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How to Make a Press Release SEO-Friendly

Corey Batt

Press releases and public relations go hand-in-hand, and that goes for both digital PR and traditional PR. 

Whether you’re going through digital channels or print press, you still need a way to share newsworthy events happening at your business with the public – hence the need for press releases. 

When shared online, a press release can boost brand awareness and improve online visibility, which is why they’re perfect for SEO (search engine optimization). 

In particular, press releases are excellent for building valuable backlinks that will improve your rankings on search engines like Google. 

Yet, you have to know how to make a press release SEO-friendly in order for it to work. 

You’ll need to include things like relevant keywords, backlinks to important web pages, and properly formatted anchor text to ensure SEO friendliness. 

Besides that, your press releases must truly be newsworthy (and well-written) in order for them to gain traction online. 

There’s a lot to know, which is why we’ve put together this guide on how to optimize a press release for SEO, so stay tuned to learn more. 

When to Write a Press Release for SEO 

Creating a press release solely for the purpose of improving your search rankings is a no-no in Google’s eyes. 

If the event you center a press release around isn’t relevant or newsworthy, it’ll stick out like a sore thumb, and you likely won’t see any benefits from it. 

Readers will have no reason to care since the press release doesn’t cover anything noteworthy, and search engine algorithms may even flag it as spam (especially if it contains too many backlinks and keywords). 

So, instead of drafting a press release every time one of your employees gets a new printer, ensure that you only create press releases when something truly newsworthy happens. 

Here are a few examples of acceptable press release topics to get your creative juices flowing:

  1. Launching a new product or service
  2. Highlighting significant achievements by your business
  3. Announcing charitable donations
  4. Major changes to your business’s staff (like hiring new C-suite members) 
  5. Receiving an award 
  6. Expanding on existing products and services 
  7. Providing a new information resource for your audience 

These are all viable topics for press releases since they’re important enough to attract the attention of your target audience. 

Important note: If your goal is to create a press release to improve your SEO performance, then you must exclude time-sensitive events. In traditional PR, it’s normal for companies to distribute press releases for special events, giveaways, and promotions to raise awareness for them. However, as soon as the event happens, the press release must be taken down since it’s no longer relevant. 

That’s why you can’t include time-sensitive events for SEO purposes. It’s crucial for SEO press releases to remain online indefinitely so that the backlinks included continue to drive ‘link juice’ to your website. For this reason, you should stick to ‘evergreen’ press release topics, meaning they won’t have an expiration date (such as the topics provided above). 

What Google Says About SEO-Optimized Press Releases 

As with many other SEO techniques, Google has a love/hate relationship with digital press releases, especially if their sole intention is to manipulate search rankings. 

Their aversion to SEO press releases isn’t unprecedented, either. 

Google had a serious problem with spammy press releases in the early days of SEO.  Site owners would fill their press releases with tons of keywords and backlinks and then pay distributors to place them on hundreds of websites to artificially boost their search rankings. 

Besides that, most of these press releases were hardly newsworthy, causing an influx of low-quality content that was of no value to readers. 

This caused Google to take action by devaluing press release links, which started in 2013.

According to John Mueller, this decision was made because “We know in general companies put out the press releases themselves.”

Google now requires all press release links to contain the ‘nofollow’ tag, which means they won’t have a significant impact on your SEO (although they will still have some effect, so you shouldn’t completely ignore nofollow links). 

According to research by SEMrush, press releases are one of the most common culprits for landing websites manual actions from Google. However, these press releases often contain A) far too many backlinks, B) too many keywords, or C) too many exact-match anchors (also called money anchors). 

As SEMrush found, 50% of the manual action cases involve ‘money anchors’ – which are anchor texts containing only your target keyword. These signal spam to Google, so you should stick to partial match anchors (using a keyword plus other phrases) or branded/natural anchors to avoid suspicion. 

Given all this information, is it even worth creating press releases for SEO?

The answer is still yes but with a few caveats. 

First, you can’t take everything that Google says about SEO at face value since they have conflicting interests. While they know they can’t stop companies from engaging in SEO, certain tactics can negatively impact the user experience for Google Search. 

That’s why they’re not always 100% forthcoming with information about their ranking process. 

Moreover, SEO-friendly press releases can still do great things for your performance on search engines. 

While nofollow links have a reduced effect on SEO, they aren’t completely worthless. Also, distributing a press release increases the chance that a journalist will see it and want to publish it on their website – scoring you an extremely powerful dofollow link in the process. 

