There are two things that bother me when I read a story on small business at major international or national news publications. Primarily Missing links. That is, the failure of the news organization to link to the business – whether they are reviewing a product, quoting the CEO or discussing acquisitions, investments or scandals. There is no question that a sizable portion of the readership will go to a search engine and seek out a link to the business website or the named persons bio or the product page. From a user experience perspective, why not make that simple with a link? Why make the reader do the extra work of jumping to a search engine and formulating a good query to find it themselves? Why do news organizations fail to do this? Greed for time spent per visit – they want to keep the visitor on their own site and entice them to click around for more pageviews.
I said there are two things that bother me, the second is home page links. When reading a review of a book or a movie or a product, I want a link that takes me directly to that product, not the home page, not a category, but a product detail page! Why would you irritate your readers by linking to a page that requires further on-site searches once you’ve clicked through? Deep links are the only thing that make any sense at all for user experience. There is no point in linking to a home page of a retailer – none. In a story or interview with a CEO, linking to their bio on the company web site is the only place that makes any sense. (One could argue for a LinkedIn profile or a Crunchbase company page if the company page is thin.) However, the home page is pointless unless the story is speaking very broadly overall about that business.
Multiple consulting clients this week are looking for advice on PR. So rather than repeating the same advice to each of them, I’m blogging an outline for effective PR SEO. I’ve done this internally for two major enterprise sites and have distributed press releases online for a half-dozen companies while consulting with them on headlines and advising for optimal linking from those press releases. Below is SEO guidance on best SEO practices for press releases and PR, priority ranked.
- Subject First Headline – It’s a common for those not paying attention to SEO for their press release to bury the lede of a headline by putting the keyword phrase at the end of a 15 word release headline. Move it to the front, within the first 4 words. This headline will be repeated word for word on a couple dozen sites that simply reproduce your press release headline on their story ‘as-is’ without edits. Regardless of how skilled the business reporter is, they are busy and will often use any work already done. Do the SEO work by using your keyword phrase at the front of that headline. This sometimes means your business name goes near the end of the headline – it’s OK really.
- First Sentence Keyword Phrase – If you pay attention to the keyword phrase only once in a press release, it should be in the first sentence or two. This is true of blog posts, social media posts, standard page descriptive content and product descriptions. That phrase very likely has a product, event or professional service associated within two or three words and each of those things often has a landing page associated with the phrase. This is your opportunity to hyperlink to that landing page within the press release. Be certain to use a distribution service that makes it possible to embed hyperlinks in the online version of the release. What you link to, reporters, reviews and visitors will link to.
- Pull Quote – There is a standard of including a sentence or two in every press release from a member of the company executive team or software developer or product manufacturer rep, which should include your main keyword phrase within it. This will be bolded and put in a blockquote in large type in nearly every site that picks up your story, so keywords count doubly here.
- 300 to 500 Words in Length – Standard practice has been for press releases to be a single page long. That’s typically up to 500 words, which is a nice length for SEO as well. Don’t include in that word count the “About [Company Name]” section and certainly don’t include the legalese required of public companies in that word count (see below). Two to three paragraphs of concise text should be enough to tell the world about your exciting executive hire (bio page link) or shiny new product launch (product detail page link) or amazing software release (download link or whitepaper).
- About [Company Name]: section is routinely appended at the end of a press release to give brief company outline and background and this is the only place you should ever include a link to the home page – but I’ll argue even there it might make more sense to deep link in this section to important pages other than the home page. Consider linking to the “Team” page with management bios and photos or best yet, your company “Mission” page – each of which could use more links and will provide more context to most visitors coming from a press release.
Company Press Room or PR Page
Once your press release produces coverage in online news media or prominent industry sites, link out from your “Press Buzz” section or “Press Room” section to the preferred external coverage – again deep link out directly to your story using an excerpt of the first few sentences from that news or blog, linking from their headline. If you have a press room on your own site, reproduce your press releases in full there (be sure to link internally to the product, event or services pages just as in the external version of that press release). If no press room on your site, use the blog to discuss industry coverage and give some behind-the-scenes details and your perspective on what your latest innovation means to company progress. The link out to coverage signals to search engines that the news is relevant, important and timely – and gets the page crawled and linked to.
Permanent URLs No Vanity URLs or Redirects – Marketing teams sometimes create a easy to recall vanity URLs or Vanity Domains to bounce to a longer or hard to remember landing page. This is risky, can break due to tech updates and is sometimes forgotten in new site updates and relaunches. Where possible, use permanent URL rewrites or create actual short URL landing pages instead of risking future loss of links to your 1) Annual event pages, 2) Contest & sweepstakes pages or 3) Black Friday sale landing pages. All of these should have permanent URLs that are never changed. Those pages should simply rotate content – keep the permanent URL and replace dates in titles. Using this permanent landing page every time means constantly building links with each new event or sale or sweepstakes.
Watch out for Punctuation & Symbols – I’ve seen over a dozen failed links in press releases on major announcements due to commas or periods following a domain name. Some sites produce 404 Not Found errors if a period or comma is appended to certain links. Resist the urge to follow your link with a period or include links in compound sentences using a comma right behind a link. Punctuation, line breaks and symbols all break URLs – Also be aware of copyright © and trademark ™ symbols in titles because they don’t reliably reproduce in all content management systems and can lead to 404 Not Found errors on important press releases or news.
Social Media Important Element – Once a story has been picked up by media, it’s important to share the stories with your social media followers to help expand the audience to influencers and brand advocates. They will often make something go viral if they find it relevant to their interests. Repeating the same posts across all social channels means retweets, shares and engagement beyond expected business channels.
Nearly every company makes the news from the work of effective PR teams or online Press Release distribution, but few realize the power of incorporating SEO elements into that activity. News links lend legitimacy, strong validation to your brand and can contribute to inbound links from authority sites that increase search visibility to your marketing efforts when well done.
Mike Valentine has consulted with both small business startups and Com Score top 20 ranked businesses and news organizations during his 15+ years as SEO Consultant.