Press Releases and Branding: Build Your Brand for Better SEO

April 19, 2011

With two billion active users and 130 million domains on the web, indexing the torrent of information is a challenge for large search engines and impossible for individuals. One way to distinguish your company or organization is to build a trusted brand within your niche. Press releases, done well, can play a role here.

Search engines have learned that brands are important to people making decisions in an information surplus environment and are seeking indicators of quality. Understanding how search engines judge and evaluate brands is imperative to building the trust that results in visibility.

So what makes a search friendly brand?

According to SEOMoz and Search Engine Journal as well as our own research and experience, top search “Brand” indicators include:

Company Name, Product and Service Searches   If people are searching for your company, product or service by name, it tells search engines you’re known within your niche. Measure this by checking search referrals on keyword variations of your name with tools like Google Analytics. Compare the data with what Google reports on their keyword tool. Make sure to always use your company name in press release headlines to increase brand exposure.

Media Coverage  Press release campaigns that boost coverage work double duty as a media relations tool, and by providing content to search engines, lifting brand value.

Brand Name” Links   If you see a link on a webpage to CNN, you probably know that click is going to take you to news on CNN.com. If search engines see a large number of brand links relative to keyword links in context, it may lead them to assume your brand is strong. These clicked-on links are viewed by search engines as votes of confidence.

Social Pages   At the least, your company should have a registered presence on the main social networking sites: Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.   Even better, lock down your company name across the social web. Try a service like Knowem.com or better yet, interns.

Online Reviews   Check review sites such as CitySearch, Angieslist or Yelp to see if reviews exist for your company. Try to respond if appropriate. Set up Google Alerts and Twitter alerts to monitor for new reviews. Search engines often aggregate reviews from many sources on their “place” pages and positive reviews can be a good brand indicator, especially for local businesses.

Partners & Customers    Well known brands usually don’t exist in a vacuum and have public partnerships as well as testimonials on their websites. Partnerships and customers that make you proud should be prominently displayed in a descriptive manner digestible by search engines. Think Apple & AT&T… or Apple & Verizon.

Offices and Storefronts    Most established brands have offices or storefronts of some kind. Make sure yours are current and prominently listed on your sites in a way that can be digested by search engines.

Local & Business Directories   Once your locations are listed, make sure to let the search engines know by adding or updating local listings directly to Google, Bing & Yahoo. Don’t forget the countless local business directories. GetListed provides links and advice for some top national directories.

Overwhelmed?   Start by taking inventory of where your brand stands with search engines by collecting what you know. From there, determine strengths and weaknesses and where to focus your energy. Remember, search algorithms are opaque and complicated. Experiment and measure what you can to see what works.

With sustained effort, your brand is bound to benefit. Good luck building your brand!


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.


Do special characters in press release headlines matter?

April 9, 2010

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Judging from my recent experiment, they do.

For years, conventional wisdom suggested  avoiding special symbols such as ® (registered trademark) and ™ (trademark) in press release headlines.  The assumption has been that search engines and downstream sites to which releases are pushed have difficulty digesting words with symbols attached and your release may be misconstrued.

With that idea in mind, I conducted a small experiment to see the present state of how search engines are actually interpreting releases with symbols in headlines.

Results suggest that search engines are getting smarter about handling symbols and it’s still best to leave symbols out of your headlines whenever possible.  Instead, focus on including keywords in your headlines and properly formatting your release for Google News.

For my experiment I chose the two most common symbols, ® (registered trademark) and ™ (trademark), selecting ten releases including each symbol in the headline.  For each release, I conducted two searches on Google, Yahoo and Bing based on headline content–one with the symbol and one without.  Since it’s safe to assume most searchers are not including the symbols unless copy-pasting, this would tell me if the search engines treated the queries differently and how “searchable” these types of releases are.  I also performed searches with ten releases from the same period with headlines that didn’t include special symbols to serve as a control group.

Here’s what I found.  This chart shows whether the search engine provided the same results whether or not symbols were included in the search.  For example, searching for Acme™ versus searching for Acme.

Identical Search Results Returned With and Without Special Characters

You can see that Google does the best job overall.  Even the single instance when Google’s results were not the same, there was only a very minor difference that could be attributed to Google experimenting with different search result presentation.  Bing is not far behind, doing even better than Google with TM symbol searches.  Yahoo is the real outlier here.  Yahoo actually showed zero results on 7 out of the 10 searches with TM symbols, just a handful of results on two searches, and was the same only once.  That’s not to say that releases with TM symbols were not found; the lesson here is that Yahoo cannot handle people including the TM symbols in their searches.

