press release distribution

The Wicked Witch of Online Syndication is Dead: Why We’re No Longer Offering Syndicated Press Release Distribution


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.

For the past year now, at Express Writers, we’ve offered 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 this October—when we stood back and looked at the actual benefit of online, syndicated news. 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.

That’s why we’re calling our findings the wicked witch of online press syndication and turning it into a Halloween post.

Here’s the (in the spirit of Halloween—cold, dead) truth: if you’re paying for syndicated news, you might just be wasting every single dollar you sink into that channel.

Don’t just be frightened by the witch: know the facts and make an informed decision the next time you choose to put your money into syndicated news (or not).

online press release distribution

The Story Behind the Study: What Inspired Me to Take a Deeper Look at Press Release Distribution

I’d noticed a pattern: in 2012, when we started offering distribution, I saw amazing, fast results in Google. For instance, one press release we did back then was about a stuffed toy. Their keyword, a solid, low competition long-tail, ranked #3 in Google in just days—the #3 result was their actual PRWeb release. Now that was value!

But I haven’t seen this happen since that day. And we’re talking out of dozens to hundreds of press releases that our team has written and distributed by now. On average, we distribute 6-10 press releases for clients in a month. We have so many clients that complain about the reports we send them. “This is all the data and results we get?” And the truth is: 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 it 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 this 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, the author of the Moz piece, for some updated findings.

Let’s dive in to the findings.

Interview with Tim Grice: The Cold, Hard, Dead 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 and what he’d say about online press syndication currently as it stands in 2016.

Julia: You shared your findings on how budgets are being wasted with online press release syndication, back in 2012. Would you say it’s become an even bigger waste of budget in 2016? 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.

[clickToTweet tweet=”There is no value in press release syndication for SEO purposes. – @Tim_Grice” quote=”There is no value in press release syndication for SEO purposes. – @Tim_Grice”]

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.

[clickToTweet tweet=”Anything designed to create quick, easy links is almost always a waste of time and money. [email protected]_Grice” quote=”Anything designed to create quick, easy links is almost always a waste of time and money. [email protected]_Grice”]

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 stand point, 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, CTR’s, mobile and great content.

Final word…

[clickToTweet tweet=”Syndication is never a good investment, and I would opt for any other tactic. – @Tim_Grice” quote=”Syndication is never a good investment, and I would opt for any other tactic. – @Tim_Grice”]

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?

What is the ROI of Online Press Release Distribution

To wrap up our findings…

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.

buzzsumo most shared press release

Using Moz’s Open Site Explorer, we found out that the press release with 149k shares has only 1 backlink with a Domain Authority well below quality (19 on a scale of 100).

moz screenshot 1

Investigating further, the backlink itself has 4 spam flags.

moz screenshot

As we end, if you’re still choosing to go with PR syndicated distribution, I ask you to 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?

Are we still doing press release writing? Yes!

We still offer press release writing from expert journalists! A PR in and of itself, as Grice said, holds much value (as long as you’re using something a little better quality than the syndicated online network.) As of October 31, we no longer offer distribution only. Get your written press release here.

Comments welcome! Tell us your thoughts below.


#ContentWritingChat Recap: The Role of PR in an Internet-Based Media Age with Shannon Renee

Hey, friends! Did you miss #ContentWritingChat this week? Have no fear! You can get caught up with our recap and learn all about public relations from our chat participants.

#ContentWritingChat Recap: The Role of PR in an Internet-Based Media Age with Shannon Renee

This week, our guest host was Shannon Mouton Gray. Shannon is the Managing Director of McKinney & Associates, a public relations firm.

Q1: Many argue that PR isn’t as worthwhile as it once was in today’s online age. Thoughts?

There’s been a pretty hot debate lately about whether or not PR is still important in this online age. What did people from Tuesday’s chat have to say? Find out:

Shannon believes PR is just as important today as it was years ago. In fact, she thinks it may be even more important now.

Brandie agreed that PR is still a necessity for brands. Even though times have changed, it’s still important.

Zala knows PR has changed over the years, but she still sees it as being relevant.

Q2: What would you say to those who no longer value PR to convince them otherwise?

If someone told you they didn’t value PR anymore, but you did, what would you say to them? Here’s what we heard from our chat participants:

As Shannon said, social media is a form of public relations and it has to be monitored. You want to know what others are saying about your brand.

