Press releases have been around for over 100 years. While we might distribute them a little differently now given the advent of online press release distribution, the goal is still the same — get your news in the hands of interested people. While news dissemination is still the primary purpose of press releases, search engine optimization (SEO) also has a role to play with releases distributed online.

Which is more important though? Having something newsworthy to say or using press releases to build relevant backlinks to improve search engine rankings for your website? They both are. The key is striking a balance.

It’s All About the Audience

While SEO releases and non-SEO releases look and act similarly, they’re not quite the same. It’s okay to break some of the more traditional rules of press release writing when distributing online no matter what some of the “old school” PR reps might say. Why? Because the audience can be different.

When you write a press release, you’re not answering to anyone but your audience. In some cases that target audience might be major media outlets. If so, you might want to stick to the more traditional rules of press release writing and distribution like focusing on hard news and following AP style guidelines.

If, however, your target audience focuses on groups like bloggers and end consumers who are searching for news through news engines like Yahoo! News and Google News, those traditional rules not only don’t have to apply, but they can actually hurt your reach. For example, timely releases with softer angles (more in line with features than traditional news releases) can attract more interest, and some AP style rules are directly contrary to the way people actually search (and being found through those searches is vital).

Don’t Forget the Fundamentals

You can’t know when it’s okay to break the “rules” of press release writing and distribution unless you know what those rules are in the first place. So don’t neglect the traditional release. There’s a lot of merit to the way things have previously been done.

While you don’t always have to release hard news, having a newsworthy or timely story is still important. Without at least one of those elements you’re not really putting out a press release at all. You’re just taking part in article marketing. There’s nothing wrong with article marketing. It just isn’t designed to bring in the immediate influx of traffic, links, and coverage that online press release distribution is.

Another traditional rule is to write out full URLs for links. There’s nothing wrong with breaking that rule in part — by all means use anchor text links whenever the press release distribution site allows you to. After all, that’s a key of a well-optimized release for SEO purposes. However, you might want to consider those traditional full URLs as well. There’s always a chance the release will be picked up somewhere that won’t publish the anchor text links, and the full URL at least gives readers a copy / paste option to find further information.

Striking the Balance

How do you ultimately strike that balance between SEO releases and news value? You certainly don’t use SEO as an excuse to publish fluff and crap that no one has any interest in. As with anything your company publishes, make sure your press releases add value for the intended audience.

That should always be your primary concern. If you’re giving good information and you’re making it easily found in search engines, you’ll likely be forgiven the occasional slip from the rules. Remember, even if your primary intention is to use online press release distribution to improve search engine rankings, what you release also has the potential to affect your company’s image and credibility within your niche or industry. It’s when companies forget that fact that they start to put out releases bordering on spam. Don’t be one of them.

Need help writing a press release to share your company’s news? Get in touch to work with an experienced PR pro today.

Jennifer Mattern
Jennifer Mattern is a freelance blogger, business writer, and PR consultant specializing in working with small businesses and independent and creative professionals. In addition to writing for others for 20 years and having 17 years experience in PR and online marketing, Jenn has been blogging for 15 years and runs several blogs of her own including All Freelance Writing, NakedPR, and Kiss My Biz.

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