In a recent Marketwire-sponsored SEO and social media webinar, Sally Falkow made a compelling argument that any press release should do more than just distribute your news. Press releases are a valuable resource that can boost search engine visibility of your news and your corporate website. But how do you choose the best keywords that will give you high rankings in popular search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing?
Here are four easy steps that will help you choose the best target keywords for your press releases:
- Consider your existing keyword visibility
Resist the urge to Google yourself, your business name, your product names or even your organization’s core competencies. Rather than guessing what keywords and phrases people are using as search terms to get to your site, get scientific about creating a comprehensive SEO benchmark. Consider documenting benchmark metrics from any or all of the following free resources:
a. MajesticSEO.com  allows you to quickly count the number of backlinks to your domain name, and even provides a handy graph that trends your backlinks by month.
b. Google Webmaster Tools  requires a bit more effort to configure. Results are not immediate but the information gives you a lot of insight into Google’s inclusion of your website’s content.
c. Alexa.com  rankings can also provide you with a good overall score. More importantly, Alexa allows for multiple site comparisons to put the rest of your metrics in context. Are you frustrated because traffic to your site stayed the same after a month of optimization efforts? If your competitor’s traffic decreased, would you feel as bad? I didn’t think so.
- Consider keyword competition and popularity
When setting SEO goals, it is extremely important to consider the popularity of keywords or phrases people use in search engines and the number of competing websites for those same search queries. An SEO-enhanced press release or a social media release is not a magic bullet that will automatically get you on the first page of Google for a very generic keyword. SEO campaigns take time, especially if starting from scratch with new keywords. It’s best to weigh the overall traffic volume for keywords or phrases against the amount of competition, choosing your battles for keywords with significant traffic and relatively lower competition. In addition, keep in mind that highly generic keywords might generate lots of traffic but incumbents are usually hard to compete against. Several paid and free tools exist that can make choosing target keywords much easier:
a. Marketwire SEO Analyzer Tool  includes a keyword checker that suggests keywords to use that have ample search volume and lower competitive pressure.
b. Google Adwords Search Keyword Tool  is free to use for researching keywords for both SEO and PPC campaigns.
- Consider branded, trademarked, proprietary keywords
Business names, branded keywords, trademarks and proprietary/patented words are usually easy to optimize for on a corporate website. In general, the amount of other sites that link to your corporate web pages as an authority for your own products is quite high, and overshadows any competing sites that also optimize for those keywords. However, there is the rare chance that your website is poorly optimized for your branded terms, in which case, optimizing a press release for branded terms makes perfect sense. For the most part, many businesses will want to focus on optimizing releases for more generic search queries/keywords that people might use to discover your business.
- Consider visitor behavior
Focus on visitor intent and landing page relevance when choosing keywords to optimize in a press release. For example, if a visitor is searching for “used Honda Civic car parts,” the most potentially relevant landing page should have everything to do with parts for that particular brand and model of car. The last thing you want to do is optimize your press release for “used Honda Civic car parts” and link to a generic page on your website with every single part in your inventory, which is not relevant to your target phrase. Optimizing a landing page can take time and the only way to really account for user behavior on your website is through web analytics. Luckily free tools for tracking website users also abound:
a. Google Web Analytics 
b. Yahoo Web Analytics 
c. AT Internet XiTi Free 
Search engine optimization is a natural extension of press release distribution because content distributed via the wire or through online distribution channels lives online in perpetuity. Although the initial release of breaking news via Marketwire can generate a lot of short-term traffic and interest in your business, optimizing for SEO can send considerable visitors to your website over time and start to build priceless equity related to search engine visibility. Picking the right keywords and optimizing landing pages accordingly can result in measurable business outcomes for years to come.