5 Things to Stop Doing to Your Press Releases in 2014

March 14, 2014

By Luke O’Neill, Business Wire Editor

In the fast-paced, deadline-driven world of public relations it’s easy to rely on tired, ineffective practices merely to churn out press release after press release. But you’re better than that, right? Folks, the time to adapt and innovate is here. Empower your clients and yourself to be better, and think outside the press release template box. In this age of bite-sized “content” and short attention spans, it is vital to relay your message as efficiently as possible in order to activate as many brand fans as possible. 5 things to STOP going to your press release in 2014 stop sign After all, the press release is no longer a staid form of communication. Today’s press releases are professional yet also personable and conversational. Today’s releases are designed to educate and activate core and secondary audiences. Are yours? Not sure? Check out the list below. Here are the top five things today’s PR professionals must stop doing in press releases in order to be successful in 2014:

1. Stop writing long headlines. Today’s press release headline needs to be accurate and concise. The headline, above all, should catch the attention of intended audiences, and get them to read your release. Headlines particularly need strong verbs and should be devoid of adjectives. Instead, try writing a shorter headline – we suggest about 70 characters long. Don’t forget to include the company names in your headline. After all, it doesn’t make much sense to issue news and leave your name out of the most visible part of the release.

2. Stop over-stylizing. Too many bolds, italics, underlines, super and subscripts and even too many hyperlinks can turn a press release into an eyesore. Too many styles are hard on the eyes; they simply make your release more difficult to read. Use these styles sparingly and usually for emphasis, and watch the readability index for your release increase.

3. Stop overloading releases with keywords. Once upon a time, it was important to cram “relevant” keywords into a press release to appease the search engine optimization gods. Now? Not so much. Search engine algorithms have changed to reward good writing made for human consumption while also satisfying the technical side of web visibility. Business Wire issued a very helpful guide this year on press release optimization (download it here: http://go.businesswire.com/guide-to-press-release-optimization). This guide includes 10 steps to create a better release in 2014.

4. Stop using only embedded links. Press releases should incorporate a mix of spelled-out URLs and embedded links. Spelled-out URLs travel further, i.e. they can be read if you print out the story or seen in an email if there’s no HTML setup. When it comes to links, you want to be strategic. Use links sparingly, and of course don’t forget to test them before distributing your story.

5. Stop writing so much text. News releases, like actual news articles, ought to get to the point quickly. Stop writing long passive sentences and long-winded quotes and focus on shorter sentences, shorter paragraphs, bullets and images to make your point.  Writing press releases is an art form all unto itself. The fastest way to master the art of crafting an actionable, successful press release is to focus on clear, succinct writing and smart imagery. Try it and see for yourself!


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.


Editor’s Corner – November Edition

November 16, 2010

With 31 bureaus around the world and more newsrooms than all of our competitors combined, Business Wire is proud to provide local expertise and superior service, backed by the most accurate editors in the world. In Editor’s Corner, we ask some of our best to chime in on how to get the most out of your press release, based on their years of experience in the industry.

A Tip from Business Wire: Own Your Headline!

by Christina Jahnke, Editor, Business Wire/Chicago

Think your release will stand out in a crowd? If you don’t own your headline, think again! Hundreds of headlines scroll across the Business Wire website (and the multitude of feeds we reach) on a daily basis. How is it possible to draw crowds to you, when the only tools you have are words? It’s simple, really: Choose words wisely.

Having run the Chicago Marathon over Columbus Day weekend, I was entertained and inspired by the many spectator signs on course. Unfortunately, there were so many signs and only a passing moment to read them. The slogans that took hold were clear, witty and, most importantly, could be read inside three seconds. Anything longer and I missed the punch line en route to the next aid station. This is a great analogy for those scrolling feeds. Eyes are moving fast over those headlines. If you don’t stand out, you may be passed over. Take a tip to own your headline!

Here are three to consider:

1.  Include your organization’s name.
Ownership implies a name, and that is perhaps the most important element. Don’t assume the public knows who you are, no matter how big you are. These press releases are the story of your organization on the Web. Give your company the recognition it deserves! Additionally, those who search by your company’s name will have a way to find your release on the Internet.

2.  Be concise.
The three-second rule fits perfectly. Be brief in summarizing the content of your press release. Longer headlines are less likely to be picked up by search engines. Be concise. Less is more.

3.  Stay on point.
You have something important to say. While it’s good to be concise, don’t let the effort to be succinct overshadow the message. Read and re-read your headline. Are you staying on point or trying to fit too much in too small a space?

The headline is the first appearance of your message to the world. Own it, and help your release go the distance!

-Christina Jahnke, Editor, Business Wire Chicago


Five Tips for More Search Friendly Headlines

October 29, 2009

by Joseph Miller, EON: Enhanced Online News Product Manager, Business Wire San Antonio

I recently wrote a post that covered some key search engine ranking factors and how they apply to your press releases.  Today I thought I would dive into one of those key factors: the page title.  In the context of press releases, your headline serves double duty as your page title and is thus the most important signpost for steering searchers and readers towards your content.

Using these simple tips can help you get the most out of your headlines and reap benefits for your organization.

1.  Give ’Em What They Want
When crafting your headline and release, it’s important to think like a searcher.  Look at past release reports or your web analytics to see what keywords tend to bring readers to your unique content and build on that.  If you don’t have access to your company’s web analytics, try to request a report from your web team with top search referral terms.

2.  Emphasize Your Most Important Keywords
Once you have some quality keywords to choose from, pick one or two that are most important to you and focus your headline on those.  You don’t have a lot of room to work with, so don’t try to work too many keywords into your headline just for the sake of it.

3.  Keep It Brief
Speaking of room to work with, Google generally displays only the first 63 characters (letters and spaces) of release headlines in search results, so make sure to get your key information across as concisely as possible.  If you are going to go beyond the limit, always make sure that your headline reads well when truncated.  That’s how searchers will encounter your news. If it doesn’t make sense, they are much less likely to click through and read the rest what you have to say.

Here’s an example. This is how the headline of this release from 977music.com reads on EON: Enhanced Online News:
977image1
And here’s how the title reads, as displayed in Google search results.  Note that the headline’s been shortened, but it still conveys key information:
977image2
4.  Choose: Descriptive or Catchy
It can be very difficult to be both descriptive and catchy at the same time, and both techniques have their benefits.  Descriptive headlines may be more relevant to more people and tend to work in more keywords for SEO, but catchy headlines might be better ‘linkbait’ and more likely to be shared via social networks or blogs.

5.  Keep At It
Search engines like Google and Bing are here to stay and securing your place in search results is an ongoing effort.  Incorporating press release SEO techniques can provide both short term benefits and serve as part of a long term strategy to build your presence in search.

For more press release optimization tips, visit EON: Enhanced Online News.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 38,255 other followers

%d bloggers like this: