Online press releases are one of the most inexpensive and highly effective marketing methods for a small business owner. Yet, many people think only "big businesses" use press releases. Wrong.

The Internet gives a small business's website the same visibility as a large corporation's website and online press releases work the same way. Once an online press release is distributed, it's out there in cyberspace generating hits and driving traffic to your website for years to come. Just last week I received an e-mail from someone who read a press release I wrote two years ago!

Unlike an offline press release that is distributed directed to journalists at newspapers and other media outlets, the online press release is "evergreen," it never goes away. A simple keyword search could turn up your press release years later. Compare this to the offline press release that may or not be used by the journalists and then is trashed, never to be seen again.

An online press release also has a worldwide distribution to thousands of media outlets. Popular newswire service PRWeb.com, e-mails "press releases to between 60,000 and 100,000 global contacts points including journalists, analysts, freelance writers, media outlets and newsrooms."

Along with its large distribution and staying power, an online press release can be even more effective in driving traffic to a website if it is search engine optimized. Here are five tips on how to create a more powerful online press release:

1. Have a newsworthy angle. A press release is not a sales pitch. Provide the media with information that answers the questions of "who, what, where, why and when." Make it interesting by telling a story that engages the reader

2. Choose the right keywords. What words would someone use to find your business when using Google? Experiment to see which words are most popular. When you type in a phrase in the Google search feature, it now lists the number of times that particular phrase has been searched in the last 30 days. This is a new free service being offered by Google; use it to your advantage.

3. Vary keyword placement. Don't get so carried away with your keyword phrase that it shows up in every other sentence of the press release. Have a reasonable balance in your writing so that the keyword placement is invisible to the reader. Include the keyword phrase in the first sentence and then two or three more times throughout the press release

4. Use eye catching headlines. Make sure to include the keyword phrase in your headline and at the same time, make the headline interesting. Write the headline after you have completed your press release and it should easily come to you.

5. Use anchor text. Although it will cost you more to place a press release with anchor text, it is well worth the money. Anchor text is the hyperlinked words on a Web page that you click on to take you to another location within the website or to another website. Search engines love anchor text because it tells them what the page is about. It's a great way to boost your ranking with the search engines, especially Google.

Consider using search engine optimized press releases to publicize your business and drive traffic to your website. It's simple to get started and hugely rewarding. One of my clients had over 1,400 media outlets pick-up his press release within two weeks after I wrote it. A keyword search found the press release as top ranked on both Google and Yahoo. Needless to say, we are going to continue with monthly search engine optimized press releases.