I’ve been writing press releases, both online and offline, for over 20 years, and to say that both their use and purpose have changed, is an understatement. These days, through online press release distribution services, just about anyone can instantly send out media releases to online news sites and niche-focused blogs.
The fact that these digitally delivered press releases can, depending on the distribution service used, include live links, has not gone unnoticed by internet marketers. Increasingly, online press releases are being used for link building, and for SEO in general.
With that in mind, writing online press releases with these objectives in mind has become an important part of my content writing business. That I am able to combine offline marketing/PR experience with internet marketing and SEO strategies, gives me a unique perspective from which to approach my clients media release needs, and to observe how others should be creating and using them to greater effect.
Unfortunately, I am increasingly seeing online press releases that are being poorly written, distributed and leveraged. At best they fail to achieve the maximum benefit for their subject, and at worst, they leave an unprofessional online impression.
Control over quality and accuracy
Press releases that are amateurish and badly assembled, might remain online for as long as professionally crafted ones – potentially forever. Business owners need to realize this and understand that what is being broadcast to the universe on their behalf, could reflect on them for many years to come.
Leveraging your press releases by adding them to a Media Room section of your website will stamp “Authority” in a way that is only matched by real testimonials. If, after seeing a press release that has been created for you, and which carries your name, your business or product name, you decide against adding it to your website, then it’s time to step back and ask why. If you are happy for it to be published on thousands of other websites, leaving your online footprint in its wake, why is it not good enough to add to your site?
Lost in translation?
Often a clear business message can only be created by a person who ‘gets’ you and your business, and who is able to understand your objectives. There are nuances of language that can affect the readability of a media release, and industry semantics that can determine whether a release is picked up by a trade journal.
If your online press releases do not reflect these, you are creating lost opportunities.
The “art” of news-jacking
By understanding and being able to interpret your objectives, your marketing writer should be able to identify current news stories and strategically apply them to a press release for your business. This ‘news jacking’ – riding the wave of something already making headlines – is a great strategy to employ when you don’t have anything ‘newsworthy’ to publish, but need to inject a little SEO magic into your website. Commenting, through a media release, on a niche-related news story is yet another way to enhance your authority on a topic.
Here is an example – topic: property investing, news jacked: interest rates
Long and rambling copy that is merely a vehicle for links
Back in the pre-digital age, press releases were governed by tight guidelines, including word count, and if they were not adhered to, would be immediately ‘binned’ by editors and journalists. While many online distribution services no longer have a word limit (though most recommend < 800 words), long and padded media releases will continue to be ignored by legitimate News sites – where content is actually read before being published.
Failure to use boilerplates correctly
The boilerplates on press releases provide a great opportunity to establish niche-authority and market presence, though too often they are either omitted completely from a release or have only lip-service paid to them.
Knowing when to publish
Ideal days and times to publish press releases really do exist, and ignorance of them exemplifies an amateurish approach, and squanders the benefits that can be achieved by this type of attention to detail.
Using a distribution service without understanding its nuances
Professionals understand that subtle adjustments can be made within a distribution system to increase the reach of a press release, including the use of images, selection of distribution channels and naming of the releases. These are all quite subtle, but make a world of difference when executed correctly.
Why more is not always better
This probably goes back to understanding a premium distribution service and how to correctly use it. Press releases are most powerful when they are targeted to, and published on, relevant niches sites (or within specific geographical areas).
Having links coming from these sites are valuable, initially. But if links are coming from the same sites for ongoing press releases, those links lose value each time they are used – an opinion reinforced in a recent post by Tim Grice on SEOmoz.com:
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.
Knowing how to avoid this is goes a long way to delivering better results for my clients, and is not something a production line approach will deliver.
So, while online press releases are certainly great for link building and SEO, you should also consider the more subtle, but no less important, benefits of reputation and authority (yours, your businesses, your products and services) and ensure your releases are created and published accordingly.
Oh, and don’t forget to ask to see press release examples from any writers you are entrusting your online reputation to!