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Optimizing press releases for search engines is a hot topic these days, with a number of writers offering tips and tricks to boost releases' search rankings.

Some of these recommendations are jarring for PR practitioners who've honed the craft of writing releases, and journalists have good reason to fear the slew of so-called “optimized” releases flooding their inboxes.

Fortunately, there are ways to raise releases' rankings without sacrificing the art form. PR Newswire even currently offers such a service, Search Engine Visibility.

Recently, on these pages, BL Ochman offered her own tips for optimizing releases. BL is one of the smartest, sharpest people I know in the industry, and I'm an avid reader of her blog and newsletter. While it would be wise to regularly pay attention to what she has to say, there are right ways to optimize releases, and then there are other ways.

Let's first take a step back and dissect what search engine optimization (SEO) really means.

SEO, to invoke an appropriate cliché, is both art and science. There are technological fixes to make online content “search engine friendly,” a common example of this being adapting the meta tags embedded in HTML code. This is largely the science.

Then there's the art form. It's crafting content that embodies various keywords. It's building a strategy positioning a company within search engines. It's designing a site that follows best practices in aesthetics and usability while keeping all search goals in mind.

Though there's a fine line between the two, with many facets of search engine optimization and marketing crossing back and forth, the dichotomy can illustrate where best to focus efforts on optimizing press releases for search.

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David Berkowitz (david.berkowitz@icrossing.com) is director of marketing at icrossing (www.icrossing.com).