Guest post by Erica Holt

Please stop yawning

Don’t worry. This isn’t another overview post about how to search engine optimize a news release. You can read all about that here, here, and here.

The thing is, despite the ad nauseam posts on SEO for news releases, I discovered this recent report from Schwartz Communications that shows a pitiful 18% of news release headlines are SEO-optimized.

Put another way, if you believe this study, that means more than 80% of release headlines are not optimized.

What do you think is going on here?

A word to the wise

In my experience, communication pros these days are, more often than not, wise to SEO in general.

But what about SEO for news sites, particularly Google News?

When you SEO a timely news release, you are competing with news, correct? You likely want your story to be news, now.

In this case, you probably want your release to rank well in Google News, where timeliness is of the essence.

Take this example:

Let’s say you’ve created a tool that helps non-profits with social media, and you are sending out a news release as part of your launch. Your keywords might be “social media for non-profits.”

In Google you get:

Let’s face it. Your news release will not be competitive with well-known Beth Kanter’s Beth’s Blog.

But look at the results for Google News.

A news release is third. While mainstream news outlets have an advantage, news releases often rank quite well in Google News.

Yet I often find that communicators don’t realize that priorities for SEO for Google News are actually slightly different than SEO for Google’s main search engine.

Here’s a quick review on optimizing a news release for Google News.

Getting started

To start, I am assuming Google News will index your release. If you use a major news release distribution service, you are most likely getting indexed.

If not, Google offers a comprehensive FAQ on getting included in the news search engine.

Once you’re in, how do you get your news to the top of Google News? Most importantly:

1. Headlines are key.

Keep them short. Most experts say fewer than 23 words. Just check out the main page and you’ll see how short the top story headlines are.

2. Get your most important keyword and message near the start in case your headline is cut off.

That said, it’s a difficult balance between creativity and keyword use. It’s people, not robots, reading your headlines, and these people are more likely to click-thru a clever headline.

3. Make sure a release is at least 125 words, according to Business Wire, which submits hundreds of thousands of releases to Google News each year.

4. Write original, timely, relevant content, says Google (heard this one before?).

These steps are quite easy, really. It’d be a shame to miss out on inclusion in Google News because you wrote a headline two words too long, don’t you think?

Image: Andras Pfaff via Flickr, Creative Commons

Was this helpful? Have any questions? Please let me know in the comments.

Erica Holt has more than eight years’ experience developing digital marketing strategies for non-profit and public sector clients. She lives in Takoma Park, Md., with her husband and two young sons. You can catch up with her on Twitter or by email.