SEO and Public Relations — No, You Don’t Have to Choose!

Public Relations, SEO & Marketing Expert Kathleen Hanover of Imagine That Creative

Public Relations Expert Kathleen Hanover

Even though search engine optimization (SEO) has been a part of every Internet marketer’s toolkit for a decade now, public relations professionals have been slow to acknowledge the importance of the Google-friendly press release. And that’s a shame: written correctly, the search engine optimized press release can score immediate news coverage, plus help your organization (or PR client) achieve long-lasting prominence in search engine results.

Here’s a SEO press release I wrote for a client and distributed via an online wire service. Within minutes of its release, it was appearing on Page 1 of Google results for the client’s top keyphrase, and it remained on the first page of results in Google News for almost a week. Because the site itself has a Google pagerank of 7, links back to the client’s website will likely be seen as important and valuable by Google. [Update, December, 2012: this press release site is one of many that was penalized by Google during the Penguin algorithm update, and now has a pagerank of 0, so we no longer use it.]

I’ll assume that if you’re reading this, you already know how to write a press release. You know about writing a compelling headline, a lead, and inverted pyramid writing style, where you put the most important details at the top of the news release. You also know to include all the details a journalist will need to take action based on your pressĀ  release — whether that means calling you for more details, or showing up at your event with a TV news crew.

How to optimize images for search - Search engine optimization SEO tips - Imagine That Creative

Mouse over this image to see its SEO title tag. Image generously placed in the public domain by The Tango Project.

I will also assume that your marketing department (or a consultant like me) has developed a list of SEO keywords and key phrases for your organization, and you’ve chosen no more than three to include in your press release.

So, now that you have your keywords, where do you put them to optimize your press release for Google and other search engines?

  • In the first 3 words of your headline, which will usually end up with an <H1> HTML heading tag if it’s posted on a press release website or sent out over an online wire service.
  • In your subheading or “lead” (which may end up with an <H2> tag).
  • In the first three words of your “Title” meta content, if your press release is posted on your organization’s website (ask your webmaster to help, if you’re not familiar with meta content.) The “Title” meta content controls what appears at the top of the web page.
  • In the content of the press release (aim for a keyword density of approximately 2-4%).
  • In the “Alt” meta content tag attached to every image (this is the “alternate text” a web browser displays when it can’t display an image.)
  • In the name of every page URL and graphic file

Need examples? Check out the title of this blog post. My keywords for this post are:

  • SEO
  • PR
  • Press Release
  • News Release
  • Public Relations

Notice how many of them appear in the headline, and where they occur. Notice how often these phrases appear in the body copy of this post.

And check out the URL of this post:

The name of the image file attached to this post is SEO-friendly, too. A file name like “20583721hp030911.jpg” does not help Google understand what’s in the photo. A name like “mda-volunteers-answer-phones-during-2011-telethon.jpg” does.

Need more info? CopyBlogger Brian Clark has written an excellent white paper on SEO copywriting.

Yes, you CAN write press releases that both human beings and search engines find compelling. It takes a little more effort, but the results can pay off in both news stories and search engine results.


Kathleen Hanover
Certified Go-Giver Speaker and Copywriting Trainer
Kathleen Hanover helps entrepreneurs tell their story, attract their ideal audiences, and persuasively communicate their value. As a highly-regarded marketing copywriting trainer, she teaches persuasion psychology and the magic words that build rapport and sales. And as Ohio's first Certified Go-Giver Speaker, Kathleen shares the Five Laws of Stratospheric Success from the international best-seller, "The Go-Giver," by Bob Burg and John David Mann, with business and community audiences alike.
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