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Four Steps to Writing Search-Engine-Optimized Press Releases

by Kim Cornwall Malseed  |  
July 1, 2008

According to the 2006 Middleburg/Ross Survey of Media Professionals, 92% of journalists go online to find story ideas, with 73% specifically researching press releases.

With Really Simple Syndication (RSS) and free automatic email alerts from Google News so readily available, it makes sense that the Web is a prime source of consistently updated information for busy journalists.

So how can your organization capitalize on that fact?

Optimizing the press releases and other documents created by your PR department or agency for search engines—and correctly posting them on your Web site—is one key to generating more publicity.

Step 1: Research Keywords

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a keyword as "a significant word from a title or document used especially as an index to content." Sounds pretty simple, right? It can be, but to achieve maximum results from using keywords in search engine optimization (SEO), you need to do some research to uncover what words journalists who cover your subject matter use when looking for story ideas and sources on the Web.

No-Cost Keyword Research Techniques

  • Find out what keywords successful competitors are using by going to their Web site, viewing a press release, clicking on the "view" browser menu option, then selecting "source". A new browser window will open with the HyperText Markup Language (HTML) code for you to study. (It would take another article to explain the ins and outs of HTML, the most popular way to design Web sites, and how it plays into SEO. If you're not familiar with it, I highly recommend educating yourself via sources listed in this article's appendix.)
  • Read articles written by target journalists, then search the Web or the Web sites of the sources interviewed to read the press release that spawned the article. Use the above tip to look at the HTML code of the Web page for the release and find out what keywords were used.
  • Survey your PR and Marketing department personnel for keyword ideas.
  • Survey your Web site development team to find out what keywords are currently used for your organization's Web site, particularly the meta tags.
  • Survey product development personnel and executive management, as they may have ideas for technical or industry terminology.
  • Many press release distribution services (PRNewswire, MarketWire, etc.) have SEO features. Use them a few times (the companies usually permit you to do a free trial) and track results to get an idea of which keywords are most popular.

Low-Cost Keyword Research Tool

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Kim Cornwall Malseed is principal consultant and founder of marketing communications and PR copywriting firm MarCom Ink ( Reach Kim at or 703-729-9159.

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  • by S.Singh Wed Jul 2, 2008 via web

    Really great article, encompasses step by step description and includes all important considerations, especially SEO. Easy to follow and implement. Thanks for this helpful article.

  • by E.McKinney Wed Jul 2, 2008 via web

    Good, basic information. However, this article reads as if it's suggesting someone *other* than marketing/PR work on generating the SEO list. While I agree it's best to include the SEO experts in your company when creating the list, it doesn't appear the article is written for them, either. Who better to compile the list than the people whom you entrust your public brand persona to than your PR/Marketing people, supported by the SEO experts, especially when they're the ones who are writing the release?

  • by R.Cardamone Wed Jul 2, 2008 via web

    Excellent overview article, and I am particularly a fan of including multiple departments with varying expertise in selecting appropriate keywords and phrases. Not only do you get a fuller perspective, it helps colleagues see themselves as marketers -- and break down silos.

  • by Tue Jul 8, 2008 via web

    interesting read

  • by Dan Ruchman Thu Nov 27, 2008 via web

    Kim, that was just a superb article, walking the reader through the logical thought process and detailed understanding of optimizing the findability of their press releases. Great job -- thanks!

  • by Chris Fri Jan 9, 2009 via web

    Very good. I printed it for future reference. Thanks.

  • by James Tue Mar 31, 2009 via web

    Great article Kim - a press release must incorporate the suggestions you make above in order to be effective in today's marketplace. I write press releases for and have had good experiences with the newswires so far in optimizing my releases. Even without optimization, I still try to encourage my staff to use keywords to garner greater search engine effectiveness. Thanks for the story Kim.

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