In short, the main reason for creating SEO press releases is to build backlinks and improve other ranking factors. They’re also excellent for generating referral traffic that you can then convert into customers.  

How Press Releases Help Your SEO 

Now that we’ve gone over the risks involved with SEO-friendly press releases, it’s time to learn the positive impacts they can have on your search rankings. 

Despite the fact that most media outlets use nofollow links by default (due to Google’s policy), you can still use SEO press releases to your benefit. 

As long as you avoid keyword and backlink spam, press releases can do wonderful things for your performance on search engines, including:

  • Generating more referral traffic
  • Increasing your brand awareness 
  • Boosting your credibility 
  • Faster search indexing 

These are all significant benefits, so let’s take a closer look at each one. 

Generate more referral traffic 

If your press release is indeed newsworthy and engaging, it will generate referral traffic for you, which is a huge plus. 

Your press release should have at least one backlink pointing back to your website so that readers can visit your web pages to learn more about your brand. 

Boosting organic traffic is never a bad thing, and these will be targeted visitors who show a real interest in your business since they consumed your press release. That means you’ll have a greater chance of converting them into leads and customers. 

Also, press releases give you the chance to introduce your brand to new audiences who may not have found out about you otherwise. 

If your distribution efforts reach far and wide, you’ll be attracting new prospects left and right. 

Lastly, if a journalist or prominent blogger takes notice of your press release, they may feature it on their website, scoring you a valuable backlink and brand mention. 

Increase your brand awareness 

There are bound to be qualified prospects out there who have never heard of your business before, and distributing press releases is a great way to reach them. 

In fact, the very purpose of a press release in traditional PR was to raise brand awareness, so it’s literally a content type designed to get the word out about what you do. 

Sharing newsworthy events like new product launches and awards you’ve received will certainly raise lots of eyebrows across the internet. If you play your cards right, you can turn these new prospects into qualified leads and paying customers. 

Boost your credibility 

Specific types of press releases will improve your company’s reputation and boost your credibility.

If your goal is to build trust with your audience, you should focus on the following topics:

  • Charitable donations 
  • Any notable awards or recognition you’ve received 
  • Highlighting important achievements made by your business and individual team members

These press release topics will reflect positively on your brand, which will help you build trust and brand loyalty amongst your audience. 

Faster search indexing 

Backlinks are notorious for not taking effect until Google indexes them, which can take anywhere from a few weeks to eons. 

In all seriousness, it can take several months for Google to reindex content and identify your backlinks. 

The great thing about press release distribution is that Google frequently indexes media outlets, meaning your links will get indexed much faster. 

That means any valuable backlinks you pick up from journalists and bloggers will positively affect your search rankings quicker than links acquired through traditional methods (like fixing broken links). 

How to Optimize Your Press Releases for SEO

Before you start drafting press releases for distribution, there are certain SEO best practices that you’ll need to follow. 

As stated previously, spammy, low-quality press releases are a notorious target for manual actions from Google. 

To ensure your press releases only help your SEO efforts, be sure to avoid things like money anchors, keyword stuffing, and including too many backlinks. 

Here’s a step-by-step process for making a press release SEO-friendly. 

Step #1: Conduct keyword research for your press release 

Keywords still play a role in SEO press releases, even though your primary goal is likely to build backlinks. 

If you want your press release to rank well and get seen by your target audience, you need to research relevant keywords to target. 

Yet, press release keyword research looks a lot different than traditional SEO keyword research. 

Instead of looking for keywords related to your business’s products and services, you’ll want to consider things like:

  • Key phrases journalists are likely to search for 
  • What people will likely search for to find your press release 
  • The main takeaway you want readers to get from your press release

There are several ways to conduct keyword research, including using Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer tool. 

Simply enter a few key phrases related to your press release (and that you think journalists may search for), and the tool will do the rest. 

As an example, here’s what happens when we search for ‘new product launch.’

As you can see, the tool provides us with lots of related keywords and their metrics. 

Key metrics to pay attention to include:

  • Search volume (SV). This metric displays how many users are searching for the keyword each month. If you want to generate the most traffic, target keywords that have a high search volume. 
  • Keyword difficulty (KD). A keyword’s difficulty score (represented on a scale from 1 – 100) refers to how difficult it will be to rank for it on Google’s SERPs. If the score is high, it means there’s a fair amount of competition for the keyword. 

