To many marketers, press releases may seem like an outdated way to share information.
The thing is, that’s just not true. Today, thousands of press releases are distributed around the world every single day.
But just how effective are press releases — for your SEO rankings and online exposure?
The answer isn’t simple. Used the right way, press releases can be an extremely beneficial and effective marketing tool. Used the wrong way, press releases are absolutely useless.
Let’s take a deeper look.
First: What Are the Benefits of Press Releases?
1. Send Out Your Brand News Straight from the Horse’s Mouth
Do you have a news-worthy story, an announcement, or some other piece of information about your brand where the facts are vital to get right? (Think new product launches, earnings reports, company mergers or acquisitions, or an official statement on an issue.)
Do you want that news distributed to a targeted network (e.g. local news stations)?
If the information is going to make news anyway, sending out a press release is a great way to take control of the narrative (for your part in it, anyway). Companies have been doing it for over 100 years for a reason. Press releases help you get out accurate facts about a news event so they’re reported correctly when journalists pick up the story.Used the right way, press releases can be an extremely beneficial and effective marketing tool. 🎯 Used the wrong way, press releases are absolutely useless. 👎 Find out the difference ➡ Click To Tweet
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2. Startup? Publicly Traded Company? Get Important Press Coverage
If you’re a publicly traded company (read: swinging around big numbers) OR a startup looking for investors, buy-in, new customers, etc…
For your most important news and announcements, you need more than a simple blog or social media post to get it out there.
Press coverage gives you the potential to show up in local AND major news publications, where your target audience gets their news. It’s a good investment to draw up a press release and get it distributed for maximum exposure in these cases.
3. Increase Brand Awareness
Good press release writing can do a lot more than simply announce your news to the world.
It also has the potential to earn you positive brand mentions and associations. Even if they don’t include a backlink to your site, those positive mentions still matter for building brand awareness, authority, and a good reputation. And, according to Search Engine Land, the search engines might be using these linkless mentions to determine your website’s authority.
After all, the people who read your press release matter. Their opinions and perception of your brand matter. If your press release does a good job of presenting your brand positively, and news outlets pick it up and their subscribers read it, those are big wins.
Need a stellar press release written for your brand? Trust our proven team.
When Are Press Releases Useless?
Don’t get me wrong.
Press releases are great for meeting certain goals. But if you’re not using them the right way, producing and distributing them can be worthless.
Particularly, I’m talking about syndication.
Now, syndication as a tactic to get your press release more widely read and shared is a good idea.
Syndication as a strategy to get SEO rankings and backlinks: bad, bad, bad.
To illustrate this point, let’s look at a study I did a few years ago. The findings are still relevant today.
Syndicated News: Is It Worth the Investment? (A 2016 Study)
That’s what one big brand was spending per month on press release distribution, according to a study by marketing agency owner Tim Grice, posted on Moz in 2012.
That’s a huge number.
At Express Writers, we used to offer syndicated online press release distribution to all of our customers, at rates well below what our former news partner charged on their own site. Our clients got a good deal—and we felt happy to offer it to them.
That is, until October 2016—when we stood back and looked at the actual benefit of using online, syndicated news for Google rankings. I even got two experts on the line to help me dig up solid truths about this industry. (I’m indebted to Steve Rayson at BuzzSumo for pulling metrics and data for me, and Tim Grice at Branded3 for an updated quote.)
Our findings weren’t good, by any means.
The Story Behind the Study: What Inspired Me to Take a Deeper Look at Press Release Distribution
In 2012, when we started offering press release distribution at EW, I saw amazing, fast results in Google. For instance, one press release we did back then was about a stuffed toy. The company’s keyword, a solid, low competition long-tail, ranked #3 in Google in just days — and that #3 result was their actual press release. Now that was value!
But I had not seen those kind of results since. And we’re talking out of dozens to hundreds of press releases that our team wrote and distributed.
On average, we were distributing 6-10 press releases for clients in a month. But we had SO many clients complain about the reports we sent them. “This is all the data and results we get?” And the truth was, we didn’t really have an answer for them. The quality of the news results online was finicky. I’d see an online Fox station pick one up — and then it would be gone the next day, when I was ready to send the link to the client. Results weren’t permanent. And nothing showed in the first page of Google for their (great) long-tail news keywords.
The more I saw this happening, the more I realized I needed to research syndicated distribution. A bad feeling in my gut drove me to do it before we renewed our contract that year. And sure enough, what I found was pretty dire.
To make my research and findings official, I got in touch with my friend Steve Rayson, Director at BuzzSumo, for an exclusive study, and even got in touch personally with Tim Grice from Branded3.com, the author of the 2012 Moz piece, for some updated findings.
Let’s dive in.
Interview with Tim Grice: The Cold, Hard Truth of Syndicated Online Press Release Distribution
Here’s what Tim Grice had to say when I sat down with him to discuss his Moz post, including his opinions about online press syndication as it stood in 2016 (his words are still relevant today!).
