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Only 19.5% of News Release Headlines are Optimized for SEO

For the second year in a row, the Schwartz MSL Research Group worked with Business Wire to determine how many PR professionals are optimizing their news release headlines for SEO. There was slight improvement compared to last year, but there is still a long, long way to go.

The two most important elements for optimizing a news release headline are keyword inclusion and brevity. In terms of brevity, a full release headline must be 65 characters or fewer to be fully displayed in Google.

Many search engine optimization (SEO) experts, including our experts here at Schwartz MSL, advise that companies try to keep the characters in the headline under 70 characters. Anything beyond that will be less effective in supporting a company’s SEO.

This year, the Schwartz MSL Research Group, with invaluable help from Business Wire, analyzed the headlines of more than 16,000 news releases issued over Business Wire in a 31 day period (July 26, 2011 to August 25, 2011). This is the same period we examined last year. Since Schwartz MSL cannot know the keywords that thousands of companies are hoping to use to optimize their content and releases, the Schwartz Research Group focused on headline length as a success factor.

The results?

Most PR professionals are not fully optimizing their headlines. (I am sure Schwartz MSL is guilty of that as well from time to time.) Our analysis showed that only 19.5% of all releases have headlines with 65 characters or fewer, a one percent increase over last year. When we look at 70 characters are less, the total is 23.7%, an increase of less than one percent.

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While the majority of releases are under 150 characters, we did see some examples that were much longer than the recommended length. The most egregious cases were the 2% of releases with headlines in excess of 300 characters, with one headline that was over 1,800 characters. The shortest headline we found was 21 characters, which is also probably not ideal for SEO as it’s unlikely that enough of the company’s keywords were included. Overall, the analysis found the average headline length to be 123 characters, unchanged from 2010.

The Schwartz MSL Research Group has written a Research Brief that takes a more in-depth look at this topic. If you would like additional analysis, including buzzword usage, and the geographic headline faceoff, you can download it here

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Mark McClennan

Mark McClennan

Senior Vice President at MSLGROUP

For the past 19 years, Mark has led teams working with innovative technology and healthcare clients for MSLGROUP. He is also the national treasurer for PRSA.

Mark McClennan

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