How to Write SEO Press Releases Without Incurring the Wrath of Google

seo press releases

After Google’s game-changing update to its link scheme webmaster guidelines in July 2013, some predicted that the search engine optimized press release would die a swift death. But those predictions haven’t come true.  Although online press releases no longer provide added “link juice” (added weight/value to pages in Google’s ranking system), they are still valid tools in a company’s digital content arsenal and, if optimized correctly, can effectively drive organic traffic to websites and generate brand awareness.

Read on to learn what formerly common SEO press release practice Google banned, why online press releases are still useful for content marketing strategy and how to ethically optimize your online SEO press releases.

Google’s Nofollow Commandment

In July 2013, Google declared that linking text in press releases qualifies as a “link scheme,” which Google defines as an SEO strategy that uses “links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results.” This meant that, suddenly, the common practice of linking press releases back to company websites was banned, and considered a spammy, black-hat SEO practice. Companies caught with linked anchor text in their press releases could be penalized.

The new rule is, all linked anchor text in press releases must contain a nofollow attribute (or rel=“nofollow”) so that the links don’t provide added weight to a website’s PageRank value the way that regular links do.

To make sure that your links comply, go into the HTML editor and format them like this: <a href=”” rel=”nofollow”>anchor text goes here</a>.

Many online press release distribution companies automatically make all links nofollow. Check with your distributor to confirm that this is their standard practice and that there’s nothing you need to do to make the links nofollow on your end.

Why Online Press Releases Are Still Relevant to Businesses’ Content Marketing Game Plans

Prior to the Internet age, press releases were primarily distributed exclusively to news outlets and media professionals, meaning stories often died on journalists’ desks unless they were deemed worthy enough to pick up and publish. With an online press release, though, there is no limit to the potential audience it might reach. Journalists, customers, clients, prospects, bloggers and more have equal access to the information you’re sharing – which is pretty cool when you think about it. Your press release could end up on the screen of someone all the way in Timbuktu.  Timbuktu! With the Internet, the whole world – and a world of potential customers – is within your reach.

And, although nofollow tags prevent linked text in press releases from affecting PageRank, the links still produce organic traffic to company websites and social media pages that can lead to conversions (read: cash).

Finally, quality content about a company always increases brand awareness – and most effectively so when that content is optimized to reach its largest potential audience.

Online press release distribution services such as PR Newswire and PRWeb are an investment, so make sure you receive your highest possible return by fully optimizing your press release.

Rules to Follow When Writing an Ethically Optimized Online Press Release

  1. Include keywords (words that your target audience might use when searching to find the article), but don’t stuff them in there. Recommended keyword density is between 3 percent and 7 percent. Any higher than that and Google may just penalize you for writing for robots and not humans. Use a free online tool (here’s an article that highlights 10 options) and check your copy before publishing it to make sure that you’re falling within a reasonable range.
  2. Write eye-catching headlines that also include your primary keyword. This is sometimes a challenge. It’s a good thing you’re so creative! Pro Tip: Write the headline after you’ve finished the article, or at least finalize it after you’ve finished the article. Sometimes writing takes you to a place that’s different from where you thought you would go, and that’s OK. It’s a part of the whole creative process. Just make sure that when the dust settles and the words are all in their final places in the body copy, your headline still makes sense.
  3. Include relevant links – with nofollow tags, of course.  Typically, it’s a good idea to link to your company’s main website and its social media pages so that those links can drive organic traffic (and potential conversions) to your site. Just make sure that you don’t overdo it with the linking, or Google will frown at you. And when Google frowns, somewhere, a unicorn dies. Stick to one link per hundred words.
  4. Make your story attractive to journalists, the people with the power to greatly extend your message’s reach. Format it in standard press release style. Media professionals could trash it immediately if it looks like an advertisement instead of a professional, newsworthy story. Here are some press release basics:
    1.  A press release should be between 500 and 800 words written in third person and include a tight, punchy lede that encompasses the entire story in one to two sentences; a body, which should be two to three paragraphs that explain the who-what-where-when-why of the story in inverted pyramid style (most important stuff at the top, broader, more general information at the bottom); and a boilerplate, the final paragraph that gives a brief summary about what your company does.
    2. Formatting aside, the most important thing you can do to be sure that your press release is in the best position to get picked up by media outlets is to write about a newsworthy story   that is timely, relevant and interesting.
  5. Be particular when picking your target demographic. Many press release distribution companies allow you to flag your press release as especially relevant to particular industries and/or regions. Use this to your advantage by carefully considering your options and selecting those that most closely align with your intended audience.

