This is the third time we’re speaking with Merrick Lozano of PRLeap, so let’s dive right in. The last time we talked here was 2007 when we spoke about local search. What’s new in the area of press releases that people should know about?
Thank you for having me back Michael.
When we last spoke in 2007 the press release had just celebrated its 100th birthday. It had evolved into an effective tool for increasing a brand’s search visibility. You can use an online press release to reach customers and writers who are searching for the type of information you are writing about.
With the emergence of social networks, the press release has continued to evolve – showing its flexibility – as it becomes a tool for sparking conversations and engaging customers and influencers. The social media press release, also known as the social media release (SMR), bundles together videos, pictures, links, and other social objects into a story ready to be distributed via online press release services like PR Leap.
This summer we upgraded our social media release template with the Facebook Like button and the Tweet button from Twitter – to make it easy to spark a conversation in those respective communities. The impact was immediate: with only a few Likes and Tweets, a news release not only gets an increase in visitors from Facebook and Twitter, but it also gets a spike in search traffic.
The benefits of socializing a press release are clear, but not all social media releases are equal. Traditionally, a press release was written for the press. This meant writing a news story in the third person. Giving the social media release the flexibility to be written in conversational tone for most audiences makes it more engaging. But most press release services and newswires will not distribute or publish a release unless it’s free of direct address.
This is why at PR Leap we no longer require that press releases be written in third person. We believe you know your customers best. You decide if conversational tone is right for you.
I must admit we didn’t fully embrace the social media release when it was first introduced in 2006. Instead, we immediately adopted what made sense and decided against making any hasty changes until we had a better understanding of the role social networks would play in online PR.
Probably the first important step in a successful press release is getting picked up and included in Google News. What are some tips you have for people to increase the likelihood of that happening?
If you want your press release to get picked up by Google News, then it has to be in acceptable format. There are 16 specific crawl errors the Google Newsbot can trip on.
Here are 5 tips if you want your press release to get picked up by Google News:
Once you’re in Google news, the next big thing most people want to happen is for blogs, magazines, newspapers, or any other media to notice and cover the story. What are some tips you might have that can help people reach that goal?
It’s important to establish relationships with people before you actually need something from them. If you have already made the time to establish relationships in advance with Bloggers and reporters, then you should definitely share your announcement with them. Don’t send them your press release; instead, contact them privately with a short preview of what you’re going to announce. Most blogs have a contact section that outlines their rules of engagement and reporters typically have a link to their profile where they list how to contact them.
Here are links to articles from bloggers and journalists about how to pitch them with your story.
You obviously would prefer that everyone use your service to distribute their press releases, but are there any circumstances in which it makes sense to use more than one service? Maybe to put out two press releases with a different editorial slant, or on different dates? Are there any tips you can give about how to track the effectiveness of one over the other?
If you are a big company with a big budget and you want to put your news release in front of the largest audience possible, you can certainly pay for that. Business Wire or PR Newswire would love to take your money and send out your release to their list of newspapers, magazines, radio, and television outlets. There is no guarantee that you will get any coverage from it but, if you have the extra money, it’s an option.
Some of our clients send out their press release through multiple services, including PR Leap, on the same day. Here’s are a few ways to track results for such comparisons.
Most press release services track how many page views your press release has to date. If you have something like Google Analytics installed you can also see how many visitors are being referred by from your press release on each site you sent it out through.
You can track customer inquiries via email by customizing the email address on each release, like firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. An easier way to do this, if it works, is to add a + sign and any text you like after the + sign. Doing so will allow you to customize your email but still receive the emails in your inbox. For example:
firstname.lastname@example.org (emails received at email@example.com)
firstname.lastname@example.org (emails received at email@example.com)
You can track rankings, which should correlate with future traffic, by searching for your press release. Here are a few searches to track your press releases for:
3. brand name
Keep track of which press release ranks above the rest on Google Search on day 1, day 7, day 30, day 180, day 365. During the first few days you may see your press release on page 1 inside a News, Images, or Video One Box within the search results.
A more automated way of tracking rankings across search engines would be to use RavenTools.com SERP Tracker or the SEOBook.com Rank Checker to track the keyword phrases/headlines from your press releases.
