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5 Tips on How to Optimize a Press Release for SEO

Lance Concannon

May 3, 2024

There’s a lot of confusion around the idea of optimizing a press release for SEO, which can lead to wasted effort and disappointing results. In this article we’ll address some of the most common misconceptions about SEO optimization for press releases, and give you the truth about how they can really be used to improve your organic search traffic. 

We’ll start by covering some basic principles of Search Engine Optimization, and then dig into the role that press releases can play in the process.

The goal of SEO is to ensure that all of the pages on your website consistently appear at the top of search engine results when people search for the words and phrases that are most relevant to the products and services you sell.

There are two main components of SEO strategy, on-page and off-page: 

  • On-page SEO refers to all of the things on your website that you can control, and includes everything from the content in individual pages to the overall structure of the site, all kinds of technical issues like the performance of the underlying code, the size of image files and so on. 
  • Off-page SEO is all about how your website is connected to the rest of the web, and mostly focuses on encouraging other websites to link to your own. By increasing the number of inbound links from good quality websites, you improve your SEO. 

So where do press releases fit into all of this, and why would you want to optimize them?

Table of Contents

What are benefits of press release submission in SEO?

The original purpose of a press release was to inform the media of important news from your business. Before the internet, hard copies were sent by mail to newsrooms, where journalists would painstakingly sift through them every day looking for any which might be of interest for stories they’re working on. 

When the world moved online, so did press releases, eventually finding a new purpose on the web. A new wave of online press release distribution services gave PR executives the ability to push their releases out across the web. Copies of a release could exist on the newswires and on global media websites which often re-published them verbatim, and if you included links to your own website in the release, that would easily give you potentially thousands of backlinks, often from high quality editorial media sites. 

Very quickly the SEO value of online press releases overshadowed their original purpose of informing the media about new developments. Naturally, this easy route to building high value backlink became widely exploited, with SEO consultants spamming the newswires with releases about their clients to boost their rankings. 

The search engines soon caught on and devalued links from press releases, so they could no longer be used in that way.

In the context of easy link-building, press releases are no longer useful for SEO. But that’s not to say they have no value, because press releases can still serve other purposes which have an indirect benefit to our search rankings. 

Press release SEO best practices

As press releases aren’t an easy route to backlinks any more, they have reverted back to their original purpose, informing journalists and influencers about news from your business. And it’s in this way that they can help you to improve your organic rankings, by capturing the attention of writers and winning you good quality coverage in the media. 

Here are five tips to optimize a press release for SEO: 

1) Use Press Releases Strategically

If you spam out too many press releases about every little thing that happens at your business, they simply won’t be effective. Learn to tell the difference between a story that matters only to people who work at your company, and one that will genuinely be of interest to your customers and potentially the wider public. Honestly, most people don’t care that you hired a new Chief Whatever Officer, so that release is going to end up as digital landfill which will have achieved nothing except to waste your time. 

It’s also counterproductive to push out too many uninteresting press releases, because the journalists and influencers you’re trying to reach will get into the habit of ignoring or even blocking your updates, so even when you do have something interesting to say, they won’t notice. 

So, only send out press releases when you have something to say that matters. Put yourself in the shoes of the audience that you’re ultimately trying to reach, and ask yourself why they invest some of their attention span to reading what you have to say. But also think about the writer, because they are the filter between you and the audience, so your press release needs to make a strong case for why they should cover your story. 

Assuming you have a strong story, you next need to think about how to structure your release in a way that presents it in the most effective way. For that, you should understand a technique that all journalism students learn.

2) Understand the Inverted Pyramid 

A press release is, essentially, the ideal story you would like a journalist to write about your business. Of course, no journalist worth their salt would publish a press release verbatim, but if you can give them a strong story presented in a format that’s very close to something they would write themselves, you increase your chances of earning some coverage. 

So, all good news stories start with a headline that succinctly captures the meat of your story. The opening paragraph should contain all of the important facts and details to outline exactly what’s happened, and why it matters to the reader. 

As you continue to expand upon your story, you can include more background information and context, including quotes from relevant people. 

The point of using the Inverted Pyramid is that no matter how much of the story they read, the audience should have a good idea of what it's all about. If they only skim the headline, that should still get your main message, and if they happen to read further down the page, they will get additional information which broadens their understanding. 

Don’t forget to add contact details at the bottom of your release in case the writer wants more information.. 

3) Make Life Easy for Journalists

Your goal is to convince journalists or influencers to write about your story, and ideally to include a backlink to your website when they publish. This will result in a high-quality link from a trusted media source on a page that’s full of contextually relevant information about your business, which is very valuable in SEO terms. 

So do your best to give the writer everything they might need, and eliminate any potential barriers to them writing the story for you. This means your release should include: 

  • A choice of high quality images to illustrate the story. Photos of products and key people, charts and illustrations - anything relevant to the announcement. 
  • The name and contact information of somebody they can speak to about the story. 
  • A selection of quotes to use - ideally from customers or partners as well as your own spokespeople. 
  • Key facts and figures about your business, in case they are unfamiliar with you. 

If you consistently make the process as seamless as possible for them, over time you’ll secure more media coverage. 

If a high profile media organization or influencer writes about your announcement, that’s always going to have a lot of value for your business. But if the story includes a link to your website, then it’s worth a lot more because of the positive impact on your SEO, so you should do what you can to encourage the writer to include the link. 

First of all, decide which page you want them to link to, and ensure that’s the only link featured in your press release, with the exception of your corporate website homepage which should be included in your company information. The point is to avoid overwhelming them with choice - if there’s only one link in the release, that’s most likely the one they’ll use. 

To increase the odds of this happening, make sure that the page you want them to link to features plenty of useful information about the subject of the story - give them a good reason to send their readers to that page. Don’t be afraid to ask for the link in your covering email; a simple note like “Your readers can find all the useful information here [LINK] is often all it takes.”

But don’t be pushy about asking for links, as this is likely to offend some journalists, and in many cases it might be against their editorial guidelines and therefore out of the writer’s hands entirely. 

5) How To Maximize the Reach of Your SEO Press Release Using Press Release Services

The shotgun approach just doesn’t work for press releases, it’s spammy and will eventually cause people to stop paying attention to your announcements. It’s far more effective to use a targeted approach to media outreach, which delivers better ROI on your time investment. 

You can use a tool like Meltwater Media Relations to identify journalists who have already covered similar topics to your announcement, which means they’re already more likely to be interested in what you have to say. Because the tool gives you background information about each journalist, you can more easily tailor your individual outreach emails to resonate better with them, which helps build ongoing relationships and makes securing future coverage easier. 

The days of being able to quickly get a lot of backlinks by regularly pushing out press releases on distribution wires are, thankfully, gone. The most sustainable way to approach link-building now is to reach out to relevant media, whether they’re legacy media or social influencers, whenever you genuinely have something interesting to announce, and use well crafted press releases to give them everything they need to write about your business. 

If you're ready to start improving your search rankings with media outreach, get in touch for a demo of our Media Relations tool.