Are you a media professional with a few SEO press release tricks up your sleeve that we didn’t mention? Share them with us in the comments below!

Posted in Content, Content Strategy, SEO, Writing Tagged , , ,

New to Pinterest: Layout and Place Pins


There’s a new look for our favorite procrastination tool. The Pinterest world as we know it is about to be rocked with the new layout and become more interactive through Place Pins.

No need to freak out! The new look is actually pretty slick, and as user-friendly as ever. There aren’t any new buttons or complicated pin processes, just a little makeover. The top navigation bar has been completely refreshed. The search bar is more prominent, icons have been redistributed, and the Explore bar helps users connect with other boards.

Along with its new look, Pinterest has unveiled Place Pins.

Needing directions to that BBQ joint you’ve been drooling over ever since Pinterest featured an amazing picture of its ribs? Or, are you looking for local favorites in a new city? Place Pins saves the day!


The new mapping feature allows you to add a geolocation to pins and have them appear on an interactive map. Genius, right? 200 million people think so. That’s how many Place boards exist on the platform so far, with 1.5 million new places pinned every day.

Pinterest has partnered with location-based social platform Foursquare to provide easily accessible location and contact information on each pin, even when viewed on your phone! Place Pins’ mobile access provides a huge opportunity to reach your target audience wherever they are, and build your reputation as a local expert.

What exactly does that mean for you? Creating a Place Pin board makes it easy for users to keep track of places they want to visit and to make travel plans a reality. This means two things: Either you can start plotting your dream vacation around the world, or for a less adventurous but just as fun option, use it to share your favorite spaces and places. This part will be great for businesses!

Here are some good examples of how organizations are using Place Pin maps to connect and influence: The World’s Best Festivals from Fest300, places Loved by Parisians from Airbnb or Standing Dog Interactive’s Places that Inspire us in Dallas. Doesn’t it make you want to start exploring?pinterest place pins

Getting started with a Place Pins board is simple. When creating a new board, select Add a map. To convert an existing board, just edit its settings to activate the Add a map tab.

pinterest place pins
To map existing pins on that board, click the plus sign on a pin, search for its location and click Map it. To add a new pin, click Add a Place at the top of the map, search for a location and begin sifting through the images that appear to pick your favorite.


So, thank you Pinterest for making our lives a lot easier, and for destroying my efforts to be productive for the next three hours as I plan my trip around the world and constantly refresh my page to see if it’s finally my turn to get the new layout!

Happy pinning! After you create your scene-savvy Place Pins board, be sure to share the link with us in the comments.

Posted in Industry News, Marketing, News, Pinterest, Social Media Tagged , ,

Why should my website be responsive?

why should my web site be responsive standing dog interactiveWith web trends constantly changing, business leaders may be wondering: “Why should my website be responsive?”

Responsive websites reflect a design approach that creates one site that adapts to multiple screen sizes, giving your end user a consistent site experience regardless of the device they are using.

This means that businesses no longer have to create a mobile site ( that is separate from the desktop site ( There is no longer a need to detect the device and redirect the user to a separate mobile site.  It also means that one url is used to access the site across all devices, which is good for search engine optimization.

In the old days, businesses designed their websites for the “lowest common denominator,” meaning those who were still using small computer monitors or dial-up internet.  With responsive design, those constraints are no longer an obstacle. Designers are able to effectively present a layout for today’s large desktop screens and also re-flow it to accommodate laptops, devices and old desktop monitors that don’t have a high resolution.

Additionally, a responsive design helps to “future proof” your website.  Having a website that will work well into the future, even as new devices and screen sizes come to market, is appealing and provides a good return on the investment.  Even if your website does not draw a lot of mobile visitors today, it likely will in the future. The responsive approach ensures that those mobile visitors get an experience optimized for them. It is also important to note that it is less expensive to create a responsive site from the ground up than to convert an existing non-responsive website. Doing this work at the beginning of the process saves time, money and technical complexity compared to trying to force or patch together a mobile design after the website is set.