Social media experts often tell clients that press releases don’t help social bookmarking efforts on sites like Digg, Reddit, and Stumbleupon. I don’t know that I agree with that advice. For example, recently OK Cupid released a study talking about pictures, and one of the conclusions they reached was “iPhone users have more sex”. I think this would have been something worthy of a press release. Have you seen any other examples where press releases work with social media or social bookmarking campaigns?
If you think about it, news is inherently social – we talk about it, link to it, bookmark it, tag it, and more.
Digg, Reddit, Stumbleupon are definitely a more challenging environment for press releases to thrive in, but it’s possible to find an audience in those communities. Here are some examples of press releases on PRLeap.com that did well on social bookmarking and social media sites.New Rogue ADHD Memoir By Gifted Writer Digs Fiercely Into Adderall Addiction and Psychiatry
Those are two communities where experts will have you believe press releases are ignored.Dhani Jones launches new U of M bow tie to support C.S. Mott Childrens Hospital
As I mentioned earlier, socializing a press release into a social media release makes it easier to spark conversations on communities where your audience is participating. You’ll get much better results if you help get the conversation started by liking, tweeting, and submitting the social media release to target niche sites.
I noticed you have the ability to include pictures and videos with press releases that are distributed through your service. Is this worth the effort, is one more effective than the other, and how can I best use this my advantage?
Including videos and pictures in your press release is definitely worth the effort. After optimizing your press release, images by far are the easiest way to increase the reach of your press release, while video keeps visitors engaged with your news longer. If you have the media, including both pictures and video is a winning strategy.
Here is how to increase the reach of your press release on Google Search, Google News, and Google Images with just an image.
Upload a large image to be embedded in your press release. Make sure to optimize the filename to include the brand name and keyword you are targeting for the particular release. We’ve optimized our social media release template at PR Leap for Google News image inclusion such that your image maybe included next to your news article and also next to other news articles for your target keyword.
All right. Since you were nice enough to answer these questions, I’ll let you wrap up by telling everyone about some of the benefits of using your press release service.
Thank you Michael. PR Leap helps businesses:
You can visit PRleap to learn more about their service, pricing, and create a free account.
Thanks for taking the time to talk us today.
As always it’s a pleasure, and I appreciate the opportunity.
This post originally came from Michael Gray who is an SEO Consultant. Be sure not to miss the Thesis WordPress Theme review.
Merrick Lozano of PRLeap Gives Tips About Press Releases
Posted by JoannaLord
Well yesterday was a big day on Twitter, wasn’t it? I don’t know about you but I was glued to the live stream of the not-so top secret Twitter press conference at exactly 3:30 pm and watched closely for an hour and a half while @Ev and @Biz told us all about the new "bigger and better" Twitter.com. The founders outlined many of the recent achievements they have seen with the growth of their community and announced the release of a brand new interface for Twitter.com, which will be rolling out to all users over the new few weeks (it’s important to note that currently only 1% of users have access to the redesign, that decision was not so well received.)
The new interface has a renewed focus on the user experience with in stream multi-media expansions, more search capabilities, and an all around sexier more fluid feeling. I went crazy yesterday playing with the new interface and wanted to share way too many screenshots and my thoughts on the new layout. I am excited to hear what you guys think all of these changes mean, so let’s do this, shall we? What are the big changes to our beloved Twitter.com?
1. Redirect users back to THEIR WEBSITE – Whoa!
I have to admit I got a little fiesty yesterday when I saw my stream fill up with tweets that said things like "that is it?!" and "its just a new interface, what’s the big deal?!" Twitter has over 160 million users, but as we all know many of those users use second party Twitter clients rather than the web interface itself. Ev noted yesterday at the conference that Twitter mobile users are up 250% year over year, which was the motivation for them to release their own mobile apps earlier this year. While this mobile surge has meant huge growth for the community it hasn’t done as much for their on-site value. The announcement yesterday was important because it was their first real attempt to redirect those millions of users to a more compelling on-site experience. Whatever the long term goal is for Twitter.com the website, yesterday’s announcement was a huge step toward a more united community of users. This.is.a.big.deal.folks.
(The new Twitter.com… ohhh pretty!)
