Although they are frequently used by businesses to publicise product launches, sales, business updates, and a variety of other events, press releases are often overlooked when it comes to search engine optimisation (SEO) and other forms of content marketing.
To better understand what press releases are and how you might use them as part of your content marketing strategy, we are going to do a deep dive into press releases and show what value they can have for your business.
So, if you want to add another tool into your content marketing arsenal, keep reading this article to get a sense of what they have to offer!
What are press releases?
As you might be able to tell from the name, the history of the ‘press release’ stretches back to a time when a company, individual or organisation wanted to release information to the ‘press’ – aka the media – about a noteworthy event they were hoping to publicise. The purpose was to inform journalists and other members of the media about this event in the hope that by doing so, a newspaper or other media platform would feature it.
The press release would then be distributed to members of the press, who would then write up and edit their own version of it, eventually publishing it in their own publications.
Although we have long since moved on from the physical presses as the main distribution method for news and other forms of media, the tradition of the press release has been carried over into the modern media landscape. While the distribution methods might now be very different, the general purpose is the same.
Why do companies send press releases?
There are a number of reasons why a business, individual or organisation might use a press release.
Firstly, and perhaps most obviously, press releases are used as a way of increasing the visibility of some event or product launch. By issuing a formal press release and sending it out to relevant media organisations, you are hoping that it will get picked up in media publications, which will help you to convey this information to existing or potential customers.
Secondly, a business might use a press release as a way of responding to or controlling a crisis. For example, if a negative news story broke about your product or someone involved in your organisation, issuing a press release would allow you to publicise a formal statement to respond to the story. This allows the business to get its side of the story across and to answer any questions that might have arisen.
Thirdly, press releases are used to build a reputation. They can be used by a company or individual to build up their reputation, particularly when they are responding to an important event. By issuing a formal statement in response to some event or occurrence, gives them the opportunity to get their name out there as a trusted source of information.
Press releases and SEO
Over time, businesses and digital marketers realised that press releases were a powerful way to gain links and traffic from news websites and blogs.
Initially, at least, there was nothing wrong with this tactic. However, it eventually led to abuse by content marketers who used it as a way of publicising all manner of pointless information, purely for the sake of driving traffic towards their website. The issue with this was that it skewed the search results that users were getting, as they were often directed towards irrelevant links that had little value.
Eventually, Google clamped down on this practice and started penalising websites creating swarms of low-quality press releases that were stuffed with backlinks and keywords.
Because of this, press releases will not generally boost a website’s SEO directly as they will often be tagged as ‘no-follow’ links. This essentially lets a search engine know to skip this source when it is compiling its search results.
The benefit for the end-user conducting the search is that it stops the search listings from being clogged up with material that only has a fairly tenuous relevance to what they are searching for.
Are press releases useful for SEO?
Although many press releases will be tagged as ‘no follow’, this does not mean that they have zero value from an SEO perspective. Most of this value, however, will come indirectly.
For example, if your press release gets posted on a website and an interested user follows that link for more information, this will obviously increase your website traffic. If they happen to like what they see once they have visited, they might even stick around and click through to various other pages. This might get shared by them, which will, once again, help to increase website traffic.
In this way, while the impact on SEO might not be direct in terms of your search engine rankings, they can be useful for organically increasing your website traffic. This is accomplished by disseminating useful, newsworthy information that users find interesting.
With that said, let’s take a look at how you should write your press release to ensure that users fully engage with it.
How should press releases be written?
Although many of the same rules apply to press releases as other pieces of writing, there are some subtle differences in style and tone that you should keep in mind when writing a press release.
The style and tone that you do eventually adopt will ultimately reflect the content of the press release and the issue to which you are responding. For example, the language that you use when publicising a new product launch or seasonal sale will, as you might expect, be vastly different from a press release where you are responding to a corporate crisis.
However, regardless of the exact purpose of the press release, there are some general principles that will always apply.
The most important of these is length. Press releases are not full-feature-length articles or blog posts. Rather, the goal is to make a quick announcement on some issue and to convey a relatively simple message in as few words as possible. As such, you should not use the same tone and style that you would use in a long-form piece of content.
Try to keep press releases relatively short, ideally between 300 and 450 words, and ideally never more than 500 words.
Sentences should also generally be short, punchy and to the point. Avoid long, sprawling paragraphs and instead, focus on smaller paragraphs with a much clearer message in each sentence.
Additionally, you should always make the message as simple as possible. Don’t try to convey too much information at once, and keep it to what is essential.
You should also try to employ many of the other techniques you would be familiar with from your regular SEO work, such as the strategic use of links, long and short-tail keywords, and formatting to make it as readable as possible. Although we have mentioned these only briefly for the time being, we will look at them in more depth in a future blog post.
Putting it all together
As you have seen, although they have limited direct use for SEO purposes, press releases are nevertheless a very useful tool for content marketers. As with any other piece of content writing, they need to be carefully crafted to ensure that the content matches the role it needs to fulfil.
With that said, if you want some help crafting the perfect press release, feel free to reach out to the Purecontent team today. Purecontent has a network of industry-leading writers on hand who are ready to help you with your content needs. So, regardless of whether you need an in-depth long-form article, a punchy press release or an informative review, we are ready to help. Reach out to one of the Purecontent team today and book a one-on-one consultation!