Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Writing & Optimizing Press Releases For The Web

All content created for the Web should follow a simple rule of thumb: It should be easily accessible when someone looks for it online. This rule applies to press releases as well, which are increasingly being distributed and made available online through services such as PRWeb, PR Newswire, BusinessWire and other sites.

In general, content is made more accessible for the Web by ensuring that it is optimized using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) techniques. Having worked at a few PR agencies, I have been surprised by how little thought was given to optimizing press releases for the Web. Don’t get me wrong — NOTHING trumps good writing and good content and yes, traditionally the sole objective of press releases has been to distribute them to the media and to generate coverage.

But in the online world, where all your audiences converge and your brand interactions are transformed into a social experience, you might as well try and earn maximum visibility for your press or news release (as marketing/PR guru David M. Scott prefers to call them) over the Web and use them as an opportunity to reach your customers directly. For small businesses, news releases offer the additional advantage of  strengthening their online presence, linking back to their websites and improving their search engine rankings.

How Do You Optimize Press Releases For The Web?

1. Identify Keywords
Keywords are the very heart of SEO. Before beginning to write your press release, determine the keywords you should be optimizing for. Keywords are select words or phrases that people enter in search engines when they are looking for solutions/products that your business or service can provide.

If you already use Google Analytics for your website, then you should examine what keywords people use the most to reach your site. Think of all the words that best describe your company, industry, product or service. Once you compile a list of keywords, use tools such as Google AdWords’ Keywords (free) or Wordtracker (paid) to determine related keywords, how often the keyword is used and how competitive it is. To increase the chances of ranking high and being found easily, it is best to choose keywords that are not extremely competitive but still have sufficient, if not high, search volume.

2. Add The Keywords To Your News Release
Once you have identified your main keywords, you need to incorporate them into different parts of your news release. The headline is the most important part of the release for adding keywords since search engines rank pages for search terms based, in part, on the headline or title of the page. Include your most important keyword in the headline. While the headline should include keywords, it should also be short (65 characters or less is the maximum length Google will display) and catchy enough for readers to want to click on it.

Distribution sites such as PRWeb also ask you for a summary of the press release. Include the same or different keywords in the summary and the body of the press release as well. Depending on a user’s search terms, search engines often pick out parts of content that match that word or phrase and display the summary below the title for each search result, helping users get an idea of what may be most relevant to them. While including keywords is important, they should not be overused in your press release – this will affect the quality of your content and you could possibly be penalized by search engines.

3. Add Relevant Links
News releases intended for online distribution must include relevant links that point back to your website. This will direct readers on where to look for more information and improve your website’s rankings in search engines. Relevance is important for creating links so a mention of a new product, for example, should point back to a page on your website that describes the new product. Include your website link in the boiler plate of the release as well.

Sites such as PRWeb also allow you to include images and videos, which can make your release more Web friendly, draw more attention and make it more searchable by including relevant tags. Add social bookmarking and social media links to your release, allowing readers to share it easily over Facebook, Twitter, delicious and other social media sites. Besides online wires, post the release on your own website and post links to the release on your blog, Facebook page and organization’s Twitter profile, to draw more readers.

Other tips to keep in mind while writing press releases for the Web:
a) Avoid jargon
b) Keep copy short and Web-friendly
c) Make it interesting and newsworthy.

On a related note, see this PRWeb video on the benefits of writing and distributing press releases online.



Do you have any tips for better writing and optimizing press releases for the Web? Please share them in the comments section below. Visit Prism Media to learn more about our public relations and search engine optimization services.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What's Plaguing Print Media & Why We Should Pay For Quality Content Online


Before my husband and I got married, we were both in two different countries and spent many long hours talking over the phone. At times, my husband racked up as much as $200 in monthly phone bills.

Fast-forward to five years later, when I attempt conversation with the husband later in the evening or during dinner, I am often met with responses that range from ‘I’m hungry and don’t want to talk right now’ to ‘I’m tired/working on something/watching TV, and can’t talk about this right now.’ Each time this happens, I (unfailingly) remind him of the time when he paid good money just to hear me talk and how ironic it is that when he can talk to me for free, for as long as he wants, he simply does not want to.

The moral of this story? When something is available for free, its value is invariably cheapened. This, in my opinion, is precisely the root of the problem facing the print journalism industry in the United States.

When newspapers shifted online and made their Web versions free, they buried the very business model that they were built on. As readers flocked online, choosing to give up the experience of reading a physical paper in exchange for free content on the Web, circulation and advertising dropped. Since then, print publications have been fighting a tough, long battle as online advertising has failed to generate as much revenue.

Over the last few years, the survival of print media has been as discussed and debated as the-is-the-recession-over or will-the-world-end-in-2012 questions (in which case we have a lot more to worry about than just the demise of print media.) Last week, The New York Times’ publisher and Chairman, Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., hinted the company will stop printing The New York Times “sometime in the future.” He also said he believes that “serious media organizations must start collecting additional revenue from their readers.”

