The two most important elements for optimising a news release headline are keyword inclusion and brevity. A company’s top keywords should be included in the headline when possible and should be placed early in the headline. 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, 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.
The Schwartz Communications Research Group, with invaluable help from Business Wire, analysed the headlines of more than 16,000 news releases issued over Business Wire in a 31-day period (July 26, 2010 to August 25, 2010). Since Schwartz cannot know the keywords that thousands of companies are hoping to use to optimise their content and releases, the Schwartz Research Group focused on headline length as a success factor
The findings of this analysis were that the vast majority of PR practitioners are still not fully optimising their headlines. (I am sure Schwartz is guilty of that as well from time to time.) Our analysis showed that only 18.4 per cent of all releases have headlines with 65 characters or fewer.
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 per cent of releases with headlines in excess of 300 characters, with one headline that was over 1,000 characters. The shortest headline we found was 18 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.
This shows that many companies still have room to improve their press releases (even the social media releases).
The Schwartz Communications 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, a geographic analysis of effective headline writing and other headline analysis, you can download it here.
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