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Leslee Goodman: How to Write a Block-Rocking SEO Press Release

You know what a press release is:

Leslee Goodman

A press release is the No. 1 tool in the publicist’s bag of tricks. A press release is what publicists send to media to let the public know what their clients are up to.

So what the hey is an SEO press release?

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. An SEO press release is one that is written so that search engines — those robots employed by Google, Yahoo!, Bing and AOL — will read and rank your press release.

You want search engines to read and rank your press release because these days online media are as important as print and broadcast.

So how do you write a press release that a robot will read and disseminate? The same way you write one for people.

Not so bad, right? Here’s why.

Although most people can talk in clear, straightforward sentences, too many of us get muddled when we’re saying something in writing. So here are eight easy tips for writing a great press release that both search engines (software) and people will want to read:

» 1. Decide what your lead is — the news you want to tell. Here are three examples from the Malibu NoseRiding Championship, one of Alchemy On Demand’s clients:

Announcing the 2013 Malibu NoseRiding Championship:
World’s first timed, co-ed noseriding competition

Outside TV signs on as Malibu NoseRiding Championship sponsor

Win a GoPro camera in Malibu NoseRiding Championship’s photo contest

Why they’re great titles:

Each of these headlines states clearly what the “news” is. Either it’s the first of something, some big name is getting involved or there’s something people can win. Any way you slice it, someone will be interested, and that, my friends, is the definition of news.

» 2. Tell who, what, when, where and why — the five Ws. It’s important in a press release to get as many of the basic facts as you can into the first paragraph.

Although “why” is the last on the list, it’s often important to say “why” even ahead of who, what, when and where. That’s because attention spans are short; you need to let people know quickly why this matters. If readers care about why, they’ll stay with you to find out who, what, where and when.

Here’s how it played out for Malibu NoseRiding Championship: “History’s first-ever timed noseriding competition, in which men and women compete as equals for cash and prizes, will take place “On One Perfect Day” in October 2013 at Malibu’s legendary Surfrider Beach.” (It’s not often that you can claim a history-making event, and when you can put it up front.)

» 3. Fill out your press release with interesting details and keywords as hyperlinks.

The Malibu Noseriding Championship (hyperlink) will bring together 64 of the world’s best longboard surfers (hyperlink) to compete for ‘most time on the nose’ in an objectively timed event. The event will raise funds and awareness for the Malibu Beach watershed ecosystem (hyperlink) — once a pristine environment named “Malibu” by the region’s first inhabitants, the Chumash.”

» 4. Include keywords in your press release. Keywords are terms that people will search for when they’re looking for a product or service you provide. If you’re a PR agency in Santa Barbara, “Santa Barbara PR agency” are most likely some of your keywords, as are “Santa Barbara,” “PR” and “public relations.” Anytime I sensibly include my keywords in my press release, I’m helping a Google bot rank it higher for those words.

If you’re the Malibu NoseRiding Championship producers, “Malibu NoseRiding Championship” is a great keyword phrase, but don’t forget that “surfing,” “noseriding,” “surf contests,” etc., can be equally valuable. Try to mix it up to get a more complete keyword profile.

Note: It can take some research and analysis to select your keywords, and we’ll say more about it in another post. For the time being, however, once you know what your company’s keywords are, use them in your press release.

» 5. Include a photograph or video. You learned it in school: “A picture’s worth a thousand words.” In the Internet age, that’s an understatement.

Photos draw readers’ attention. If you have no other image to accompany your press release, quote someone — even if it’s yourself — and include a head shot of that person. Photos make editors more likely to include your story because they know that readers will be more likely to read it.

» 6. Include contact info, including a link to your own website. That’s important for reporters, but also for readers who may want to know more about you than just the information available in your press release.

» 7. Include “boilerplate” about your company at the very end of your press release. A boilerplate is a single-spaced paragraph that describes what your company does. It provides background information for living, breathing editors, and adds credibility/authority for SEO software ‘bots. It’s also one last place to legitimately insert your keywords.

Here’s an example using Lucky Penny Press, another Alchemy On Demand client: “Lucky Penny Press is a children’s e-book publisher founded by Melissa C. Marsted, author of Pablito and the Speckled Bear. Lucky Penny Press, whose motto is ‘Nurturing the creative spirit,’ publishes books written by both adults and children. Each book has a professionally recorded audio version. As part of LPP’s cultural fabric, each book is connected to a nonprofit organization, which receives a portion of book sale proceeds. LPP sells e-books in numerous e-reader formats, including those for iPads, iPhones, Kindles, Nooks, MP3 players and any computer. Every e-book can be downloaded in either e-reader or audio format, or both.”

» 8. Use Associated Press style. The Associated Press wrote the rules for journalistic fine points followed by most written media. Since many editors will run your press release verbatim if they don’t have time, staff or the inclination to rewrite it, your job is to make it easy for them to do so.

AP style includes rules such as spelling out numbers one through nine, but using numerals for numbers 10 and above (as I just did in this sentence). This rule doesn’t apply for dates, such as July 1, 2013, for which numbers are always used, or when a sentence begins with a number, in which case the number is always spelled out.

AP style also omits the “serial comma,” which is the comma before “and” in a list longer than two. For example, “dogs, cats and ponies,” not “dogs, cats, and ponies.”

That’s it! Follow these straightforward recommendations for writing press releases, and you’ll also be writing an SEO press release in no time. Congratulations!

Leslee Goodman is the head of public relations for Santa Barbara-based Alchemy On Demand.

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