Guest post by Derek Vaughan

Having been involved with PR since the days before new media, I have made numerous adjustments to my PR strategies to maximize the impact of my news releases in the digital era. Unfortunately, I have also seen many ”old school” agencies and PR experts who have overlooked these critical elements of the modern digital news release. Here’s a bit of what I believe they may be missing.

1. Using keywords in the headline

To anyone who’s ever used Google news or a blog post to gain website traffic, the need to have well targeted keywords in your titles is obvious. Search engines (including specialty search like Google News) automatically look through online content and begin with the headline or title of a piece to determine the overall category for the content and the search terms that may trigger that content to appear.

In the past, old school writers preferred the pithy and ironic headline that elicited a chuckle and showed a command of language and ”turn of phrase”. This headline from The Sun is a perfect example of that old school cleverness. Playing off the broadway song from the musical ‘West Side Story’, the story referenced the October 2006, decision by North Korea to conduct a nuclear test. It’s a great pun, but in today’s digital media world the headline lacks certain keywords that would let it rise in the search results for a targeted keyword like: ‘nuclear testing’.

In a modern best practice for PR professionals, one ought to do a bit of research into the search terms that resonate with audiences and include those search terms in the headlines, title and body of the release.

1a. Research your keywords prior to release

As a corollary to including keywords as mentioned above, one ought to research those keywords for maximum impact. Here’s one way to do that – use Google Trends. You can locate Google Trends at: http://google.com/trends. So what is Google Trends and how does it work? Here is how Google describes the service:

”Google Trends analyzes a portion of Google web searches to compute how many searches have been done for the terms you enter, relative to the total number of searches done on Google over time. We then show you a graph with the results – our Search Volume Index graph. Located beneath the Search Volume Index graph is our News reference volume graph. This graph shows you the number of times your topic appeared in Google News stories. When Google Trends detects a spike in the volume of news stories for a particular search term, it labels the graph and displays the headline of an automatically selected Google News story written near the time of that spike.”

So you can see at a glance the number of searches conducted for keywords you may be considering for your headline, and also get a quick view of how many other Google News stories are referencing that same keyword topic.

2. Include links with anchor text in the release

One of the prime benefits in the digital age of writing up a press release is to get links back to your website. Without getting into a deep philosophical discussion on search engine optimization, suffice it to say that links back to your website are good for search rankings. Even better are links that contain the phrases of the terms you are interested in targeting. For example, a link like: http://wordsofabrokenmirror.com is fine – but more impactful is a link like: PR and Marketing Expertise. The second link goes to exactly the same page, but contains the types of keywords that matter for the site. In any modern release, one should use this anchor text for links pointing off the release. Not every online press release service offers this feature. Shop around a bit and you’ll find that the most professional and up-to-date news release services accommodate the use of anchor text. A final note – be sure to use links sparingly in the body of the release and also include anchor text links in your ‘About’ section or footer.

3. Post the release on your own website

Getting a release out on the news wire or emailing it to targeted editorial contacts is great. However, don’t forget to create a ‘Press Releases’ section on your website as well. Then post each release into your press release area each time a release goes out. This builds credibility as your number of press releases increases, and also gives you a version of your press release that you can link to on outside sources, or within you blog as described below.

4. Promote the press release using social media, blogs and your own website

Often an old school PR master will send a release out via the wire services and call it a day. The modern digital PR professional knows that promoting the release via social media, blogs and your own website are also important final steps in the PR process. There are many great resources that can help you come up to speed on using social media to promote your site and releases, but I recommend at least creating a Twitter account for your site and promoting the press release there.

Daniel Foster, co-founder of Manchester dedicated server firm 34SP.com explains the benefits of using Twitter to promote internal press releases:

”Since we have used Twitter to promote our press releases we gain two valuable things. First, our followers on Twitter are alerted to the release and can then read the release, and if they choose – pass the item on to others via a re-tweet. Second, as Google now displays tweets as part of their search listings, we get another mention on Google for the release. This combination drives additional traffic to our site.”

You can also consider submission to social sites like digg.com if they are applicable to the site content. Also, if you have a blog on your website (I recommend that as well) you should craft a brief post outlining the highlights of the release and linking to the release page within your site. This further solidifies the relevance for search engines and creates yet another reference within the search engines on the subject matter which will potentially drive more visitors to your website.

While there are many great public relations professionals out there today, make sure you are challenging them with doing everything necessary to ensure the success of your digital press releases.

Derek VaughanAbout the author

Derek Vaughan is a web hosting industry veteran, marketing consultant and writer. He has architected the marketing growth of several prominent web hosting success stories leading to acquisition
including Affinity Internet, Inc., Aplus.Net and HostMySite.com. Prior to his entry into the web hosting industry, Derek was responsible for online marketing at The Walt Disney Company where he marketed ecommerce for the ESPN.com and NASCAR.com brands. Derek received his M.B.A. from Vanderbilt University and currently serves on the HostingCon Advisory Board.

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