Press Releases have changed much in the last 10 years. When I first wrote both corporate and product launch press releases back in the 1990s, they were created to appeal to journalists and editors – in the hope of being picked up by mainstream media – print and on air. These days digital marketers use online press releases with different targets, and with three main objectives:
- to establish authority in a niche – broadening the online footprint of a person, company or product, and showing them in the best possible light
- for search engine optimization (SEO) – with each online press release containing links from targeted keywords, and
- to elicit a response from a reader – clicking on one of those links, sending and email, picking up the phone.
While it does happen occasionally, online press releases should not be issued with the objective of gaining mainstream offline media exposure.
Your prime objective will influence the content of your press releases, the frequency at which you issue them, and how you distribute them – and herein lies the conundrum.
Establishing Authority With Press Releases
Establishing authority in a niche through a online press releases is easily achieved by creating well written releases – and hurt by publishing poorly written ones with bad grammar and spelling. If publishing production-line press releases daily means compromising the quality, then each time it is read it also compromises your credibility – not just opinion, it is logic. For authority, distribution via a paid service is vital – seeing yours published via ‘freebargainpressreleases.com’ does nothing for your credibility.
Links and SEO
For those whose are looking for the SEO benefits of online media releases, the best results are again achieved by distributing by a quality, paid service, with the inclusion of carefully researched and varied keyword hyperlinks. These services will send your release to highly ranked online news websites, forums, niche blogs etc – and receiving links from these sites to yours will help your SEO. By all means do a rewrite of your original release and send it to free distribution services as well, often these have a good Twitter uptake, but the link value is not great.
Eliciting a response from online press releases is challenging because its difficult to know how many ‘human’ readers will see it. I’ve found that releases that target very finely defined niches tend to get better interaction, and I’ve illustrated this in Case Study 3 below.
How Often Should You Issue Online Press Releases?
This question, posted in a online business forum, was the impetus for me to write this post. I subscribe to the theory that when it comes to online press releases, as with other written content, quality trumps quantity every time. And I’m not alone in this belief.
In a recent post on SEOmoz.com Tim Grice raised the subject of press release spend, and while I don’t agree with everything he says in the post, the informed discussion that followed, I found interesting, and you may as well. The post was based on the results of a survey SEO companies being paid to publish online press releases for their client – some ‘pushing out 3 press releases a week’.
One paragraph in this post resonated with me, so I went back to several campaigns to see if it rang true for me as well:
“Links from unique domains?
Sure, the first time you send a press release out all your links will be from unique domains. Maybe if you use multiple distribution services you will get plenty of links from unique domains. However if you use these services month after month, all you’re doing is acquiring low quality links from the same domains over and over again.”
I will add however, that this would only be relevant if each press release was directing links to the same website, and not for businesses that send out frequent releases, directing links to different websites. My statistics have shown that the level of interaction, i.e. readers taking action after reading a press release, diminishes with frequency. Here are two examples that illustrate this. The first is for a daily press release over a 14 day period (a different release each day):
However, the frequency of press release publication has no obvious effect on online pickup.
The second example is for a 5 day campaign.
The headline (including keyword), it is safe to say, is the main influencer in online pickup. The premium press release distributors automatically send your release to their standard ‘deliverables’. However, they also have niche and authority blog/forum owners, and online media, who will flag topics that they wish to receive releases about – trending or industry-specific topics.
Here is an example of a one-per-month campaign for a very techie niche. As you will see the online pickup is comparatively low, but the read/interaction rate is exceptional.
This client does not want ‘invented’ news, and each release is about a product launch or a genuine announcement – real value or interest to its prospects. Many PR professionals believe that these are the only times to issue a press release!
In writing online press releases for my clients, I seek to cover all three objectives outlined at the beginning of this post (unless my Brief is otherwise, i.e. focus on SEO). They:
- establish authority by delivering real information (not announcing what an expert had for breakfast!). They use correct grammar, spelling and keyword placement – clients can comfortably add them to their websites for reading by clients, potential partners, investors and journalists.
- are search engine optimized, including the language used, keyword placement and image leverage.
- point to a URL with more details, free download, giveaway, special offer – inviting response.
Writing and distributing of online press releases is very important to me – it is a large and growing part of my business, with ongoing word of mouth referrals from all over the world.
My clients are exceptionally happy with the results they receive (see Testimonials), and the honest advice I provide regarding timing and content. It would be easy to encourage them to publish more often (more $s in the bank for me after all), but I don’t unless there is a clear objective in doing so.
However, when I do see legitimate opportunities arise, I get on the phone, Skype, text or email to my clients right away – and they are happy to move with me. And we ramp things up at times of product launches or when current news dictates appropriateness – this is easily achieved when they have pre-purchased specially-priced press release packages.
The Conundrum Lives On
While others who use press releases have different objectives and experiences to mine and different results, I am guided by what is working for me and for my clients.
In addition there are some key marketing/PR professionals whose expertise I value – true exponents of the craft – and their books on my bookshelf are well thumbed, and their blogs visited often, most notably David Meerman Scott, author of “The New Rules of Marketing and PR”.