The question of whether and how much readers would pay for content has been a perplexing one with no conclusive answers. Among the major national newspapers, currently, The Wall Street Journal and Newsday charge for online access to large parts of their websites. Other newspapers, such as The New York Times and the Financial Times, have experimented with the part-payment (keeping certain parts of the site free) and micro-payment model (charging a few cents per article) on an on-and-off basis. In the short-term, this strategy has not worked, since consumers could simply shift loyalties to other publications that continue to be free.

Having worked for a few print publications, the survival and spirit of print journalism and media is a subject close to my heart. While they will continue to evolve to keep up with the technological habits and demands of its consumers, I am deeply optimistic about their continued existence.

For one, as the Web gets more and more crowded, we will need authoritative and reliable sources for information and news about the world around us. The Internet is cluttered with all kinds of information, and I don’t believe that blogs and user-generated content can replace the quality of credible information and insight that newspapers offer.

One way to cut through the noise and separate quality content from everything else is to put a price on it. Convincing readers to pay for what was, thus far, available for free will be a challenge but as consumers if we can pay for an iPhone app/game or to download music on iTunes, we can pay for quality journalism as well.

Would you pay to read a newspaper or news article online? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Quick (& Fun) Guide To Twitter Lingo

On April 17, 2009, Oprah Winfrey uttered her first words in the Twitterverse. They read like this: HI TWITTERS. THANK YOU FOR A WARM WELCOME. FEELING REALLY 21st CENTURY.

It was the only time the big ‘O’ sounded more like Sarah Palin. Just like ‘refudiate’ is not a word (and Palin is no Shakespeare,) the correct term to use is Tweeters, Tweeps, Twitterers or maybe even Tweeple, but not TWITTERS.

Oprah's first tweet
If you’re a Twitter newbie who feels like a twit for lack of the right Twitter vocab, you can avoid such gaffes by reading this quick guide to Twitter lingo. It will have you winning followers and tweeting with confidence in no time. Read, comment, share, retweet and then go forth and conquer the Twitterverse.

1) Twitterverse: The Twitter Universe or virtual world of Twitter. Populated largely by social media gurus, social media companies, social media enthusiasts and such. Oh and, of course, there are the celebrities and losers others who love to share every minute detail of their mundane ordinary lives every minute of the day.

Twit Tip: Robert Scoble used to be the king of Twitter till he was dethroned by Ashton Kutcher, proving that just like in the real world, good looks get you far in the Twitterverse as well. If you don’t believe me, ask Pete Cashmore.

Pete Cashmore
2) Tweet: Messages/updates that are 140-characters long. You can tweet about anything from the weather to your pet cat to what you just devoured for dinner. But it’s best to stick to tweets that would really be of value and interest to your followers to avoid boring them to death.

Twit Tip: Think Before You Tweet. Careless tweeting has landed many tweeters in a hot unappetizing soup or even gotten them fired from their job.

3) Follow: When you follow someone, their tweets appear on your Twitter home page. Most people follow someone because they’re hoping that person will follow them back and increase their follower count interested in what that person may have to say or share. When someone follows you or becomes your follower, you achieve a cult-like status and thus boost your ego, they can view your tweets. The more the followers you have on Twitter, the bigger your ego influence. To ‘unfollow’ someone means that they were too dull/stupid/annoying for you you will stop seeing the person’s tweets in your timeline.

Twit Tip: Choose your followers based on your personal and professional interests. Use the follow feature meaningfully to connect, learn and schmooze network with others.

4) Twitter Handle/Username: This is your own unique identity on Twitter @ followed by your user-name. The @username automatically becomes a link to your account and helps your followers or other tweeps to identify and discover you.

Twit Tip: Choose your twitter handle wisely. While choosing something cute like littlebunnyrabbit or narcissistic like KingOfTheWorld may seem like a good idea to you, your potential employers may not be impressed when they look for you online.

5) Mentions/Replies: To reply or direct a Tweet to someone specific, use the @username followed by your tweet. When the @username appears at the beginning of the tweet, it is considered a reply, when it appears anywhere else within the tweet, it is considered a mention. You can view both from the ‘replies’ tab on your Twitter homepage.

Twit Tip: If you don’t have any @ mentions or replies in your Twitter stream, then you are like Tom Hanks conversing with Wilson the volleyball in Cast Away. In other words, you are simply talking to yourself.

6) DM: Though DM also stands for Dispersion Measure, Diabetes Mellitus and Doctorate in Medicine, in the Twitterverse, it is short for a Direct Message. DMs are private messages sent by one Twitter user directly to another and are only visible to the sender and the recipient. DMs cannot exceed more than 140 characters and you can only DM people who follow you.

7) Retweet: Retweeting is a good way to suck up to someone you follow repost an interesting tweet by someone you follow, to your own followers. You can retweet by directly hitting the retweet button at the bottom right of each tweet or by adding the letters RT before the message to give proper credit to the tweet’s original author.

This list is by no means an exhaustive one, so please feel free to add your own Twitter lingo in the comments section below. And last but not the least, connect with me on Twitter.





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