Ideally, the strongest SEO keywords have a high search volume but a relatively low keyword difficulty score. 

In the example provided above, we could target the keyword ‘product launch checklist’ since it has a decent search volume (600) and a low KD score (9). 

Remember to only target keywords that have direct relevance to the topic of your press release. Targeting unrelated keywords won’t do you any favors, as you’ll likely only frustrate search users who were looking for different types of content. 

Also, keyword stuffing is one of the leading causes of manual actions from Google, so use your keywords sparingly and strategically. 

Here’s a brief guide for proper keyword placement:

  • In the first 100 words of your content 
  • In your title tag, H1 header, and meta description 
  • In any image alt tags 
  • Organically, throughout the press release (only where it makes sense and doesn’t distract from the copy) 

Step #2: Write a high-quality press release 

Once you know which keywords to include, it’s time to start writing your press release. 

While your goal is to improve your SEO, creating a valuable piece of content is still the most important aspect of developing a press release. 

Otherwise, readers won’t have a reason to care, and search engines will likely flag your press release as spam and hit you with a manual action (which is disastrous for SEO). 

That’s why it’s imperative to write a readable, relevant, and engaging press release that will entice readers and media professionals. 

Here are a few guidelines to follow:

  • Write a catchy, buzz-worthy headline. The title of your press release is one of the most important components, as it’s what will encourage readers and journalists to click on it to learn more. Go with something equal parts catchy and intriguing (without giving away too much). 
  • Provide a concise summary in the first paragraph. Journalists will want to know A) who the story is about and B) why it matters – so cut straight to the case in the opening paragraph. 
  • Include further details. The rest of your press release should elaborate on the key points in the intro in descending order of importance. Remember to remain concise, as you don’t want to overstay your welcome. 
  • Break up the text with interesting quotes. You should quote industry experts and relevant team members wherever possible, as they break up the text and attract interest. 
  • Don’t forget the sign off. Once you’ve said what you need to say, include a clear sign off to indicate that the press release is over (i.e., XXX or ###). 
  • Avoid jargon and aim for readability. Journalists and readers alike don’t care for confusing industry jargon, so use simple language instead. Also, use short sentences, subheadings, and brief paragraphs to make your press release readable and scannable. 
  • Include contact information. At the end of your press release (and in the top-left corner of the page), include the contact information of who you want journalists to get in touch with for quotes and to share your story. Include a name, phone number, email address, and any relevant social media profiles. 
  • Add a boilerplate for your business. At the very bottom of your press release, include a short boilerplate (a biography similar to your About Us page) that describes your business. 

Those are the components of a successful press release, but now, let’s learn how to make it SEO-friendly. 

Step #3: Hyperlink important phrases 

This step is where you add backlinks to the pages you want to rank better on search engines. 

It’s also the step where you need to be the most careful

Remember, SEMrush found that a whopping 50% of manual action cases were due to over-optimized anchor text (‘money’ anchors containing target keywords). 

That means you need to pay close attention to the anchor text you use for your backlinks. 

Here are some pointers for writing anchor text:

  • Exact-match or money anchors only contain your target keyword and nothing else. They’re the most dangerous (and valuable) type of anchor text, so you should only use them sparingly. An example would be using the phrase ‘product launch’ as your anchor text when it’s also the target keyword for your press release. 
  • Partial-match anchors contain your target keyword and a few other words/phrases. An example would be using ‘our new product launch’ as anchor text instead of only including the keyword. Partial match anchors are safer than money anchors, so you should use them more often (although not too much). 
  • Branded anchors use your brand name as anchor text and are typically a safe bet to use. 
  • Natural anchors use normal or generic phrases as anchor text instead of using keywords. It’s important to mix in natural anchors with partial and exact-match anchors for a better ratio (which will make your content appear more normal to Google). 
  • Naked URLs forgo anchor text entirely and use the URL instead (i.e., 

The ideal anchor text ratio will feature a combination of the anchors listed above, but you’ll only have a handful of opportunities to write anchor text in a single press release. 

Try to use one partial-match anchor and one branded anchor if you’re only using two backlinks, and link to crucial pages like your products and services. 

Also, including too many backlinks is another red flag to Google, so ensure that you only link to one or two pages at most. 

Remember, the links you include here have to be ‘nofollow,’ so they’ll only have a marginal impact on your SEO anyway. That’s why it’s not worth going nuts and including dozens of backlinks in one press release. 