Another way to confirm this strange behavior is by searching each search engine for the symbol alone.

Google Trademark Symbol Search

Bing Trademark Symbol Search

Google and Bing ignore the symbol, but Yahoo seems to interpret it as the letters TM and has many disparate results on the first page.

Yahoo Trademark Symbol Search

The chart below shows the “success” of each search.  I defined success as finding the release content within the first page of search results when searching for headline terms.

Search "Success" for Press Releases

You can see that every search engine does an admirable job finding the releases, especially when a TM symbol or no symbols are in the headline.  However, if you are concerned about performing as well as possible in Yahoo and Bing, the safest thing is still to exclude symbols if possible.


How Many Links are Enough? It Depends: All Things Press Release Podcast

February 26, 2010

We talk a lot about links in press releases at Business Wire.  Why?

Because links are important signposts for both readers and search engine robots.   They can help with your page rank, drive traffic to your website, amplify your message and help increase engagement and understanding.

In this edition of  the  All Things Press Release podcast,  our EON Product Manager Joseph Miller shares insights about how links work and why it’s important to be judicious about their inclusion in press releases.

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


SEO Tip Jar: Common Questions about Press Release Link Practices

October 16, 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.

Links are the currency of the web and are quickly becoming more important to savvy PR practitioners and communicators.  Links help determine where you rank in searches and drive qualified traffic to your website, blog, and social presences such as Twitter.

Press releases can be a great source of links for your company, and we get questions all the time on how to best employ them in practice.   This post will address some of the most common questions and dig into the why behind linking techniques.

Q: Do links going to a specific page on my website hurt my homepage’s Google ranking?

This is a pretty big question with regards to SEO and search rankings.  The short answer is no.

Links to specific pages on your website will not hurt the ranking of your homepage for relevant search terms; they will simply boost the ranking of that specific page and the site as a whole.  There are two big advantages to linking to a specific page within a website rather than the homepage.

First off, company homepages are often more general in focus, appeal to all possible audiences, and cover a broad range of topics.  A page deeper within a website is usually more specific and will more quickly direct relevant readers (and potential customers) towards completing your desired actions such as filling out a form, signing up for newsletter, calling to inquire, requesting a brochure, or ordering online.

Secondly, deeper pages often hold greater appeal to search engines for more specific long tail search queries.  So while your company’s homepage may be better optimized for more general search queries (ex. ‘online university’, ‘pet food’) pages deeper within your site will be geared towards more specific search queries (ex. ‘accredited online MBA program’, ‘organic cat food’).

Experiment with different strategies depending on the release content and campaign to see what works best for you.

Q: Are more links always better?  How many links are appropriate for my release?

Less is often more when it comes to the number of links on a page.

Google assigns each site and individual page on the Internet a certain amount of power called PageRank (often referred to as “Google Juice”).  Google states that they “use more than 200 signals, including our patented PageRank™ algorithm, to examine the entire link structure of the web and determine which pages are most important.”  Your PageRank can range from 0 to 10, and when another site such as your Business Wire press release links to you, that site passes PageRank to you.  Calculating PageRank is somewhat complicated, but it essentially boils down to adding up the quality and quantity of links pointing at each page of your site.  Tools including the free Google toolbar can give you an estimate of your score.

Within a page, each link passes an equal share of PageRank to outbound links as the image below illustrates.

Press Release Link Juice

So while you can include a hundred links in a release, you will likely be diluting their individual value.  It’s often a better idea to prioritize and judiciously link only to your most important destination pages.

Q: What text should I use in my links?

Along with PageRank or similar criteria used by Bing or Yahoo, search engines also use link anchor text to help determine the relevancy of a page.  Employing descriptive anchor text is a great opportunity to tell search engines more about you and direct more relevant traffic your way.  When deciding what to use, try to think like a searcher.  Create a list of search terms that you would expect to bring people to your site and use some of the terms you come up with.  Try not to settle on links such as ‘Click Here’ whenever possible.

I hope this post helps you craft a linking strategy in your future press releases.  Please let me know if you have any linking questions or comments.


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