2. A whole lot more space for …. uhmmmm advertisements?
So now that we have refocused our attention and time back to Twitter.com what will they do with it? Well sell us things obviously. As you can see below there sure is a lot more space for Twitter to fill. You will notice the "Sponsored Tweets" and the "Who to Follow" elements are more prominent. In addition to that you will see some open areas (that look a lot like traditional ad space units) laced throughout the platform. In general I think its pretty clear that they used this UI redesign to give themselves more options for the up and coming advertising platform we keep hearing about.
(Notice all that space they get to play with!)
3. Focus on other tweets, searches…you know uhmmm NOT your tweet
During the press conference Ev mentioned specifically that Twitter is a unique community of users in that not everyone actually tweets. He noted plenty of people use it just to listen or research…very "search enginey" if you ask me (yes I just made that word up). The new design certainly focuses less on my actual tweet and more on the experience I am having as a Twitter user. You will see the "search box" was moved to top right, and has much more functionality than previously. I can see tweets with my searched word(s), "tweets with links" & that word, "tweets near me" with that word, and see profiles or people that include that searched word. This is a far better experience all around if you ask me, again compelling users to stay on Twitter.com rather than leave and search elsewhere. Smart move people, smart move.
(New search experience…man I love Pumpkin Spice lattes from Starbucks)
4. Media, media, media oh my!
This is probably the change you are hearing most about. The new platform has the ability to view pictures and video in stream, by expanding from the left column (your tweet stream) to the right column (now used more as an expanded view). In addition to seeing whatever multi media you clicked on you will also see people mentioned in the tweet you expanded, a brief history of that user’s tweets, and the latest tweet that tweet may have been in response too. Uhmmm sound confusing? Basically the expanded view of any tweet is now much more of a comprehensive story of that tweet. No longer on the web client will you be clicking from profile to profile to read a full conversation and get context. This new layout has put the story of a tweet together for you in one place. It’s smooth, trust me…you will like it!
(The new platform when you expand an image… Hi Matt!)
(The new platform with expanded video…ohhh puppie)
5. All sorts of other little things
That about sums up the big changes I am seeing. As for what it all means? I think this is a renewed focus on Twitter.com – the site not Twitter – the company. Both Evan and Biz alluded to lots of changes coming down the pipeline, and there is a clear energy of excitement in the stream. I don’t know about you but I am certainly going to playing around more on the web interface both as a user and a marketer. I think we will have some interesting opportunities coming our way…uhmmm both as users and as marketers
Posted by randfish
For a long time, if you asked me about spamming the search engines, whether with hardcore black hat tactics or merely gray hat link acquisition, I’d say that in the long run, neither was the right move. Building a great site and a great brand through hard work, white hat links, solid content and marketing strategies has always been my path of choice. It still is today, but my faith is definitely wavering.
In the last 12 months, I’ve seen (or, at least, felt) less progress from Google’s webspam team than in any previous year I can remember. Popular paid link services that Google’s search quality folks are clearly aware of have worked for months on end (some have done so for years). Crummy, low quality directories and link exchanges have made a comeback since the big shutdowns in 2007-8. Even off-topic link exchanges, which experienced their own blowback in 2006-2007 have started working again. Horrifyingly bad sites are ranking atop the results using little more than exact match domain names and a few poor quality links. There’s even a return of the link farms of the early 2000s, with operators creating (or buying old domains and converting them into) junky, one-page sites to boost their own link popularity.
On nearly every commercially lucrative search results I pull up these days, I see bad links pushing bad sites into the top rankings at Google.
I made a promise to Aaron that I wouldn’t "out" spam, and although I still don’t believe it’s the wrong thing to do morally (it hurts everyone’s search/web experience, why should SEOs band together to protect it?), I do want to keep that promise. So, while I can’t point you to any particular links or sites, here’s a good set of queries where plenty of link manipulation is keeping a few, some or many of the top (5-10) ranking sites in those positions:
Just run a few OSE reports on some sites that rank well here and you’ll see what I mean. There are numerous players in these listings who don’t have a single natural or editorially endorsed link. And you don’t need to limit yourself to these queries either.
Step #1: Search for "SEO Friendly Directory" and visit a few of the sections included in the resulting sites that come up.
