I have been writing press releases over over 25 years, initially to traditional media to gain exposure for product launches and corporate credibility. Most recently though, over the last 5 years, my press releases have been more internet focused: to help me achieve online credibility and authority for my clients as well as myself – to broaden our online footprint.
There is now a myriad of online press release distribution services, and I have used most of them, with varying results. Most have bee impacted by changes to Google in the last 18 months, with many of the syndicated sites on which the releases were published disappearing overnight.
Most recently though, those with nefarious or mischievous intentions have published bogus press releases, with fake logos, that have sent businesses into panic, needed rapid-action reputation management strategies implemented. Two in particular have recently caused trading halts to different companies – but more about these later.
Anyway…..in the last few years lots of businesses discovered the SEO benefits of press releases. And like all things ‘SEO’, Google has been keeping an eye on them, and changes in results have become apparent.
The Then and Now
When I first started using one of the premium news distribution services several years ago, it was not uncommon for me to get 100,000-250,000 results in Google for each release. Now its more like 1500-5000, which is still not bad, considering there will be 4-5 different links to my clients’ sites in each one – trying getting that from an article!
I have no doubt that the the decrease is a result of those auto-feed sites that Google devalued and virtually shut down overnight, in an effort to uphold the company’s commitment to deliver the best results possible for searchers.
Those who use some of the premium services to distribute press releases will probably have noticed some changes in their policies and editorial guidelines. In the last 12 months I have had discussions with the staff of several: my account managers, editorial departments and management, about some of the material that they were publishing as ‘News’.
The point I was making was that some of what they were publishing was devaluing releases of merit. However, it was not until one event in particular in November 2012, that changes began to be implemented.
Then Came November 26
So Google is watching the releases being distributed by different news syndication services. One would think that any press release that included the word ‘Google’ might be flagged by their editorial staff – but it seems not, at least, on November 26.
One high profile news distribution service published a press release announcing that Google had purchased wireless hotspot provider, ICOA, for $400 million. Several media outlets, notably Associated Press and TechCrunch picked up, and ran with, the story (without substantiation from either company – go figure).
The ICOA CEO immediately denied the acquisition, but the story was ‘out there’. ICOA’s penny stocks jumped from 1 to 5 cents and 3.321 billion shares traded hands before transactions involving the stock were halted (ICOA usually trades around 926,000 shares/day).
The incident has been variously described as ‘identity theft’ and a ‘classic scam’, but for the news syndication company it was a massive credibility hit.
Meanwhile, in Australia……
On January 7, a fake press releases was issued under the ANZ Bank letterhead announcing its withdrawal of funding for a mining company, Whitehaven Coal. The results was the company’s shares being placed in a trading halt, but not before $314 million was wiped from the value of the company.
The perpetrator of the hoax was a serial anti-coal activist, whose name I’d rather not share (I don’t want to contribute to his celebrity by doing so!), believed it to be justified……..
$314 million off the value of Nathan Tinkler’s Whitehaven Coal, and caused the company’s shares to be placed in a trading halt, has defended his actions as justified.
(These are probably not the best, most positive, examples of the power of press releases – but they are examples nonetheless.)
Followed By Editorial Guidelines and Policy Reviews
Most of you with your own accounts with premium press release distribution services will have noticed revised Editorial Guidelines that have a renewed focus on:
- Newsworthy content: announcing a new product or service, business expansion/event/anniversary.
- Clear attribution/news source must be included in the headline, i.e. who is issuing the release (though in discussions, I have uncovered some exceptions)
- The actual news topic must also be in the headline and the actual news topic
- Written authorization from a principal of the company/ies concerned if a stock ticker symbol is used.
- Opinion pieces are not news, so your opinion on ‘the best method to do xyz’ won’t cut it
- There are several topics that will not be approved for press releases, including work-from-home and payday loan topics and some dubious therapeutic remedies.
One thing that the editorial staff are being very vigilant about is following the links placed in releases. Even if your release doesn’t mention, for instance, work-from-home or payday loans, if they follow your link to a site that does, the media release will be rejected. I have a client who doesn’t sell WFH, but because a heading on his site mentioned ‘passive income’ the network editors put a hold on it. I challenged, it was sent through to ‘management’ and was eventually approved – a 5 day process!
Being Flexible and Having Plans B, C……
Online press releases continue to be a BIG part of my business, and they continue to deliver real and measurable results. They are the best way, I think, to build credibility and authority – when your potential employees, clients, partners and investors search for you online, having several pages of positive results returned is VERY impressive.
I am continuing to use two particular news distribution sites for my clients, and hope that the tightening of the guidelines and editorial vigilance will circumvent any penalisation in the future. Because my releases are well written, and don’t promote any of the black-listed topics, I kinda like the tightening of the rules.
However, I am trialling several others, and for my clients with the budget to get news releases in front of traditional media, I am using a very high level (expensive – yes!) service that is working really well for them. I had to jump through a lot of hoops in order to open up an account with this company, but it has been very worthwhile, especially for my American and Canadian clients or those wanting releases translated into different languages.
Suffice it to say, it is one of the plans B, C and D that I have in place for press releases in 2013 and beyond – press releases still rock.