If you are building a new web site or refreshing your current one with a new look and feel, it is worth the extra investment to include responsive styling into the project.


Posted in Creative, Design, web design, Website Tagged , ,

New Facebook Call-to-Action Buttons Available for Page Posts

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In keeping with its recent algorithm change to prioritize relevant content, Facebook has rolled out these new call-to-action (CTA) buttons for advertising that highlight specific engagement goals. Page administrators also will be able to use them on organic posts  – a huge boon for the hospitality industry. Standing Dog Interactive is excited to implement these CTA buttons for its clients starting today.

example of facebook cta buttons in power editor

According to, the buttons are part of a recent push to “launch features designed to provide direct-response marketers with broader solutions to reach people across devices and encourage them to take action.”

This is good news for brands. Over time, we expect to see click-through rates and engagement on paid and organic posts increase as a result. With Facebook ads, if a user clicks twice, the brand must pay twice, even if only one click leads to the brand site. Additionally, brands have to pay when there is any type of engagement with the ad at all – positive or negative. Since the goal of a Facebook ad is to get traffic to a website, the new CTA buttons will give users a clearer path to conversion while increasing a brand’s click-through rate.

These calls to action can also be used for organic posts which, even though there is no cost involved, will include increased relevance and a more streamlined engagement process. To implement this on organic post pages, administrators can log in to the Power Editor, navigate to Manage Pages and create a post with the buttons. It’s all completely free. We predict that this will be rolled out on the front end for all users eventually, since Facebook often uses the Power Editor as a testing ground for new concepts.

While the benefits are very similar in increased engagement and relevance, the difference between using Facebook’s CTA buttons on organic vs. paid posts reflects the differences in the posts themselves. Organic posts only reach people who have subscribed to a page. Ads can be targeted outside of a subscriber list and hopefully bring new users to a page.

If you have any questions about implementing the new Facebook CTA buttons on your organic or advertising posts, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Posted in Facebook, News, PPC, Social Media Tagged , ,

Understanding Semantic Search Delivers Better SEO

semantic search for seo

While Semantic Search has only recently become a reality in search engines, the idea of the “Semantic Web” has been around a bit longer. But, with recent advances in technology and algorithm changes, search engines have quickly evolved into next-generation answer machines that utilize both concepts. While many in the industry are still unclear as to what Semantic Search is and how it truly affects their SEO efforts, the reality is that Semantic Search has several components that can either help or hinder our future efforts. Since knowledge is power, education is always the first step to help you adapt to these changes. Let’s start off by first defining what Semantic Search is.

What is Semantic Search?

To understand what Semantic Search is, we must first understand what semantics means:  “the science of meaning in language.” It can also be interpreted to mean the context behind our language. So, Semantic Search, in essence means to understand the context of the language used in your search. While Semantic Search has just recently become an actuality, the “Semantic Web” as an idea was coined in 2001 by W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee who, coincidentally, invented the World Wide Web. Berners-Lee described the Semantic Web as a “group of methods and technologies to allow machines to understand the meaning, or “semantics” of information of the World Wide Web.” In simpler terms, Moz defines Semantic Search as “a search or a question or an action that produces meaningful results, even when the retrieved items contain none of the query terms, or the search involves no query text at all.” In simpler terms, the search engine extrapolates meaning from a search query, even without the use of keywords. Results have mainly been keyword driven and the concept of user intent and context without keyword inclusion seemed like science fiction. Until now.

What are Important Semantic Search Factors to Understand?

Fast-forwarding to 2014, we see that what was once a theory has now become reality because of search engine innovations. While Semantic Search sounds simple by definition – understanding context and user meaning in searches – in reality it is the sum of its parts. So, to better understand Semantic Search you must first take a closer look at important components like Google’s Knowledge Graph, Conversational Search, Structured Data and Semantic Keyword Research. A better understanding of Semantic Search and its components will help you know how to improve your ranking moving forward. Let’s start off by taking a look at Google’s Knowledge Graph.

What is Google’s Knowledge Graph and Why is it Important?