Step #2: Search for the primary keywords the directory-listed sites are targeting in their title tags or the anchor text they’ve gotten from the directories.
Step #3: Check out the top 5-10 listings in the rankings and you’ll find an abundance of sites with few to no "natural" links whatsoever
I don’t know. But, I do have some guesses:
Matt himself is finally taking a well deserved break, but even at home he’s much less public on the web, much less active on webspam topics on his blog, visits fewer conferences and now invests in startups, too (which surely takes up time). I don’t mean to criticize Matt in any way – if I were him, I’d have left Google long ago (and he’s clearly put in more than his dues), but the possibility remains that the team he built is no longer intact, or no longer of the quality it was in the early years.
"Blah. Blah Blah. So what if Google’s not doing as much to stop spam as they have in years past?" I hear you ask.
My concern is primarily around the experience of searchers and what it might mean if results become polluted not just by good or relatively good sites that happen to buy or manipulate links, but by really bad crap – the sort that makes searchers want to find a new way of getting information on the web (Facebook Q+A? Twitter? Yelp?). Search today is an amazing marketplace of web builders, marketers, suppliers and customers. If the last of these – the customer – slowly becomes disenchanted with Google, the world of search marketing and the amazing utility of search in general may come to an end.
If you use search engines or work in search marketing, that should be the last thing you want.
That said, if you believe that most of the "spam" will eventually be beaten out by either legitimate results or by better sites that also spam/manipulate links, then there’s much less to worry about (I’m not fully in either camp and can see both sides).
Please DO NOT go out and spam the results, buy links, submit to crap directories and open up link farms. Even with this current trend, I believe that would be terrible advice. Plenty of sites do get caught and filtered, and I’d rather know that my site was safe and every piece of content I added and link I built would help bring more traffic than constantly worry about the small but real risk of being penalized or banned.
One thing Google has done is continue to make the experience of penalization a horrific one. It’s hard to know if you really have a penalty, nearly impossible to figure out what triggered it and onerous, almost Kafka-esque, to attempt to get back into their good graces. If you can live with that risk, as professional black hats do with their churn-and-burn strategies, then it’s less of a concern. But if you’re building a real business, Google is still driving 70%+ of the searches on the web in the US (and 90%+ in many other geographies), and it would be foolish to take such a terrific risk.
As to the question of reporting the spam of your competitors – that’s up to you. However, Google has certainly made it a less likely, less rewarding activity. Nearly every day, we answer PRO Q+A related to the question of link manipulators outranking legitimate marketers and sites, and I can recall only once in the hundreds of questions I’ve answered in the last few years when a spam report actually led to action (to be fair, I don’t follow up consistently on every one, but many of our PRO members will send a regular ping with updates).
What we can do is to re-double our efforts to build great sites with amazing value for people. No matter what the "search" experience of the future is like, those sites and pages that provide a remarkable experience are sure to surface near the top and receive the added benefit of word-of-mouth praise, viral spread and citation in whatever forms it may evolve to, both online and off.
There are millions of queries that are remarkably spam free and Google has done a consistently exception job fighting spam over the years. However, the recent past has me concerned that they are no longer as interested, diligent or capable of combatting even the most basic spam techniques.
It’s also certainly the case that I’m regularly exposed to many queries and topics that SEOs, both black hat and white, focus on, and thus might see more spam than the average searcher (though anecdotally I’d guess they’re seeing more, too).
Have you been seeing more results in the rankings that are performing well despite having virtually no "natural" links? Have you seen Google take action on spam reports? Why do you think the recent past has many fewer examples of big spam-cleaning updates?
I’m looking forward to some great discussion – and this week I’ll be at SES San Francisco (on 5 different panels!) – feel free to grab me and chat privately there, too!
p.s. With regards to Bing, the only other major US search engine now that they’re powering Yahoo! (or on the verge), my opinion is that they have been making substantive strides. They’re still behind Google in many areas (and ahead in a few), but at the current rate, we might actually see Bing surpass Google’s spam detection and filtering in the next 18-24 months, though they will probably still be playing catch up in long tail relevancy/quality.
