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.


Tips for Effective Searching: Knowing your Defaults Results in Better Google Search Engine Results

October 13, 2011

by Sandy Malloy, Senior Information Specialist

Sandy Malloy, Senior Information SpecialistIn our recent post on free tools for monitoring your press releases, we encouraged users to revisit their Google Alerts settings.  This valuable service was established years ago.  Lots of us signed up then and have never looked back.  We hope you’ve updated your alert settings and are getting better results after a quick check-up.

The same is true for ad hoc searching.  Nonchalant typing of a phrase into the Google search box can be tempting, but a few thoughtful tips can help you get the most out of the search experience.  Here’s a few to get you started.

1)  Know your defaults.  It’s good to know your faults, but when it comes to searching, it’s even more important to know your defaults. Many of these can be changed to improve results.

For example, a search on Google Web (http://www.google.com) defaults to “everything.”   Sounds comprehensive, right?

Not necessarily.  An automatic blanket search can have drawbacks.   The information you are seeking often gets buried beneath higher-ranking but irrelevant pages.  You  may be better served searching individual Google content areas such as news, images  or Web separately.  Also, try Advanced Search (discussed below).

The order in which results are displayed can also affect your results.  The default sort order is “relevance.”  This type of sorting  works great for non-news websites.  For news, sorting by date is often better.

Unless you specify otherwise, Google will suppress apparent duplicate content.  Again, for some types of searches, that’s fine.  If you want to find a company’s website, it’s usually the first result on the page and you don’t need anything else.  Or you may want to know that a piece of news appeared and don’t care which version of the story you see.  But what if you want to see how widely that story was disseminated?  Google will show you one version of the story unless you override duplicate suppression.

2)  Searching for exact phrases is a common strategy, but did you know you can use quotes around your phrase or dashes between the words for exact matches?

If you don’t, Google will search that combination of words in any order and not necessarily next to one another.  That can result in weird returns such as this recent search for stories about Fire Prevention Week.

I added no quotes or dashes. The third result: “The State Police forensic team, State Fire Prevention and Control, A week after the fire, owners Mike and Jim Frazee said they plan to rebuild their .…”

For common combinations of words (e.g., “Barack Obama”) it’s not that critical to be more specific.  But combinations of common words can spit out irrelevant results that nevertheless rank high because all the words are present.

3)  Make Advanced Search your friend.  It will allow you to put in phrases without worrying about the format (see #2 above), combine words and phrases (hint:  a phrase using a dash, e.g. fire-prevention-week, can be used as a “word” in the advanced search form) and even allow you to narrow your search using other parameters such as source name or domain.  The domain option in Google Web is a great way to find information from non-commercial sources.  For instance, you can find health-related information coming from educational (.edu) or government (.gov) sources, or nonprofits (.org)  In News, I like to specify my time frame as well.


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.


Send Your Press Release on a High Quality Site

May 17, 2011

Conversations around Google’s Panda update have continued nonstop since Google announced the change in late February.  At the time, Google stated that the change affected 11.8% of their search queries.

That means that one out of every eight-and-a-half searches returns a different result from pre-Panda days–which could work for or against your website.   Third party data from companies around the world suggests some websites have been horrifically effected while others have emerged unscathed.

Losing sites are claiming traffic deficits of 20% – 90% or more.  Since Google’s update was so profound for many sites, the company has issued advice on “building high quality sites” in the form of questions which form part of the Google mindset.

As we’ve stated previously, Business Wire’s performance has improved since the Panda update. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the questions posed by Google and how Business Wire stacks up.

Would you trust the information presented in this article?  Is the site a recognized authority on its topic? Would you recognize this site as an authoritative source when mentioned by name?

The Business Wire brand is synonymous with press releases and wire services.  We celebrate our 50th anniversary October 2, our website has been online since 1996 (it’s come a long way), and we can count a significant number of the Fortune 500 among our current and former clients.

Does the article provide original content or information, original reporting, original research, or original analysis?

Press releases are new news by nature.  Every day we push out hundreds to thousands of press releases with new information about companies and organizations.

Would you expect to see this article in a printed magazine, encyclopedia or book?

It’s no secret that press releases often provide ideas, sources or supporting facts for news stories across all mediums.  As journalists are expected to do more and more with fewer resources, the value of press releases to the story process is only increasing.

Does this article have an excessive amount of ads that distract from or interfere with the main content?

Press releases hosted on BusinessWire.com never contain advertisements.  We don’t want anything on the page to compete with client news.

Does this article have spelling, stylistic, or factual errors? How much quality control is done on content? Was the article edited well, or does it appear sloppy or hastily produced?

We have teams of editors around the world that prepare each and every release we receive from our clients, including proofing for grammar and spelling.  In addition, we distribute releases that are written by professional communicators with expert level knowledge or access to key personnel at their companies and clients.

Branding and search are converging.  Take a deep look at the advice in Google’s post when you are considering how to distribute your news, or even how to improve your company’s websites.  Where you distribute your news is more important than ever.


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.


SEO 104: Press Release SEO Final Exam

September 20, 2010

Welcome to the final edition (for now) of our SEO Q&A mini-series.  If you haven’t yet, I recommend taking a few minutes and reading through the previous posts: SEO 101, SEO 102 and SEO 103.

If you’re the impatient type, feel free to go straight to the Final Exam.  Otherwise, continue on to our final batch of Q&A culled from our free webinar series.