Step #4: Craft an attention-grabbing, keyword-rich headline 

The importance of your press release’s headline can’t be understated, which is why it receives its own step. 

We’ve already gone over that you need to write a catchy headline that entices journalists and readers to learn more, but that’s only one piece of the puzzle. 

For maximum ranking power, you also need to include your target keyword in your headline without it looking awkward or out of place. Also, your H1 header and title tag are two different things, and they shouldn’t be the exact same. 

Why is that?

It’s because search engines will recognize that you have identical title and H1 tags, which they interpret as a sign that your site is over-optimized

Therefore, you need to write two similar yet distinct headlines for your title tag and H1 header. 

As you can probably tell by now, a lot goes into writing a press release headline. In fact, it can and should be the part that you give the most thought. 

Let’s take a look at some examples of stellar press release headlines to help spark some ideas. 

This headline from ModCloth perfectly mixes humor with being informative. The ‘breaking up’ analogy is clever and attracts attention, but it also lets the reader know what’s happening and why it’s being shared. 

Press release headlines don’t always have to be clever or humorous – as this offering from WMO perfectly exemplifies the power of a straightforward title. Sometimes it’s best to let the newsworthiness of the event speak for itself, as it does in this example. 

Step #5: Use relevant images that are colorful and eye-grabbing 

Nobody likes reading a giant wall of text, even if it does contain several quotes throughout. 

That’s why you should also use visually appealing images and other forms of multimedia in your press releases. After all, articles with images receive 94% more views than those that do not, and press releases are no different. 

Yet, you shouldn’t grab any image that you find appealing, as the visuals you choose must hold relevance to the topic at hand. 

For example, if your press release is about hiring a new CEO, it would be appropriate to include their headshot. You can also throw in photos of them interacting with your employees, show off your work environment, and include original infographics that provide further context. 

Once you’ve selected the images you want to use for your press release, you’ll need to optimize them for SEO by:

  • Using relevant file names (that contain keywords, if possible) 
  • Adding alt tags (that include keywords) 
  • Add captions to images to add more context (like describing your office) 

Step #6: Distribute your press release to high-authority sites 

By now, you should have a powerful, SEO-friendly press release ready to go. The only step left is to distribute it to various high-authority media outlets online. 

How do you do that?

One way is to vet websites through Ahrefs to ensure that they’re worth your time. 

You’ll want to distribute your press release to websites that have strong domain ratings. All you have to do is plug a website URL into the Site Explorer tool and then check the Domain Rating (DR) score listed on the top-left corner of the page. 

As long as the website has a relatively high DR, it’s a reasonable place to distribute your press release. 

Platforms like Google News and BuzzSumo are also excellent for uncovering media outlets in your niche that accept press releases. 

Lastly, you can use a press release distribution service. They feature massive distribution networks, which will take the process off your hands. 

What to Avoid When Optimizing Your Press Release for SEO 

That’s what it takes to craft an SEO-friendly press release from scratch. By following these guidelines, you’ll wind up with valuable press releases that will attract shares, traffic, and backlinks. 

Just to review, here’s a list of things to avoid when optimizing your press releases. 

  • Writing press releases purely for SEO. Your press releases must contain newsworthy events and valuable information to avoid getting flagged as spam. 
  • Keyword stuffing. Just like blogs, Google’s algorithms will pick up on excessive keyword usage in your press releases, so don’t go crazy. 
  • Adding too many backlinks. Limit yourself to only a few backlinks per press release. Remember, backlinks acquired from journalists sharing your press release are far more valuable. 
  • Using the same anchor text in every press release. Even if you have a desirable ratio and avoid money anchors, using the same anchor text in every press release isn’t a good idea – so mix it up. 
  • Distributing your press release to junk websites. Some distribution networks use PBNs and link farms – so vet every service before using them. Also, check the domain rating for every media outlet you target for distribution. 

Start Creating SEO-Friendly Press Releases Today 

Despite the fact that most media outlets use nofollow links, press releases are still a great way to bolster your SEO efforts. 

An expertly crafted press release can generate backlinks and brand mentions from journalists in addition to referral traffic and social shares from your target audience. 

Do you need help creating SEO-friendly content that generates backlinks?

Then, you need to check out our five-star content creation services from Authority Builders. Our experts will craft content for your press releases that will help you reach the top of Google, so don’t wait to get in touch.    


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