One of the things I often say that most bloggers get wrong is they sacrifice keyword focus for being clever, cute, or entertaining. Yes, it is important that you make your blog posts as interesting as possible; but you should never ignore the opportunity to tie into commercial concepts. Since I often get criticized for telling you what you do wrong but not how to do it right, here are some examples about how to write interesting blog posts that are more keyword focused.First out of the gate is an article from the New York Times about how to get an artificial tan without looking like Snooki from the Jersey Shore. As we come into summer, lots of people are looking for ways to look like they have a tan without spending time in the sun or in a tanning booth. Artificial tanning products have been around for years, but the results can be hit or miss. This article addresses that issue with a tie in to the Jersey Shore, which makes a nice pop culture hook. If it were my site and not a news site, there would have been some affiliate products links, but I think you get the picture.
Next up is another seasonal post–but this one has a viral keyword hook. I know that flip flops aren’t the most supportive shoes, but I didn’t know they made your shin muscles work harder … did you? When I passed by the magazine rack at the gym, I noticed that toning shoes have started to appear on the covers a lot, but I didn’t know much about them. Here’s an article about toning shoes from USA Today that plays the viral hook “revolutionary sneaker, or overhyped gimmick.” When you come across the article, it’s very likely that you’ll share it. I know I did. Again, if I ran a site and we did an article like that, it would certainly have some affiliate links in it.
Hopefully by now you are familiar with the concept of an editorial calendar and are using it to your advantage. It’s also an excellent opportunity to try and capture some KWD focused searches with things like posts for Father’s Day. These kind of posts are easy because you know they are coming, have a lot of lead time, and can time your publishing for maximum exposure. Something else to note: see how they interlinked the Mother’s Day post at the bottom … don’t miss out on opportunities like that.
photo credit: Johny hanging head down from the tree
This post originally came from Michael Gray who is an SEO Consultant. Be sure not to miss the Thesis WordPress Theme review.
How to Write Keyword Focused Articles and Posts About Timely Topics
While a lot of the attention on AT&T and Apple in the past few weeks has been focused on the release of the iPad and new iPhone, the elimination of unlimited data plans is an equally important development, especially for website owners and publishers.
In prior years, AT&T offered unlimited data for a month; however, they maintained that a small percentage of users were using a disproportionate share of data. To compensate for this, they announced two new data plans and eliminated the unlimited plan. As I understand it, existing customers are grandfathered until they renew. Upon renewal, they have to choose. Engadget has an excellent breakdown of the details of the plan.
So what does this mean to website owners and publishers? IMHO if you are a publisher, you really need to evaluate your use of rich media and use of a mobile version of your site. If you think that AT&T dropping the unlimited plan is an aberration, you might want to reconsider that position. While free wifi may be on the rise, it’s not as ubiquitous as many in the valley would have you believe. I can find open free hot spots if I really need one, but it isn’t easy. So it’s not unreasonable to expect consumers to start being more conscious of their data use. Additionally, while smart phones and devices like the iPad, Blackberry, or Android can handle some rich media, studies have shown that many users prefer “lite” or mobile websites when on these devices.
From an SEO perspective, creating a mobile website has a few pitfalls to watch out for. In my experience, it’s best to avoid using a separate subdomain or subfolder for a mobile version; instead, you want to serve a different CSS version or serve modified content based on mobile user agents. Again this strategy is tricky if you don’t want to look like you are cloaking; however, as long as you serve the same content to Google’s mobile crawler as you do to mobile browsers, you will be fine (for more info, see this post from Google’s webmaster central team).
While using Word Press as a CMS has issues, this is one area in which it works to your advantage: there are multiple plugins to help you address the problem. I use WP Touch, but you can also use WP Mobile. I’m sure there are other plugins or adapters for other CMS systems. Make sure the systems can handle mission critical functions like shopping and ordering. In the month I’ve owned my iPad, I’ve made a dozen purchases from my iPad, which I suspect is a growing trend.
To wrap up, here is what I would concentrate on as a publisher:
This post originally came from Michael Gray who is an SEO Consultant. Be sure not to miss the Thesis WordPress Theme review.
Why You Should Care About AT&T’s iPhone Data Plans Even If You Don’t Own an iPhone