If you’ve been in the online PR world for any length of time, you’ve seen a lot of changes. Back in the good old days, you could just toss a few keywords into your online press releases and something good would happen. Best case scenario, news outlets would pick up your release. But even if they didn’t, those keywords would help your client’s website get found in search engines like Google or Alta Vista. (This was way back in the day, remember?)
But times have definitely changed. Yes, you should still use keywords in your press release, but no, you shouldn’t rely on them as a safety net.
Fear the Panda
Starting last year, you may have heard a lot of folks on the Internet cursing “Panda.” What’s that all about? I mean, pandas are adorable! They have cute black patches around their eyes and seem to live to munch on bamboo all day.
Unfortunately, pandas got a bad name in some Internet circles with the release of “Google Panda.” With Panda, now at version 4.0, Google tightened up the algorithm they use to give web searchers their results. No longer would simply throwing the keyword “soft white towels” into any old article mean that Google gave you a bump when someone searched for “soft white towels” to buy. Nope, now Google uses their super-secret algorithm to ensure that when they give web searchers a result, it’s high quality and actually all about “soft white towels.”
Keywords are Only Part of the Equation Now
Remember, search engines don’t exist to please PR pros. They exist to give web searchers what they’re looking for. If someone searches they keyword “soft white towels” and several apparently random websites pop up as top results, then the search engine has failed at its job and won’t be in business for long.
What does this mean for you as you write your press release?
Yes, you still want to use a few keywords so Google’s spiders know what your press release is about. But no, you don’t want to stuff your press release so full of keywords that it leads to bad writing.
Yes, you want to check out Google AdWord’s keyword tool or another keyword tool to find out what people are searching. But no, you don’t want to tear your hair out over whether to focus on the key phrase “best place to dine in Bar Harbor” vs. “best place to eat in Bar Harbor.” If the article is well written, Google will give you that bump.
Yes, it would be nice if your keyword fit naturally into your press release headline, but if it doesn’t, don’t despair. Google and other search engines are getting smarter and they’ll know what your article is about without a keyword in the title.
As a press release writer, you do still need to be aware of keywords, but in a way, Google Panda has actually made your job easier. Now, instead of trying to torture a press release into a format a machine will read, you should just focus on writing your best, most interesting press releases and trust search engines to catch your drift.
Mickie Kennedy is the founder of eReleases, a press release writing and distribution service.