Q&A With Scott Huegerich: Become the Key(word) Master

For smaller businesses, the press release is often the best way to get customers to visit their Web sites. Including the right keywords in those press releases is crucial to getting that revenue-generating attention. Keyword expert Scott Huegerich has advice on how to get noticed for your news

InformationWeek Staff, Contributor

April 10, 2008

4 Min Read

There's a lot of talk about search engine optimization these days. Many smaller businesses are employing traditional SEO techniques while others are using press releases to draw target audiences to specific websites. But the single most important tactic in SEO is the use of correct keywords. To target your audience and determine the most relevant keywords to put into a press release, Rachel Meranus turned to PR Newswire distribution expert Scott Huegerich for some advice.

Rachel Meranus: Why are keywords important in a press release?

Scott Huegerich: Keywords are important because if you're speaking a different language than your target audience, your message won't be found. It goes beyond just using keywords; you need to use the right keywords. Determining the words and phrases that your audience uses to search for information related to your industry, product or service dictates your success in connecting with an online audience.

Imagine that you're selling vehicles for family vacations. Do you refer to them as "motor homes," "recreational vehicles" or "RVs"? A quick search using a keyword research tool like Google Trends reveals that the overwhelming majority of internet users search using the term "RV."

Meranus: How do you determine which keywords are appropriate for a particular press release?

Huegerich:Consult your company's webmaster and marketing department. Chances are they've already carried out extensive keyword research in optimizing your website. By coordinating efforts, you'll ensure that the keywords in your release are the ones found on your website, which will support your company's overall SEO strategy.

  • If you don't have access to people with this information, there are ways of determining appropriate keywords on your own. Use keyword research tools like Wordtracker and Google Trends. These sites give you a better idea of the number of searches and level of competition that exists for a given keyword or phrase.

  • Know the competition. Especially when promoting a small business online, you've got to be keenly aware of competition for the keywords you've selected. If you target keywords that are highly sought-after, it may take years of effort and untold amounts of money to get near the first page of results.

  • Avoid jargon and marketing speak. Think about how you would search if you were a consumer looking for a product like yours. Which is a real person going to search for: "home entertainment solutions" or "stereos"? Focus on using single words or very short phrases.

  • Think of words and phrases that are specific to the product or service you are promoting, but still colloquial enough to be used by real people.

  • Examine your own Website and the Web sites of your competitors to see what words they contain.

  • Enter the keywords you're thinking of targeting into a search engine. Inspect the results to make sure they fall in line with what you're promoting.

Meranus: How many keywords should you include in a press release?

Huegerich: It's keywords or phrases should make up between 1.5 percent and 3.5 percent of the words in your release. If you don't include enough instances of your keyword, search engines might not see your release as relevant for that keyword. If you include too many instances of your keyword, your release runs the risk of being identified as spam.

Make sure that you use only keywords that relate to your primary topic. Don't stuff your release full of keywords for two reasons: It will dilute your message and it might lower your search ranking. Focus on creating a message that resonates with your audience.

Meranus: What's the best way to use keywords in a press release?

Huegerich: Place your keywords at the top of your release. Work them into the headline, subhead and lead sentence of your release. The inverted pyramid style of news writing lends itself well to SEO because it puts primary ideas at the beginning. When search engines scan your release, they place emphasis on the content you have at the top of the page. This ties into the idea of relevance -- if you include all important information and relevant keywords at the beginning, your release will be thoroughly relevant to the message you're conveying.

Meranus: Smaller businesses often just write about the news they are trying to announce. What other strategies can they employ to highlight their news?

Huegerich: One powerful strategy is to include multimedia elements with your release. Press releases that make use of videos, photos and audio gain additional traction with internet users, engaging them on a different level.

Rachel Meranus is vice president of public relations at PR Newswire.

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