Ray knows that having a positive brand message and telling it consistently is good for business. A PR team can help you with that.

Bill knows it’s not easy to change someone’s mind, especially if they’re stuck in their ways. The best thing you can do is to show someone the ROI that PR can provide.

Having a PR team behind you is also helpful in a time of crisis. If something goes wrong with your brand, your PR team can step in and take control.

Julia said you still need PR if you want to spread the news about your business. The channels in which you do it are just different. Here at Express Writers, we also know the power of a great press release. Show the naysayers exactly what a well-written press release can do for their brand.

Q3: How has PR changed in recent years due to this internet-based age?

As we’ve already discussed, PR has definitely changed over the years. What changes have occurred? Here’s what you need to know:

Shannon feels monitoring PR has become even more important than it once was. You need to monitor not only what your brand puts out there, but also was other people are saying.

It seems Halle from CoSchedule agrees with Shannon! There’s even more of a need for monitoring nowadays.

Katie from globalHMA said the methods of reaching publications have changed these days. Now, we have the opportunity to go straight to the audience with the help of social media.

Amanda feels it’s become easier to monitor and you now have a greater opportunity to spread your content far and wide.

Erika said PR has become more about strategic content creation and placement and building thought leadership. As she said, PR and content are basically joined at the hip with social media. They all go hand-in-hand.

Absolutely! Brandie is spot on when she says you need to have a strong digital footprint and social experience.

As Julia said, the channels have now improved. With the right distribution outlet, you can reach Fox and CNN. You can even utilize social media to start conversations with the right people.

Although there have been changes in the world of PR, the main premise stays the same. It’s still largely about building brand awareness and loyalty.

Q4: How hasn’t PR changed?

Despite the changes that have occurred over recent years, there are still many things about PR that have remained the same.

Shannon said PR is still about building relationships and creating content. Forging bonds with outlets is still relevant, but there are just a lot more outlets these days. She also knows good content is just as important today as it was before.

Kristen and Ray seem to be on the same page as Shannon. They both agreed that PR is largely about building relationships.

As Sarah said, the focus of PR is still about getting the brand out there. We’re just able to go about it in different ways, thanks to today’s internet age.

Halle feels PR hasn’t changed, but the media has. With all the social media outlets available today, there’s even more of a need for a public relations team.

Great answer from Bill! He said PR will always be the bridge between your organization and your audience.

Q5: PR writing tips: discuss how to write a great online press release.

How can you create your own press release for your brand? Check out these tips:

Shannon said to make sure your press release has a pithy headline and needs to be well-written. You should also include all the important information people need to know.

The McKinney & Associates team said you should make your press release shareable. In order to do this, keep it clear, straightforward, and accurate.

Kristen’s advice is to get straight to point. Answer the “So what?” question about your business.

Always keep your audience in mind, first and foremost. You’re writing for them.

Make sure you get your press release out in a timely manner. Halle also recommends keeping it short and sticking to the facts.

If you’re angling your press release for a certain publication, you should follow their style guide. Ray also said you should answer the 5 W’s when writing.

What’s Julia’s suggestion? Get a journalist! Get an expert to write the news for your brand. That’s something we can help with at Express Writers, too!

Our Content Manager, Katria, chimed in with her advice. She said to write a catchy headline and a precise summary. You should also mention social media outlets and include an about section.

Cheryl said to keep it precise, answer a question or solve a problem, and be useful.

Don’t make them guess what your brand’s press release is about. Be clear and make your most important points. Use descriptive language that will draw them in and keep them reading the entire thing.

Q6: How can you evolve your PR strategy to keep up in this internet-based age?

With so many changes occurring, how can you keep up? Evolve your PR strategy by following this advice from our chat participants:

Shannon said with some projects you just can’t afford to wait until tomorrow. That’s definitely something to keep in mind!

Cheryl knows monitoring is important. The good news is, there are a ton of tools available to us today. Take advantage of that by using them!

Make sure you stay up-to-date with where your audience is strongest. Great tip!

Halle said to never stop learning. You want to stay on top of the changes within the media so you know what’s going on and can adapt.

Erika’s advice is to hire a consultant. She feels you can learn a lot by working with someone to develop your strategy.

Katria suggests investing time into social media and knowing how to effectively use each of the platforms. After all, social media is a powerful tool if you know the right way to use it.

