Raise your hand if you optimize all of your law firm press releases. Okay, I thought so. A few, but not nearly enough. Raise your hand if you don't even know what it means to optimize a press release. Yes, I figured as much!

That obviously was an informal survey with a +/- percentage of about 100 points. But seriously, this is an important issue, so let’s spend some time here figuring it out so your press releases do more than just sit on your law firm’s website – they get read!

BusinessWire recently produced a white paper with guidelines for press release optimization, with a few key takeaways I think apply well to legal marketing and law firm press releases.

Key phrases
Here are a few questions to ask yourself: How will my target audience of readers find our firm news? What is their online search behavior and what keywords are they using that will drive them to read this release on our website? Am I including the most relevant terms? 

Google and other search engine algorithms are extremely smart these days. They’re constantly improving to prevent websites that produce irrelevant content from ranking in search results.

Key phrases and the context of how words are used in a phrase are what are important when searching a long string of words. As a producer of content, understanding that Google takes into consideration the complexities of an entire phrase to provide advanced results will help your content be visible in those searches. Search engines are always evolving, so be sure to keep informed on news on SEO changes.

Various free online tools can help you identify the most relevant phrases to include in your press releases: Google’s keyword planner, SEMRush and Ubersuggest, just to name a few. Also, search for trends, and tie your press release content to those trends (when it makes sense). Then pinpoint relevant keywords to include in your headline and body copy.

For instance, the difference of simply adding “law” to the phrase “the law firm’s Orlando office” has a more meaningful impact on SEO than the phrase “the firm’s Orlando office.” If Internet users were to then search “law firms in Orlando,” there would be a higher likelihood that they would find your press release.

Here’s a factor I bet many of you didn’t realize: How much attention do you pay to optimizing the titles of your press release? Do you think that longer, descriptive titles make for a better search? Not so fast! Limiting the title to a concise 70-character count is actually the best way to go when it comes to optimization. Be brief but informative. Let your title draw the reader in to learn more.

Quality links
Be discriminatory about including links back to your website in your release; make them worthwhile by giving the reader access to other information that you don’t need to include directly in the release. For instance, if you mention a specific attorney in your press release, include a link back to that attorney’s bio page on your website. If a reporter wants detailed information on that attorney, you’ve provided a resource for that additional information – and created a potential link pointing back to your website. Ideally, online publications that pick up your press release will include those “backlinks” to your website.

Equally helpful are links to external third-party sites that support your content. Research shows that quality links are a top influencer in search rankings, with search engines giving weight to high-quality links from trusted domains. Just don’t overdo it!

Above the fold
Think about how you read newspaper articles and the importance of where they are placed. What a coup if the Wall Street Journal includes your law firm news in a story on the first page – above the fold! Those stories are the ones that have the highest frequency of readership.

Think of press releases in the same way, with the title, subtitle (if you need one) and first paragraph as being “above the fold.” Search engines give most weight to this part of a press release and often display this information in search results.

Be visual
Add video and photos to press releases whenever possible! Let me repeat: Add video and photos to press releases whenever possible! Study after study confirms that multimedia elements increase search engine rankings and generate more positive responses from readers. Of course, you don’t want to overlook optimizing and tagging your embedded video, either!

These are just a few key insights and tips about the ever-changing world of press release optimization that can help you obtain optimum visibility for your law firm’s news. Feel free to contact me at vhood@jaffepr.com or reach out to our Digital Strategist, Melanie Trudeau, for questions and to develop a strategy for optimizing all of your law firm’s digital content.