Friday, April 30, 2010

Press Releases 2.0

I've finally learned how to do it - get press releases picked up regularly in our rapidly changing media world. My coach at Business Wire has been a huge help. Had a release go out recently on A Rubik's Cube Contest and it did really well.

Why? A few key tips.

Use bullets. About paragraph 3 of the release - no more than 3 or 4 to quickly summarize what's been written.

Use your brand names as much as you can. We are all told to identify key words and pepper them throughout the release. That's good advice but don't forget name brands that are searched all time. Use all the brand names you can. If you can link your release to a well searched brand name - do it. Is your client partnering with name brand companies? Throw them in a couple of times and highlight them.

Connect those you are quoting to their bios - Our first thought is to send media to the web site but send them to the bio. That way readers can quickly find out who your client is, what her credentials are, and why they should care.

Use the news in your industry to your advantage. If it's spring and your product has a connection to spring break use it. If there's a government program ending or announced in your industry figure out a way to link to it. This is PR common sense but often we forget to think news - news - news. Without that hook, you're just another Brick in the Wall.

Use a lot of links. - 2-3 per paragraph if you can. Your goal is to get release readers to your web site and a landing page that makes them want more. Entice them all the way through the release with different links to different sections. You can't see into a reporter's mind - but you can give them a great many options to choose from.

Keep it short. We all have lost our attention spans. Tell me what I need to know - why it matters and then you're done. The days of long quotes to please the client are over. Tell them it will hurt pick-up. That's what they are paying you for.

Write something that can be easily converted to an article. Your release will often be read by a computer or a kid who decides whether or not it's worth listing as an article. You want that designation in the URL so write for it. If your release has a lot of gunk in it - and many of them do - and really needs to be edited, it won't happen.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Unsexy SEO Tool - Bounce Rate

I don’t know about you, but I do a lot of online research and media monitoring on company web sites, blogs, online newspapers, product sites, etc. I Google everything - it's become my bible of search.

Many of these sites have spent a fortune so they are on those first 2-3 pages when you type in a search term that is part of their business. But what most SEO firms don’t like to talk about is what happens when the potential customer gets there and can’t find what they are looking for? Simple: You’ve blown that referral.

What does Bounce rate mean? It measures the number of people who came to your site and never made it past the home page. Or as Google puts it “I came; I puked; I left." Bounce rate tells you how many of the people who came to your site weren’t impressed with what they found. No second click.

And yes, I'm reworking my site right now to fix that. It's only been up for two years and is already totally outdated when it comes to bounce rate. And it doesn't search well either although my name does.

Bounce rate is hard to misunderstand because the higher it is, the less effective your web site, blog, etc. is. Of course there will always be a small bounce rate but the bigger it is the less successful you are in exciting and engaging people in your site. That’s pretty straight forward.

Gord Hotchkiss of Enquiro, a search engine marketing firm, said in an article that he likes to look at the differences in how people of different ages, gender, etc. react when they get to a page.

He pointed out two distinctive difference, and said there are many others.

1. How males scan a page versus females
2. How those who grew up online and those who didn’t search web sites.

For more from this very bright guy who knows a lot more about search than I do go too

How can you learn more about the way potential customers and other visitors use your site? Start looking at the details of where your visitors are coming from. In Google Analytics, check out your referring sites. Then visit them and find the source of how they are presenting your web site and the information it delivers.

One client of mine tracks referring sites like he is mining gold, and in a way he is. Remember when PR wasn’t measurable? Aren't we old timers? He can now look at the stories, mentions, etc. run about his company and see how much traffic it drove to his web site and how long it stayed. And we can make decisions on where we want to place stories based on the referral sites.

Looking at sources can tell you a lot about how major traditional and newer media pull traffic to your web site and blog. For instance media outreach for one client has found that:

A New York Times article is still pulling in traffic months later

Consumer finance web sites like The Consumerist and WalletPop drive huge traffic but only for a short time.

Reddit is a great traffic builder and it has staying power.

CNN Money is site people go back to time and time again for advice.

A Health Day article that got picked up by thousands of web sites didn’t drive that much traffic to the site and we're still not sure why.

I close with Bounce Rate Matters - Make it a Mantra.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

No One Reads Email Anymore - Deal With It

Two years ago you could send an email to a journalist or a business prospect and expect that they would read it and you might even get a response. Today I would forget about that.

I used to have a lot of luck with email media pitching. I would spend time creating these perfect pitches - I came from the freelance writing world and editors actually read them then. Today I have to assume that no one reads anything - because I really don't. And if they do it's on a mobile and more than a sentence or two gets deleted.

I worked for awhile with a woman who would send out email queries to get people to participate in projects. They were people who had signed up and at some point were engaged. If she didn't hear back she wouldn't even email again. Yes she was in her 20s and email was the only way she'd ever really communicated. She never even thought about doing it another way.

Another former client of mine sent out mass emails expecting responses. She had long lists and would send them from an email address that wasn't even a business. Then she would get frustrated when I would pick up the phone, call the person and get in touch with someone she'd been trying to reach for weeks.

The bottom line is - the telephone is really the only way to know that you've connected with the other person. If you leave a voice mail you know they got it. If they blow you off - at least you know they got it.

But we have to send email too because that's how our world communicates. So here are some simple tips:

Your subject line is your marketing tool - It's your headline, it's your sales message, it's the only thing they are going to read. Make it connect directly with the person that you're trying to reach and address a clear cut need that you can help with. For a product it's basic marketing - think what will make them take action. For a reporter it's why should I write about this - how will it help me impress editor, keep my job, get my next one?

Your email address is everything - If it comes form Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail, or one of the other services that people use for personal email not only will the spam filters knock it out, the individual who sees the address will rarely open it.

So find yourself a business email address - even if the only person in the company is you. Set it up so it's linked to a web site that exists and is current.

Set up a Gmail account - It's always good to have a fallback position. I love Gmail because the Google folks know how to get around the spam filters and Gmail accounts don't get a lot of spam. So I use it as a back-up for everything I do. The email may not get opened but I know it got there.

Don't send attachments unless you know the person and even then do it sparingly. Many spam filters are set up to knock out attachments - particularly if it's from an unfamiliar account. This is a particularly big deal in PR - if you cannot include your information in the body of an email you are wasting your and their time. It's an extra click and if there's interest a link is better and it also gives them a reason to get in touch with you.

Keep it short I cannot repeat this enough times or put enough emphasis on it. People today don't read. If you can't distill your information into a couple of sentences you shouldn't be sending it. So many business people rewrite, add, edit, change - lengthen - it's crazy. Your email is your elevator speech cut by half.