Cut out the middle man – optimising for Google News

Optimising and submitting press releases online is widely acknowledged as an essential tool in the search marketer’s armoury. When distributed through the right channels, a press release can have you featuring in Google News (for related searches) in a matter of hours, thereby raising profile and brand awareness.

And of course, one of the key reasons why many search marketers optimise and submit press releases online is down to the fact text links can be incorporated into the release, thereby aiding ‘link popularity’ (however, the true value of these links is questionable…see below for further comment).

But for every submission of a press release online there is usually a charge (presuming you want it to appear on Google News and similar sites – there are free submission tools available but we have not found these to provide the exposure we are looking for). Depending on the company you use charges on a per-release basis can range from around £40 to £150 depending on the level of personalisation in the releases’ targeting.

For many of us SME’s this is an additional cost we could do without so what can we do? Well, a good start is to optimise the news pages on your site specifically for Google News. By following a few simple rules, the opportunity exists to cut out the middle man and have your own site pages ranking in Google News for FREE! The only drawback to this is that a press release distributed through a submission site will usually allow links to be added to the release. These releases are then archived online thereby adding to the number of incoming links to a website. However, the actual value of these links has to be questioned in light of the fact that the releases might well be archived but they are no doubt buried under a mass of new content submitted through the site each and everyday.

So if we ignore submitting press releases for the goal of improving ‘link popularity’ and instead focus on the real goals of a press release; exposure, brand awareness and so on, follow these simple steps and you might well save yourself a few pounds on regular submission fees…

1) First and foremost make sure you have something interesting and useful to say. Too many companies are submitting press releases online and adding news to their sites, which to be quite frank, nobody gives a hoot about! Consider what your target market and the wider community are going to find of interest and what is better kept amongst staff.

2) When writing a press release or news based article, carefully consider the headline; it needs to be between 2 and 22 words and attention grabbing. Also, think about keywords related to the piece. Optimise the copy as you would a product or service page on your website; for the user first and search engine second. Your news item will not stand a chance if it is ‘spammy’.

In addition follow these rules when writing your press release or news based article (amended from Google’s own guidelines)…

* If the article body appears to be too long to be a news article, Google’s crawler may not recognise it as an article

* Format your articles into text paragraphs of a few sentences each and don’t use frequent tags

* Ideally eliminate or certainly minimise the amount of text surrounding the article. Google may ignore the article if it makes up a relatively small fraction of the text on the overall page

* Make sure that the full text of each of your articles is available in the source code of your article pages (and not embedded in a JavaScript file, for example)

3) Each article must have a unique URL and this URL must contain at least a 3 digit number. If you have 4 digits in your URL make sure they do not resemble a year. In an ideal world, your URLs should be static as Google still has a habit of tripping over dynamic URLs.

4) The article must be linked to from a main page on your site via a textual html link.

5) Google must be able to determine the publication date of the article. Therefore, place a clear date and time for each of your articles in between the title and main body text in a separate line of HTML. You might want to consider removing any other dates from the HTML of the article page so that Google’s crawler isn’t confused by another date on the page.

6) Once you’ve got your formatting and URLs nailed, go to and complete the form (‘Suggest my site to Google News’). This is because to gain exposure in Google News, your site has to be included as a trusted source of information. You can check whether you’re in by using the “site” function. Do not submit page URLs’s to be spidered that change daily, weekly or monthly. In fact it is best to make sure that the URL remains the same as Google simply won’t be able to spider the new URL if it does.

And there you have it. Whilst we are in no way dismissing the value of the submission tools and personalised targeting offered by our good friends over at DW Publishing and The Press Dispensary, it is not always feasible for the typical SME to spend money on distributing news related content. Of course, when you really have something to say, there is no doubting the value in utilising a distribution service but if you are simply looking to drip feed information into Google News, follow the simple steps above.

Until next time…

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