When someone performs a search, what are they looking for? Meta data, title tags and keywords? Of course not! They’re searching for an answer to their query or question. To better find these answers and not just regurgitate pages with proper keyword density, Google created a database or collection point for data named Knowledge Graph that was added to their search engine in 2012. Knowledge Graph pulls data from numerous web sources, like the CIA World Factbook, Freebase and Wikipedia, and delivers structured and detailed information about the search topic in addition to a list of links to other sites. Knowledge Graph contains more than 570 million objects, as well as more than 18 billion facts about and relationships between different objects that are used to understand the meaning of the keywords entered for the search. More simply put, Google’s Hummingbird algorithm is “accounting for every word in the query to get a better sense of context and the meaning behind the search, and it’s doing so not just from its Knowledge Graph but from essentially all web pages,” as stated by’s Seth Colaner.  This brings us to the next important factor to understand, conversational search.

What is Conversational Search, and How Does Semantic Search Make it Possible?

With incredible growth in mobile and tablet usage, and with better voice recognition software like Siri, Voice Search for Bing and Google’s Voice Search, it was only a matter of time before search engines would have to adapt their algorithms to better understand conversational language. In a study last year from Google, researchers determined that because it is more difficult to type on mobile devices and the keyboards on mobile devices aren’t as easy to use, users won’t spend much time searching for something specific. Instead, they would simply try some other means of getting the information. That’s where conversational search enters the equation. With Google’s recent Hummingbird algorithm update, better use of conversational search, or speaking your search query into the phone or search engine, is achieved because Google better understands relationships between words. This can be attributed to Semantic Search and Google’s Knowledge Graph. A spoken search is much different than a typed one.  Here’s an example: You might perform a voice search when you are driving and say “I’m hungry for a burger.”  Depending on where you are at that moment, the search engine will understand the correlation between hungry and restaurant and find a hamburger restaurant nearest to your location. Type the same search query into your home computer and you won’t get the same results, I promise. This is a good example of how Semantic Search in Google Hummingbird is helping make conversational search possible thanks to Google’s Knowledge Graph. That being said, where does our next important factor, structured data fit into the Semantic Search equation?

Does Structured Data Help Semantic Search?

Ever wish there was a way to help search engines better understand your website’s purpose, product price ranges, hours of operation, contact information, reviews and more, so the searcher can have more information right in their query and click on your site versus a competitor’s? That’s where Structured Data enters the picture. By adding structured data markup to the header of your website using the vocabulary and formats such as Microdata and RDF, alongside other approaches such as Microformats, you can help Google better understand your website. While it is not known if structured data is or will become a ranking factor for major search engines, Matthew Brown of Moz believes “Google and Bing will raise the bar on the quality of search results through the wider adoption of semantic data markup.” This means that a website’s use of this kind of markup will become increasingly important to help search engines better understand its key information so it can deliver more relevant search results. This means that structured data markup should become the rule not the exception. This leads us to my last important point: Are keywords dead?

Are Keywords Truly Dead Because of Semantic Search?

Let me pose this question: If you don’t have any content on your website, will a search engine be able to understand how to deliver it in search queries? Well no, not as well as if you did! While keywords are not as valuable as they once were in determining user intent and context because of Semantic Search, AJ Kohn, owner of Blind Five Year Old believes that “keywords let you create content that matches user intent.” So, without some sort of keyword strategy to help you write highly relevant and targeted content, search engines can’t successfully deliver your website in a search query because it won’t understand its context. While the old days of high keyword density are long dead, the use of targeted and diverse keywords to help craft quality content that answers user questions is very important because search engines still need to understand what a website is about before delivering search results.

Now that we know that keywords aren’t technically dead yet, I would like to pass along some useful keyword research tips that Sujan Patel of Search Engine Journal calls, “Semantic Keyword Research.” First, assemble a list of “Level 1” core keywords for your website. If you sold fans, for example, this could include industrial fans, commercial fans, etc. Second, create a list of thematically related “Level 2” keywords like, how to cool a shop, shop is hot, etc. Third, create keywords that answer user questions like, how to buy industrial fan, where to buy commercial fans, etc. Fourth, create quality website copy and outline future blog articles using the different keywords you discovered. Last, write for humans first, and search engines second. Always write quality articles that pass along valuable insight, so people will want to share them and Google will deem them relevant. The days of writing for search engines using keyword stuffing, hidden text and other black hat techniques no longer works in today’s world of Semantic Search.

Why Does This Matter?

In the ever changing world of SEO there is only one truth, that change is the norm. That’s why we love our job, it never gets boring! With Google or Bing always finding ways to keep us on our toes, adapting to these changes is what makes us better online marketers. Semantic Search, although a new reality, has been a theory for over 13 years, so adapting to that change will be inevitable, and when the next change comes along, then we will adapt to that one, too! With a better understanding of Semantic Search, Google’s Knowledge Graph, conversational search, structured data and semantic keywords research comes the ability to adapt to these changes and provide better results for our clients while keeping you ahead of the curve.


Posted in Resources, SEO Tagged , , ,

Integrating Google+ and YouTube is Now Mandatory

Gone are the days of YouTube asking permission for Google+ integration. Google is now mandating that users connect a Google+ Page to the video platform. This means that users will be able to access new features such as better branding, tools, private sharing, management, on-air hangouts and comments. Google also wants to make sure that you are appropriately tagged in its “identity system,” which identifies users consistently across all Google platforms and is powered by Google+.

Google says that you can keep your current YouTube username, use your full name, or even choose a completely new name for your channel, and if you want to continue to use a different name on YouTube than on other Google services, you can still do that.

You can begin the Google+ YouTube integration process by going into your advanced account settings on YouTube and clicking Connect with a Google+ Page.

google + youtube integration mandatory

Once everything is connected, users need only to change profile images and logos on the channel, which will update both the Google+ Page and YouTube Channel. How’s that for efficiency?

The Standing Dog social team will be handling these changes for our clients. Please don’t hesitate to contact us for more information about this new mandate or about how to leverage the new features that are available. You can also click here for more detailed information about Google+ YouTube integration.




Posted in Content, Google+, Tips and Trends, Video, YouTube Tagged , ,

Hotel Rates Visible in Google Carousel Results

We knew it was coming and we had mentioned it in many of our SEO presentations, and now we are indeed seeing hotel rates served via Hotel Price Ads (HPAs) showing up in Google Carousel results.hotel prices in google carousel results

I am sure that this iteration isn’t the last one we will see and this launch is very basic.  You can change dates and it will adjust the prices accordingly, but there are a number of things it is not doing that we think it could and should (and probably will soon).

  • You cannot sort by price yet.  Currently the filter option is still based on user rating and hotel class.
  •  Pricing does not yet impact the order in which the results show. In fact, if the hotel is sold out and not serving Hotel Price Ads it is still in the same position within Google Carousel.

hotel prices showing up in google carousel results

  • Functionality of Carousel has not yet changed either. If you click a listing it still fires a branded query and then the HPAs appear within the Knowledge Graph.

hotel prices showing up in Google carousel results

So what is the immediate impact?  This will certainly start to skew which properties are getting clicks within Google Carousel results as people get more immediate feedback with regards to pricing and availability.  It may actually reduce clicks and elevate conversion rates as this increases the amount of research that can be done within with the search results (sites like Kayak should be even more worried about this).

Visibility for hotels does not seem impacted yet. But we feel like it is coming.  This could mean that hotels with no HPAs available would be removed from the results and sorting by price becomes a new feature.

This also isn’t a fully monetized application for Google yet. You still have to dive into Hotel Finder or click on the hotel and then the HPA there to start the booking process.  Once the prices themselves become links into the winning HPA bid then we could start to see dramatic shifts.  If  Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) dominate the bid, a brand’s .com could be bypassed altogether.

If you have any questions about how this change affects your property’s listing, don’t hesitate to contact us, or share your thoughts in the comments below.

Posted in Industry News, SEO, Tips and Trends Tagged , ,

2014 Color Trend: Radiant Orchid

Pantone color mixes are the standard language for color communication between designers and manufacturers, and the company produces and sells a color swatch book known as the Pantone matching system (PMS) – a standard resource in the graphics industry. Pantone has since expanded its color matching system concept to other color-critical industries, including digital technology, fashion, home, plastics, architecture, interiors and paint, and it’s a trusted predictor of annual and seasonal color trends.

Every year Pantone chooses a color that is trending upward in creative fields. When Pantone announces its color trend pick of the year, industry professionals take notice, and 2014 is no exception.  This year’s pick, Radiant Orchid, is a vibrant combination of fuchsia, purple and pink.

pantone's 2014 color trend of the year radiant orchid

Some designers use the color as an accent paired with browns, taupes and warm grays while others, like interior designers, might use it to create an entire dining room. According to Pantone, Radiant Orchid inspires confidence and emanates great joy, love and health, and encourages expanded creativity and originality, which is something to keep in mind when adding it to the things you create.

In creative collateral, this color trend can be used sparingly for a pop of color, or in larger doses to make an exciting, vibrant color statement. To try Radiant Orchid in your designs, use these color codes:

  • Pantone: 18-3224
  • CMYK: C-19, M-70, Y-0, K-0
  • RGB: R-200, G-107, B-168
  • HTML: B163A3

If Pantone’s comments are true, 2014 will be an exciting year of innovation and harmony.  Think about this color and its meaning and how you can capture the feeling of this year’s color mood. Are you providing a “joyful” and “harmonious” experience for your customers, and do your designs reflect that?

Posted in Creative, Design, Tips and Trends, web design Tagged , ,

Keep Customers Coming Back With User-Friendly Site Architecture

user-friendly site architecture

Customers come to a business’ website for many reasons. Often, they’re just there to find some quick information – company hours, a phone number or email address, or service rates. Other times, they’re on the site for every company owner’s favorite reason – to browse products and make purchases.

Whatever a customer lands on the home page in search of, it’s in a company’s best interests to make sure that its site architecture flows logically and functions efficiently so that people can find what they’re looking for quickly and easily. If it doesn’t and they can’t, customers will likely leave the site feeling annoyed and frustrated, and they’ll take their cash with them.

Here are five solid site structure tips to help keep customers from bouncing:

1. Just give us the facts, ma’am (or sir). A home page is a company’s handshake to Internet users. It should be quick, firm and no-nonsense. It should not annoy customers with lengthy intros that need to be viewed in order to get to the main page (and that may not load correctly due to individual users’ browser limitations). It should not play music that will betray customers who are trying to sneak purchases from their office computers. Instead, it should load quickly, display general facts front and center (address, phone number, email and hours) and include an attractive navigation bar featuring the main topics of the site.

2. Make it logical. A website should be structured a bit like an outline, with broad topics on the homepage and more specific sub-pages branching off from that. For example, the main/broad topics on Standing Dog’s website are Company, Services, Our Work, News, Blog and Contact. Some of these pages branch off into more specific sub-pages (Our Work links to Featured Work, Client List and Awards). Don’t crowd the navigation bar with unnecessary clutter. Map out your websites topics vertically from broadest to most specific so that information paths are clear and logical. Some people find that a mind mapping tool is helpful for this.

3. Don’t get repetitive. Google frowns upon (and penalizes) duplicate content. On top of that, it’s annoying for a customer to click on a link in search of further detail only to find that the link goes to a page that just repeats the content of the one they were just on – and when customers are annoyed, bounce rates rise. Make sure that each link on a parent page leads to fresh content, and that the sub-page’s content goes into further detail about something that was mentioned in a more general way on the parent page.  This will ensure that your website’s structural hierarchy is logical, makes sense and meets customers’ expectations.

4. Test it. Try every form on the site yourself. Is it frustrating to you that you can’t include dashes in your phone number? You can bet it will be frustrating to your customers, too. Fill up your cart with items, then try taking some out (can you?). Leave the website and come back. Are the items you had in the cart still there? Try to get halfway through a purchase and then change your mind about an item – say, you want a different size last-minute. Is making that change a major hassle, or no big deal? Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and play around for a few hours, make notes of hang-ups and issues, and fix them.

5. Go public. When you’ve finished streamlining your website’s architecture to perfection, ask your web developer to create a public XML site map and submit it to Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.  This will ensure that search engines can crawl your website quickly, and will drive more site traffic to your website. You can also use this free tool and create it yourself.

Have company site architecture best practices you regularly apply that aren’t listed in the tips above? We’d love to hear about what you’ve found that works for your business. Leave your own tips in the comments!

Posted in Content, Content Strategy, UX, web design, Website Tagged , ,