9 steps to SEO PR that won't drive the PR team crazy

Ian Lurie

SEO PR is important. Having a press release ranking for the right phrase can be a real boost:

  • It can occupy a top 10 ranking for your company name, thereby pushing down a site that says bad stuff about you and your brand.
  • If hosted by a wire service, it may rank for a long-tail phrase even when your site cannot.
  • Put a quality link out on the web.
  • Sometimes (gasp) get you media attention.

Remember, though: If there’s a PR person or team working for the same company, you’re walking right through their turf, wearing a mohawk, tasteless body piercings and a T-shirt that reads Death to all who oppose us!.
I mean, that’s not what you’re actually doing, but that’s the perception. And you can’t really blame them.
If you’re editing an existing press release, you’re messing with their prose. The changes you make will show up out on the wire. If the CEO reads the release and hates it because of your changes, guess who gets the talking-to? The PR team.
If you’re writing a release from scratch, it’s even worse. Especially if the PR person/team doesn’t know you. She’s going to bear full responsibility for something that, at best, she’ll get to review an hour before it hits the wire. And again, if the CEO hates it, she’ll get the flak, not you.
But SEO PR has gotta get done. So use these tips to optimize a press release and keep the PR team sane:

  1. Add links, first. Use the existing copy. Pick 1-4 naturally-occurring key phrases in the press release and deep link them to relevant pages on the target site. Don’t edit or change the copy – just link it. If you were able to do this, skip to step 5.
  2. Edit without changing meaning. If the target phrases don’t show up in the press release, find places where they almost do. Changing ‘athletic footwear’ to ‘athletic shoes’ is pretty mild. Changing it to ‘running shoes’ isn’t. It means something different to a reporter.
  3. Make no more than one change per paragraph. That’s arbitrary, I know. But at least the first time you work with a specific PR team, follow this rule. Ideally, you should edit only the first and last paragraphs.
  4. Edit for the readers. Any changes you make should at worst make no difference for your readers. At best, they should improve the readability and ‘clickability’ of the release.
  5. Careful with the headline. You’re going to have to edit the headline. It never fails. Just do it carefully. Be very conscious of meaning here.
  6. Provide 2 options. If you find you’re making pretty aggressive edits to a press release’s headline and body copy, do a second rewrite that’s more subtle. If you’re really attached to some of your aggressive edits, ask if there’s a middle ground between the two options that’ll work.
  7. Hands off the boilerplate. The boilerplate – that text about the company at the bottom of the page – has probably gone through a dozen revisions, the legal department and every employee at the company. No touchie. If you must edit it, ask first.
  8. Be fast. When I was a copywriter, the typical lead time for a press release was about 30 seconds. If you’re reviewing an existing release, time’s probably tight. Try to get it back to the team right away. Even better, ask in advance: “How soon do you need this?”
  9. Never send without the OK. Unless it’s been arranged in advance, never, ever, ever send out a press release without the OK of the PR team.

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Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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