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Using top search keywords in online public relations

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Key Points

  • Many people mistakenly believe that search engine optimization and online public relations firms can magically optimize a press release – without modifying any release content – by adding invisible meta keywords tags.
  • While changing meta tags was the most popular method used to improve rankings back in 2000, the meta keywords tag became a magnet for search engine spam.
  • Edit your press release – particularly the headline and first few sentences – and make sure that it actually includes your target terms.
  • When people conduct a news search, they often find recent and relevant press releases along with articles from thousands of other news sources.

SEO-PR has been offering optimized press release services since March 2003. But, the first time my online public relations firm recommends using top search keywords in headlines and at least the first 100 words of optimized press releases, I can't tell you how frequently new clients are surprised.

Many people mistakenly believe that search engine optimization and online public relations firms can magically optimize a press release - without modifying any release content - by adding invisible meta keywords tags. So, they are shocked, shocked to find that their top search keywords actually need to appear high up in very visible locations.

Invariably, new clients ask me for proof. I point them to an article entitled “Death of a Meta Tag” written by Danny Sullivan in Search Engine Watch on October 1, 2002. Sullivan, the recognized authority on search and search engine marketing, declared, “In my opinion, the meta keywords tag is dead, dead, dead.”

When changing meta tags was the most popular method used to improve rankings back in 2000, the meta keywords tag became a magnet for search engine spam. That’s why Google never added support for it and all the other search engines, except Inktomi, had dropped their support for the meta keywords tag by the fall of 2002.

When they learn this, many of my new clients go through the five stages of grief described in the book by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, “On Death and Dying.” They are:

  1. Denial (This isn’t happening to me!)
  2. Anger (Why is this happening to me?)
  3. Bargaining (I promise I’ll be a better person if...)
  4. Depression (I don’t care anymore.)
  5. Acceptance (I’m ready for whatever comes.)

To help new clients through the grieving process, I’ve developed my own five-step process. If it helps you explain why you need to make some more edits to the final draft of a press release that has already been approved, then thank Kubler-Ross, not me.

  1. Conduct keyword research to find two or three relevant terms that your target audiences are likely to use for a news search. We’ve used a variety of keyword research tools over the past four years, including Wordtracker.
  2. Edit your press release – particularly the headline and first few sentences – and make sure that it actually includes your target terms. News search engine algorithms scan the title, headline and at least the first 100 words or so of news articles, so it would be wise to include your top search keywords in these crucial positions.
  3. Add hyperlinks intended to help people find interesting, related content, when applicable. However, don’t link to “bad neighborhoods” on the web, and avoid excessively linking to inflate a site’s apparent popularity.
  4. Use one of the press release distribution services crawled by Yahoo News and Google News. We’ve used a variety of press release distribution services over the past four years, including Business Wire.
  5. Measure your results. An optimized press release can generate high keyword ranking in Yahoo News and Google News, publicity in news media and blogs, traffic to your web site, qualified leads, as well as online sales.

Learning how to use top search keywords in optimized press releases is no longer an interesting sideline for a few SEO copywriters. It is now a significant career opportunity for the vast majority of online public relations copywriters, as well.

Why?

According to Hitwise, Yahoo News and Google News are both in the top 10 news and media websites. And Yahoo News ranks ahead of CNN.com and MSNBC, while Google News ranks ahead of USA Today and The New York Times.

When people conduct a news search, they often find recent and relevant press releases along with articles from thousands of other news sources. A report from Outsell last summer found that press releases had leapfrogged over trade publications to become the top news sources of knowledge workers.

Bennett & Company’s 15th annual media survey also found that online research remains number one source for journalists to obtain additional story information. In fact, 75% of journalists search the internet for previous stories on their subject.

Now, it may seem odd that I’m willing to share the so-called “secrets” of using top search keywords in online public relations. There are two reasons why I’m doing it.

First, I believe that sharing my “secrets” will help SEO copywriters overcome an emerging stereotype created by a few unethical search engine optimizers who are “secretive or won’t clearly explain what they intend to do.” I also believe that being open and honest about what I do will help online public relations copywriters overcome the entrenched stereotype created by a few unprincipled flaks and spin doctors who take credit when the sun comes up in the morning, but say it’s not their fault when the sun goes down at night.

Second, I believe that clients and agencies will benefit from learning about using top search keywords in online public relations. As David Ogilvy wrote in his book, Ogilvy on Advertising:

“In 18th-century England, a family of obstetricians built a huge practice by delivering babies with a lower rate of infant and maternal mortality than their competitors. They had a secret – and guarded it jealously, until an inquisitive medical student climbed onto the roof of their delivering room, looked through the skylight and saw the forceps they had invented. The secret was out, to the benefit of all obstetricians and their patients.”

That’s why I’m happy to teach others how to use top search keywords in optimized press releases. Call it “enlightened self-interest.” But, I’ve always recognized that my biggest challenge wasn’t helping new clients through the grieving process. It was helping “the tactic known as SEO PR” to get born.

About Greg Jarboe

Greg Jarboe is the President and Co-Founder of SEO-PR, a search engine optimization and online public relations firm. He is also the news search, blog search and PR correspondent for the Search Engine Watch Blog.