Don’t be afraid to try new things. Find other ways and outlets to reach your audience.

Q7: What do you see coming up for the future of PR?

What’s in store for the future of PR? Here are some predictions straight from Tuesday’s chat:

With the increase in trolls, bots, spam, etc., Shannon believes monitoring will continue to become even more important. Be prepared!

She also sees visuals becoming a larger part of PR with people using more images, photos, videos, and GIFs.

Could you see press releases becoming more focused on video? It just might be a great way to grab the attention of your audience.

Katie sees brands doing more work with thought leaders and ambassadors.

Andrew believes everything will continue to blend into inbound marketing as a whole.

Bill sees communications, marketing, and social media positions coming together to form one mega team. It sure is a great way to take advantage of each person’s skills and experience.

Halle sees an interactive and participatory future for PR. It’s all about getting involved and building relationships.

Cheryl sees better outlets on the way, plus improved ways to monitor each of them.

We look forward to seeing you at the next #ContentWritingChat! Mark your calendars weekly for Tuesday at 10 AM CDT for great chats centered around content writing and marketing. Follow @ExpWriters to stay updated on our new topics and guests!

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How To Write A Press Release - Infographic

How to Write a Press Release (Infographic)

Do press releases still matter? What are top experts saying today, and how can businesses create a successful, professional press release for publication online? View our infographic below for how to write a press release and several other useful answers! Full transcript below. Like our infographic? We’d really appreciate a comment and share! 

How To Write A Press Release - Infographic


Why Press Releases Still Matter

  • Contrary to rumors that press releases are fizzling, they are in fact still relevant and useful today. Here’s what top experts are saying about press releases today.
  • Rand Fishkin says that if you are the exception and work on standing out, your PR can do very well (theirs did, at Moz).
  • Hubspot experts say that press releases are viewed 275 times per week.
  • Press releases are still a viable option to get company news discovered, according to a Forbes expert.
  • Writers for big publishers can pick up an online press release, and the associated buzz (it can even be in a G+ post, link, etc.) can help your business, according to AimClear.
  • There’s no replacement for a strong press release, say the experts at Cision.
  • PRs are great for raw fodder to create multiple content pieces from! (From Miller Public Relations)

How to Write a Press Release: 6 Must-Have Ingredients to Get Your PR Noticed

There are many different ways to write press releases. Having these critical elements will help get your organization’s news noticed faster:

1. Newsworthy material

Think about why your product, event, or service matters to the public. If you can’t answer, “What’s in it for them?” then skip the press release altogether.

2. Objective tone

Write in third person and avoid using “we,” “I,” and “you.” Also avoid emphasis language, hyperbolic claims, and hype flags.

3. Clear and condensed information

Get to the point upfront and avoid using jargon. If you must use industry terms, define them in the piece.

4. Valid contact info

There’s nothing worse for a media rep to have than the wrong contact information. Use an up-to-date email and phone number within the media contact text.

5. Excellent grammar and spelling

Your press release will get crumpled up quickly if there are signs of poor grammar and typos. Proof and re-proof your piece before distributing it.

6. Relevant quotes from the sources

Whenever possible get a quote from an industry professional or executive. This gives you credibility and helps emphasize the message.

The Structure of A Published Press Release

How to write a press release is answered with our structure breakdown. See the live PR example, from MeetMyTutor

Headline (short and sweet attention grabber, no more than 65 characters)

Sub-headline (builds on the headline, two sentences max)

Dateline (the city where the news is originating and the date of the release)

Lead or intro paragraph (generally answers the who, what, when, where and why questions; in other words, the facts)

Body (min of 300 words, ideally no more than 600 words, provides supporting details, quotes, and call to action)

Body (min of 300 words, ideally no more than 600 words, provides supporting details, quotes, and call to action)

Body (min of 300 words, ideally no more than 600 words, provides supporting details, quotes, and call to action)

About  – Boilerplate (short paragraph with information about the issuing company or organization)

### <Journalist PR designated sign (signaling the end of the press release)

Press releases also include a company’s logo and media contact information: at minimum, the name, phone number and email address for the PR or media relations contact who can answer any questions regarding the material. 

Full Reference List

PRWeb |

AuthorityLabs |

Forbes |

Hubspot |

Cision |

Ilissa Miller, iMiller Public Relations (iMPR) |

PR Newswire |


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