Put Your Press Release on the Web

Maximize your presence with a press release that'll get picked up by search engines.

By Mark Nowlan

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Got news? News releases have forever been recognized as an effective way for a business to get the word out about business developments, product offerings and events. A well-timed and effectively distributed release has the ability to reach an entire business's audience on a local, regional, national or even global level.

Yet, while news releases are a proven means of generating media coverage, business opportunities, investor interest and overall "buzz," some still perceive them as a "situational" marketing tool, the life of which is limited to just days. Happily, news releases--the workhorse of public relations and marketing--have kept up with the technology of the times. Today, news releases leverage web technology with imbedded audio, video, links, expert profiles and more. As importantly, with search engine optimization, the life of a news release can now be extended from just days to months and even longer, attracting much desired attention to your business and product offerings.

News & Search: Perfect Together
Like most other forms of communication today, effective news release distribution leverages the power of the internet to tell your story via thousands of websites and other news collection points around the world, making your message accessible by any potential customer, business partner or investor with an internet connection. Some web destinations for your release are more important than others, however.

Enter the search engine. Whether it's Google, Yahoo! or MSN, the search engine has become the primary starting point for most web users seeking to buy, invest or investigate nearly everything. This trend has elevated search engine "real estate" to one of the most desirable and hotly contested locations on the web.

There are two primary ways to get to the top of search engine results: paid search and natural search. Paid search is when a company pays for the positioning on the top of the results page. Natural search relies on specific optimization techniques that bring an item to the top of these results with non-paid links. Optimizing news releases offers a simple and economically attractive means to get placement within natural search results.

There are a few basic elements to search-engine optimization: keywords, content and structure.

The Word Game
By using keywords that relate directly to the news within the release and avoiding jargon, your news release is more likely to be found by active searchers in the top of search results. Consider using words and phrases that aren't only relevant to your company, but also speak to the market and industry as a whole. To get started, you should research some of the keywords associated with your industry and business. Websites like digitalpoint.com offer some tools to help you explore keywords.

For example, a greeting-card company with a new line of humorous cards would be wise to use phrases and words such as "humorous holiday cards," "cards that make people laugh," or simply "funny greeting cards" in addition to the company and product name. Employing commonly used terminology will serve to direct the release to the widest possible audience.

The headline and opening paragraph of the press release should also use straightforward, action-oriented language, because most search results offer a quick one- or two-sentence summary in the return field, and most people decide within one or two sentences whether they're going to continue reading. This is good form for new release writing anyway.

Create an Action
Next, make sure the release directs the reader to take some action. This could be an opportunity to get more information on a product, take advantage of a discount or limited offer, or, ideally, complete a purchase. Remember, it's still a news release so you should avoid sounding too commercial; however, by including a few sentences on how a reader can take action with a URL that directs the reader from the release to a "landing page" on your website, online media room or one that has been created specifically for the announcement, you've created an immediate interaction with your potential consumer.

The landing page should contain information that encourages the reader toward a transaction, whether it's requesting more information, signing up for a demonstration, downloading a brochure, or even making a purchase. It should also include information for reporters who could potentially write a story, such as who to contact and how to set up an interview with a company executive. Some people like to make the landing page accessible only through the news release. This will allow you to more accurately assess the effectiveness of the release or track the number of transactions that were directly attributable to the news.

Issuing the News
Once the release is written in a style and format conducive to search engines, the next step is distribution. Choose a commercial newswire that offers optimization technology that'll identify the central theme and relevant keywords contained within the release, enhance the underlying code to reflect these themes and keywords, and deliver it to a "search engine friendly" platform that attracts search engine spiders--the mechanisms search engines use to continually troll the web for updated information.

Sometime after the release is issued, it should appear higher in natural search results, and remain there long after it's considered breaking news, thus providing more opportunity for the internet public to find the information. When selecting a newswire, be sure that you get actionable feedback on such items as which keywords were used to find your news release so you can input them into your future communications.

To get started, prepare a schedule of news to budget accordingly. The more optimized news releases you distribute, the more chances you'll have to drive traffic to your business's online presence. The search engine is a useful and constructive tool for a small business to grow its presence, and in turn, increase revenue. For small businesses, optimized news releases offer an easy and relatively inexpensive way to reach target audiences, cultivate brand recognition, and hopefully generate some cold, hard cash.

Mark Nowlan

Mark Nowlan is senior vice president of marketing & communications at PR Newswire. Nowlan is a frequent lecturer on media relations, strategic communications and crisis communications at industry conferences around the country. Get more information about PR Newswire and public relations with their PR Toolkit for small businesses.

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