Should we host the full text of our press releases on our website or simply link to wire release?

Many of our clients host a copy or version of their release on their own website along with distributing over the wire and I don’t see anything wrong with doing so.  However, I would recommend publishing your release on your site at the same time as you distribute over the wire.  This can be easily accomplished using an online newsroom.

Also, some SEO savvy companies have experimented with publishing significantly different versions of their releases on their site in order to provide search engines with varied content to digest and perhaps be relevant for different searches.  You could try changing headlines, keywords, writing style, release length or a combination of all of the above and see how your releases perform.

When optimizing our releases, should we focus on more commonly used (and competitive) keywords or focus more specific keywords that may see more targeted searches?

This is a difficult question to consider in a vacuum.  To truly answer it, you will probably need to coordinate with other people, departments or agencies that you work with and see if you can come together to gauge the relative value of different keywords to your business.

For instance, you can look at your web analytics or search marketing tools to see which keywords drive the most conversions.

Or you can look at reputation or brand related keywords and use SEO analysis tools to determine roughly how much work you’d need to do to make a dent in the rankings.

You could use tools to guestimate which keywords are sending traffic to competitors and try to catch up with their rankings.  You could even see which articles and blog posts are consistently cited by journalists covering your field and see if you can outperform them with fresher or better data.

The trouble is, you’ll probably want to work with whoever you need to in order to do or some of these tasks, weigh the apples against oranges, consider your goals and take a direction based on you or your team’s own judgement…but that’s the fun of it!

Our press releases often open with a standard company introduction.  Is this bad for SEO performance?

Possibly.  Conventional SEO wisdom dictates that search engines give greater consideration to text higher than text further down.  The first 100 words are of particular importance and can possibly be used as your meta description, even if one is already provided.

I would recommend moving your company introduction down to the company profile or About section of your releases.

Should I always include my company name in the headline?

Press releases distributed over the wire are sent through various platforms such as the AP, Dow Jones and Bloomberg which automatically scan headlines for company name mentions, so if you are concerned at all with being properly classified and indexed across the board you should definitely incorporate your company name into all your release headlines.

That doesn’t mean your headline must start with your company name though.  The first words of your headline are arguably the most valuable keyword real estate in your release, so consider incorporating your most important keywords here if you can.

Okay, you’ve made it through the entire course.  Now it’s time for your final exam (no cheating!).  Please let us know how you did in the comments.


SEO 103: Advanced Press Release SEO Questions From Our Webinars

August 12, 2010


Welcome to the third edition of our webinar Q&A series.  If you missed the first two posts, please take a moment to read SEO 101 and SEO 102 so you’ll be prepared for the final exam at the end of SEO 104.

Ready?  Here’s the third selection of questions straight from attendees of our press release optimization webinars.

Since your broad company keywords are not always the same as specific keywords for a particular press release (such as a product release) – which should you include?

Like many strategic questions, there’s really no right answer for this.  Every organization or agency crafting press releases or any other content on the web needs to weigh short term  vs. long term goals to determine their ideal mix.  If the short term campaign is the main focus, I’d recommend focusing keywords in the headline and top of release, while optimizing your company boilerplate to ensure your long term keywords are always present in your releases.

SEO is more a marathon than a sprint. Commitment is key if you want to win in the long term.

Is it possible for optimized releases to rank higher than another company or website that is currently “buying” a specific keyword through Google AdWords?

Sadly, it’s a common and strangely persistent misconception that advertising on Google AdWords has an effect on “organic” SEO rankings.  It’s simply not true.  Here’s a direct quote from a high level Google employee dispelling this myth.

“The most common misconception is that you have to pay Google to get listed in the organic listings.  Not true.  Google crawls web sites for free.  Another misconception is that the [AdWords] listings will help your organic search engine rankings.  Not true.  PPC has no affect on your “editorial search results.””

-Matt Cutts, Principal Engineer at Google, speaking with USA Today.

How do subheads factor into releases? Are they seen as headlines or body text?

Subheads are not included in the title tag and are thus seen more as body text within the release. That said, they are a great location to incorporate keyword phrases you can’t squeeze into your headline.

Do embedded images help with SEO?

Absolutely.  Optimizing images is a great opportunity to increase the reach of your news release.  Google Images receives a massive amount of traffic and users typically dig deeper into results to find what they are looking for, since image results can often be much more subjective than standard search results.

To optimize an image, make sure it has a clear file name which accurately describes the image and  incorporates a keyword as well.  Add a unique description for your image as well.  For more information, here’s a video from a Google Product Manager discussing some Image SEO best practices.

We currently host our press releases as PDF files. Is this bad strategy for search engine performance?

Without a doubt, I would recommend never hosting press releases solely as PDF files on your website.  While search engines are usually able to digest the text within PDF files, they typically rank very poorly in search results.  I believe that this is because search engines are constantly trying to provide the best experience and most useful information to all users, and different browsers and operating systems all handle PDF files in different ways.  That is confusing for the end user.  For instance, Internet Explorer may show PDFs in the browser, while Firefox might open up Acrobat, and Chrome might download it.

If you are required to provide PDFs of your press releases, please host a text version of your release as well or link to the wire version.  If you use our services, you can link to the EON hosted press release and know it will be online for the long term.

That wraps up SEO 103.  I hope you’ve been taking notes, because there will be a test at the end of the next post.  If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me via email or Twitter.


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