Julia: You shared your findings on how budgets were being wasted with online press release syndication, back in 2012. Would you say it’s become an even bigger waste of budget today? Or have you seen brands adapting, and investing less in online PR?
Tim: The Moz post is specifically referring to online PR syndication (PR Newswire, etc). SEO agencies and in-house teams were using them as a primary link building channel, firing out boring stories that got absolutely no pick up and the online links created were from low value directories.
In 2008, it worked really well to game Google’s rankings: but by 2012, it should have been on its way out. Not so much. Link building was becoming difficult and it was the easy go-to option for many agencies.
Here’s the thing: if anyone is using syndication for links today, they should be fired.
Journalists are already inundated with companies offering up information for free, and there is no need to check a press wire.
Julia: Why is online PR a bad idea for a link building investment?
Tim: Online PR done right is not a bad idea, syndicating crap stories around the web for a handful of links on press wires is a terrible SEO strategy; no relevance, no authority, no trust. Creating genuinely insightful content or offering up unique data and selling it indirectly to journalists and bloggers is the right approach to online PR (done right, you can generate hundreds of high authority links from a single campaign).
Julia: Is there any good form of online syndication?
Tim: Not that I am aware of.
Anything designed to create quick, easy links is almost always a waste of time and money.
Julia: What is a much better way to invest revenue to boost your online marketing, instead of online PR?
Tim: Done right, online PR can return good ROI as well as high authority links, however the fact is that where you invest will depend purely on the gaps in your strategy.
From an SEO standpoint, if you rank in the top five you’ve probably got enough links to be position one, and you should work on the technical side of it: CTRs, mobile, and great content.
Syndication is never a good investment, and I would opt for any other tactic.
BuzzSumo: What Is the ROI of Press Release Distribution (Syndication)?
To further dig into the reality of how ugly the press release syndicated world is, I asked my friend Steve Rayson over at BuzzSumo to get some exclusive findings. He was happy to accommodate, and here’s what we found. Ready?
On average, press releases on the top two syndication sites get a measly 24 shares — total.
Fact: 24 shares don’t equate to people actually reading, yet alone someone clicking a link in a release. Over 50% of URLs shared on Twitter are never clicked (BuzzSumo).
Big ticket question:
Are shares inflated by syndicated press release distribution networks?
This PR was the most shared, according to BuzzSumo, coming in with 149,000 shares on Facebook.
Using Moz’s Open Site Explorer, we found out that the press release with 149k shares had only 1 backlink with a Domain Authority well below quality (19 on a scale of 100).
Investigating further, the backlink itself had 4 spam flags.
As we end, if you’re still choosing to go with PR syndicated distribution, ask yourself:
If the highest shared press release in existence has only one backlink, which is spammy, what real value are you getting out of your syndicated press release distributions?
Bottom line: Don’t depend on press release syndication for SEO rankings or backlinks.
How Do I Send Out an Effective Press Release?
If you really DO have news to share, and the PR conveys the message effectively in a well-written way, then your news piece has a huge chance of earning ROI.
Remember the old adage, If you want something done right, do it yourself? Well, that really doesn’t apply in press release writing. Press release writing is a special skill that some people just don’t have, no matter how hard they try. Instead of wasting hours on something you’re not sure will get approved for distribution or not, get a press release copywriter to do it for you (and do it right).
3 Don’ts When Crafting a Press Release
Avoid these like the plague when crafting a press release:
- Irrelevant content
- Not worth reading
All good content obeys the same rules. When it comes down to it, a press release is nothing more than online content. So, it makes sense that it must be 100% unique, relevant to your audience, informative, and not over-optimized with spammy backlinks.What are the 3 DON'Ts of press release writing? 1) Over-optimization. 2) Irrelevant content. 3) Not worth reading. 🚫 Click To Tweet
3 Dos for Worthy Press Release Distribution
- Make it targeted. Distribution is best done when you can target your industry and a region that applies to your news announcement. (Example: targeting Connecticut to announce via PR an invite-only, health & wellness industry event in that location.)
- Cheap distribution isn’t worth it. Don’t undercut your distribution opportunities with cheap distribution. Make sure you get the full advantage of media networks, local news stations, and all the power of SERPs with search engine indexing. If your distribution can’t support this variety, distribution will certainly not be as effective.
- Invest in good press release writing. Press releases, just like any other online content, have been unfortunately exploited in the past to contain duplicate content, content spinning, and backlink stuffing. Google updates crack down on duplicate, poorly written news releases, and won’t rank them — just like any other content.
Press Releases: A Worthy Addition to Your Content Roster
Press releases are indeed worth the investment, especially if you have news-worthy information you need to circulate.
Make sure your PR is written well, and that’s half the battle! Next, get legitimate, thorough distribution. Lastly: Enjoy the benefits and exposure.
Finally, don’t expect press release syndication to win you any backlinks or rankings in Google. That’s NOT what they’re for — instead, rely on your high-quality blog and website content to do that heavy lifting for you.
It really can be that simple.