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Press Releases and Branded Content


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This deck was presented at the Ragan Communications PR Writers Summit in Chicago, IL on 10/3/2013. It covers best practices for optimizing and distributing press releases in light of the recent Google guidance and algorithm tweaks, and discusses the value of branded content/native advertising and the differences between branded content and advertorials.

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Press Releases and Branded Content

  1. 1. Press Releases and Native Ads Understanding and Working within the New Rules of Engagement Carolyn Shelby Director of Digital Strategy 435 Digital, A Tribune Company
  2. 2. Working within the new Guidelines
  3. 3. Press Releases: Super OG • Write something newsworthy about your client. • Contact the appropriate news desk at newspapers you’d like coverage in to find out how they prefer to receive press releases. • Send press release (fax/mail/in person)
  4. 4. Press Releases: The Old Online Way • Write something. Anything. • Use lots of keywords. • Insert lots of links back to the client’s website with a variety of keywords for the anchor text. • Distribute via EVERYWHERE.
  5. 5. Press Releases: The New Norm • Write something newsworthy about your client. • Include keywords that are relevant to the story and your client, but don’t stretch or stuff. (The best keywords occur naturally) • Include appropriate links, but only one per destination, and do not use keyword anchor text. • Make sure to include one plain text URL reference (i.e. spell out your website address) • Contact the appropriate news desk/writer/editor at the news outlets you’d like to cover your story and ask them how they prefer to receive news ideas/press releases.
  6. 6. Press Releases: The New Norm • Determine the value of your story (is it likely to get “real” coverage in a “real” news outlet, or is it going to be filler content?) ▫ If “real” coverage is likely, offer an exclusive, and DO NOT release to anyone else until it has run there first. (Including your own site) ▫ If probably filler content, publish on YOUR website first. Make sure it’s indexed. THEN release. But NEVER to free distribution services. And make sure you include a canonical tag on the press release that goes BACK to the same item on YOUR site.
  7. 7. Canonical Tag <link rel="canonical" href=" -press-release"/> Not everyone will agree to canonicalize the content back to you as a source, but provide it anyway just in case.
  8. 8. Why the Changes? • Spammy/spamming press release distribution services ruined them for everyone. • Using newswires as backlink builders contributed to the devaluation of keyword anchor text. • The new unnatural link profile penalties can EASILY be triggered by a widely distributed press release with optimized/keyword anchor text.
  9. 9. Thank these guys for the changes… Penguin: Targets spammy/ unnatural links Panda: Targets low quality content sites/content farms
  10. 10. Thank this guy…
  11. 11. And mostly these guys…
  12. 12. The Moral of the Story • Do not write crappy content and expect it to help anything. It won’t – and now it could hurt you. • Do not pepper your press releases with links like a dirty spammer. Link when beneficial and useful to the reader. Do not link gratuitiously. • Be judicious about your methods of distribution. If you have a quality/compelling story, treat it like it has value and don’t just give it away to low value scrapers.
  13. 13. The new name for Content Marketing
  14. 14. What is Branded Content? • Usually appears in a special section or with special labeling in an online newspaper or magazine site. • Is sponsored by or sometimes produced by a specific company and is generally supportive of that companies position on a given topic. • Gets around “banner blindness” because the content is engaging (more so than just a pretty picture in the side rail with catchy text)
  15. 15.
  16. 16. What is not Branded Content? • Advertorials != Branded Content because: ▫ Branded content is written like regular articles/news items. (Multiple sources, no unattributed “marketing” language) ▫ Branded content has standards. (If it doesn’t meet the writing standards, it won’t run)
  17. 17. Where is the SEO benefit then? • Canonicalized back to your site ▫ Drives search traffic back to your website ▫ Drives regular traffic back to your website ▫ More traffic and more interaction on your site equals positive signals to the engines and creates opportunities for more social sharing.
  18. 18. Where is the SEO benefit? • Not canonicalized back to your site ▫ Lives on a popular news site. ▫ Authority by association ▫ Good co-citations ▫ More eyeballs on your brand and message ▫ Possibly more traffic to your website
  19. 19. Ranking Factors in Search * Searchmetrics Ranking Factors 2013
  20. 20. Best Practices for Branded Content • Do not give the same article to multiple outlets. • Use the same linking strategies we use for press releases. If it’s not valuable/useful to the reader, then don’t do it. • Don’t associate your brand with low quality sites or sites that have no editorial standards for their native advertising. You’ll be found guilty by association and punished accordingly.
  21. 21. Carolyn Shelby Director of Digital Strategy 435 Digital/Tribune Company Web: Twitter: @cshel Email: