How to Use Online Press Releases to Promote Your Nonprofit

Boost Your Nonprofit Website's Traffic with Online Press Releases

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Even though the media are more fragmented than ever, with many newspapers going out of business but online news sites flourishing, press releases can and should be an important component of your media strategy. Put your press releases online and draw not only the media, but also general readers, potential donors, and volunteers to your nonprofit website.

Write Press Releases Frequently

Take a page from the business public relations playbook, and write press releases regularly. In The New Rules of Marketing & PR, David Meerman Scott suggests that an organization develop a press release strategy, and send press releases at every opportunity. Here is a list of possibilities for a nonprofit organization.

Send a press release when you:

  • have a new take on an old problem
  • develop a new program
  • serve a unique population or mission
  • have interesting information to share (nonprofits should think about any studies they do or surveys they perform)
  • if your CEO or other prominent staff or board members speak at a conference
  • win an award
  • produce a product or a helpful publication
  • get a big donation or grant
  • reach a goal in a fundraising campaign
  • send volunteers to help with a crisis
  • have expertise on a topic in the news

You can probably think of a lot more possibilities. If not, check out the online press rooms of some large national nonprofits to see what press releases they write.

Distribute Press Releases Widely

Use an online distribution system to send your press releases to a broad audience. This needn't cost a lot and, even if distributed to a limited geographic area, just having the press release on the distributor's website will boost your placement on the major search engines.

Your press release may also be sent out in the alerts that Google sends to anyone who signs up keywords. For instance, I receive Google news alerts on the words, "nonprofit" and "philanthropy."

Popular Press Release Distribution Services include:

Post the Press Releases in Your Online Press Room

Write and post press releases frequently. They provide a reason for the search engines to crawl your site and index your press releases.

Search engines love frequent updates. In the same way,  a frequently updated blog on your website encourages indexing. Be sure to post the press releases in reverse chronological order. When you have enough, you can group press releases by keyword or topic.

Optimize Your Press Releases by Using Keywords and Keyword Phrases

Search optimization is a highly specialized area, but even the search amateurs among us can learn how to do basic optimization.

Research your keywords to see which would work best for your press release. You can do this with services such as WordTracker and Google Adwords. You can even research keywords on Google with its handy "related" suggestions that appear at the bottom of each search page.  

You will want to choose keyword phrases in your press releases that do not necessarily receive the most traffic. On the most popular keyword pages, it is tough to rank highly (preferably within the first couple of pages of results). Pick a keyword phrase that is a bit less popular, but perhaps more precise, and your press releases may rank more highly.

For instance, the phrase, "child abuse" (according to Google Adwords) received 2,740,000 searches in one month. But "child abuse prevention" received 49,500 searches. If you have a free brochure on how to prevent child abuse, you might do better using the latter phrase. Fewer people search for that, but when they do you may well rank higher on the page.

You could also optimize for several phrases such as "prevent child abuse," and "signs of child abuse." Think about the various ways someone who was looking for this information would search for it. What words or phrases would he or she put into the search box?

Consider placing your keyword phrase in some, but not all of these key areas in your online press release. Don't overdo it, though. Overstuffing keywords will work against you, Only use them when it is natural to do so.  And use variants rather than the same term over and over.

  • Meta Tag (ask someone familiar with tech issues where this is if it is not obvious within your content management system). Look at the top bar of your web browser on any web page to see where that Meta Tag shows up and how it is usually formatted.
  • Meta Description
  • Title of the press release
  • Subtitle of the press release
  • First paragraph of the press release
  • In the subheads that you use to break up the text of the press release.
  • At the end of the press release

Now is not the time to give up on press releases or to think that you should only send them to a few reporters. A few tweaks to your press release strategy may result in a surprising increase in traffic to your website. You'll reach reporters, plus a whole lot of other people who can spread the word about your nonprofit.

Suggested Resources:

The New Rules of Marketing & PR, David Meerman Scott.

Strategic Communications for Nonprofits: A Step-by-step Guide to Working with the Media, Second Edition, Kathy Bonk, Emily Tynes, Henry Griggs, Phil Sparks.

Search Engine Marketing, Inc., Mike Moran and Bill Hunt.