Monday, August 24, 2009

New Assignment: Optimizing a News Release for Search Engines

I'm teaching our PR survey class this semester and instead of reusing the traditional news release assignment for the writing part of the course, I thought I'd try something a little different this year: I'm having students optimize their news release for search engines. Students will still write a traditional news release, but once that has been graded, they will then take their release, make the necessary corrections and optimize it. The assignment is described below. It's very much inspired by a position paper on search engine visibility published by Steve Rubel on behalf of Edelman. I'd love to hear from anyone who's done this in their class already - anything I'm missing?

The Assignment: Optimized News Release

As we have seen, news releases and the messages they contain increasingly end up on the Internet where they get indexed by search engines. Since these messages have become searchable, it is important to include words and phrases Internet users would use intuitively when searching for content related to that message. Having read Edelman’s position paper on the issue and having discussed search engine and message optimization in class, it is now your turn to take your SEU news release and optimize it. For this assignment, you will need to identify a set of keywords/keyword phrases for use in your optimized news release. Use free tools such as Wordtracker, Google Insights, Google Adwords, or Microsoft’s AdCenter Labs to do so. You may also want to check Twitter Search or Facebook Lexicon to get a sense for the natural words and phrases people use to talk about your type of topic.

  1. Accurately reflect how people talk & search (natural language)
  2. Face little competition from other keywords

Once you’ve decided on your keywords, strategically incorporate them into your news release (see the Edelman position paper for tips on how to do so).


  1. Your revised & optimized news release with the keywords highlighted in bold print
  2. A short paper listing the keywords/keyword phrases you decided on and explaining why you chose them and how they fit the 2 keyword requirements outlined above. Include screenshots of the visuals generated by tools such as Google Insights to back up your argument.
  3. A Twitter pitch for your news release of no more than 140 characters. Use a separate page for this pitch. Your pitch should incorporate at least one of your keywords. Since this is not an official SEU news release, do not send it out over Twitter. For tips on writing effective Twitter copy, check out this example.

Grading Criteria:

Your optimized news release will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  1. Quality of the writing (10 pts.)
  2. Properly optimized
    1. Keywords incorporated into headline (10 pts.)
    2. Keywords incorporated into body (10 pts.)
    3. Keywords bolded (only bolded words will be considered) (10 pts.)
  3. Quality of the paper
    1. Lists keywords (10 pts.)
    2. Provides rationale for choice of keywords (10 pts.)
    3. Explains how keywords fit reqs (natural language & competition) (10 pts.)
    4. Provides screenshots to back up rationale (10 pts.)
  4. Twitter pitch
    1. Within the 140 character limit (10 pts.)
    2. Incorporates keyword(s) (10 pts.)

1 comment:

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