional emphasis within your release.  However, if social engagement is a priority or your release is geared towards “sharability”, why not give readers a bit more of a push?
  7. 5% of releases, just two, had any special characters in the headline.  So perhaps adding special characters in headlines is not a good idea.

Have a burning SEO question? Drop us a comment or talk to Joseph on Twitter @EONpr to get it answered in the next SEO Tip Jar!


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

SEO Tip Jar: Tools to Track Your SEO Success

December 21, 2009

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Within the PR world, 2009 would probably be considered the year of Social, but for many it is also the year where SEO went from yet another random acronym to a high priority for clients and agencies alike.  For many web savvy PR practitioners, press releases now serve double duty as both a communication tool and an SEO tool.  But now that you are actively trying to make an SEO impact, how are you tracking the results?

Business Wire users may already be familiar with our Press Release Measurement features included in our NewsTrak reports, but in this edition of the SEO Tip Jar I want to introduce you to some free and paid reporting tools that can supplement your existing efforts by helping you track your historical page rankings for specific URLs and keywords on your own sites.  These tools will likely evolve as we enter the era of more real-time and personalized search, but as long as measurement is important they will continue to be some of the best indicators of SEO success.

SEOMoz Rank Tracker
URL: http://www.seomoz.org/rank-tracker
Cost: Free to monitor up to 5 rankings, $79/month to monitor up to 50 rankings as part of SEOMoz Pro account

The SEOMoz Rank Tracker refreshes rankings weekly by default and can update more frequently with manual requests.  It also includes very pretty historical graphs and can export historical data to CSV for use in Excel.

This tool is only available for limited use as a standalone utility, but is well worth it as part of the SEOMoz suite of web-based tools and resources.

Raven SERP Tracker
URL: http://raven-seo-tools.com/features/serp-tracker/
Cost: $79 as part of package of tools.  Monitor up to 1,000 keywords.

Raven’s SERP (“Search Engine Result Page”) Tracker works in much the same way as the SEOMoz Rank Tracker, but automatically tracks across each major search engine (Google, Yahoo, and Bing) rather than having to add each search engine individually.

It also provides historical data as charts and CSV format for easy export.

Raven’s SEO suite also offers a large number of tools and resources that help you with your SEO efforts.

SEO Rank Monitor
URL: http://www.seorankmonitor.com/
Cost: $19/ month, monitor up to 100 keywords on a single domain

This standalone web-based tool features the same sort of functionality as the SEOMoz and Raven tools, and also features Google Analytics integration.

SEOBook.com Rank Checker
URL: http://tools.seobook.com/firefox/rank-checker/
Cost: Free Firefox plugin, requires SEOBook.com account

Unlike the other tools I’ve mentioned, this free Firefox plugin runs within your web browser rather than a dedicated server, so you can only collect data from a single computer.  It doesn’t produce any fancy graphs, but does feature CSV export for the Excel set.

Also, with its myriad of customizable options this tool is probably geared more towards the geekier among us.

All of these tools feature either free options or free trials, so what are you waiting for?  Get started tracking your site’s rankings today.


SEO Tip Jar: Getting the Most Out Of Your Links

December 3, 2009

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Looking to learn more about the art and science of Search Engine Optimization? Join Joseph Miller, EON Product Manager, for a new batch of tips from his SEO Tip Jar.

In the age of Google, links truly make the world go round and your press releases are no exception.  Every press release is an opportunity to push your story out to the world and influence how your company is seen, not only by people but search engines as well.

In the previous edition of SEO Tip Jar, I went into the why behind the benefit of links.  This article will cover some success stories and techniques on how to get more benefit from your links.

Search engines consider hundreds of factors in determining their ever-changing search rankings for pages across the web, but chief among them is link text from other sites.  Consider a site such as NBA.com, the official site of the National Basketball League.   Using an analysis tool, I can see that some of the most popular keywords linking to nba.com are: NBA, NBA.com, National Basketball Association, NBA Official Site, Basketball, and NBA Basketball.

All these keywords linking to them reinforce both the brand name and the site’s strong relevance to basketball, so it’s no surprise that NBA.com is the top result in search.

Your company or organization may not have the wide consumer reach of the NBA, but you still need to build awareness regardless of your industry or niche.  Every press release you put out is an easy opportunity to build more links and generate long-term SEO advantages for your site.

Read the rest of this entry »


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