Updated: Jan 30
Press releases. They offer immediate ROI, right? And they should be posted online with abandon, correct?
Not so fast. While press releases are powerful tools for every media team to have in its arsenal, their power will be dulled if not treated with care. To understand why, let’s take a look at how the distribution of press releases works.
First, you must master the distinction between original content and duplicate content.
Original content is content written by a single source for a single publication or website.
Duplicate content is a single piece of content spread across multiple websites, which is precisely what press releases become when they are sent out to the newswires via press release distribution services like Cision (which acquired PR Newswire) and BusinessWire.
Google categorizes duplicate content differently than original content, and when Google noticed that press releases were taking advantage of the system and boosting SEO with unearned links, Google created “no follow” tags that are automatically attached to press releases. Essentially, this means that press releases posted on the web have an inherent disadvantage and whenever the content is duplicated, it doesn’t appear in searches and Google devalues the rankings of sites that post releases.
So no, posting a press release does not boost a company’s SEO directly. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t send out press releases. You just have to think about the process differently.
Press releases can work to increase SEO rankings. They just do so indirectly.
Whenever a release is featured on a news site, it drives traffic to the company’s site. There, visitors click through its pages, boosting its traffic and, if you’re particularly lucky, they’ll share it on social media or even link back to it.
And that will result in quality links, the kind that pay dividends.
Since the SEO value has decreased due to the aforementioned algorithm changes, some of our clients opt to post press releases on their blogs and share them directly with their distribution lists, instead of posting them to the newswires.
The question everyone asks is whether posting on the newswires will lead reporters to cover the story. In our experience, it is extremely rare for reporters to take stories from the wires unless they are posted by a mega brand.
PR professionals share press releases directly with reporters to help make the journalists’ jobs easier through clear storytelling and precise, detailed delivery of facts and figures. Reporters interested in covering a story can use the press release as they prepare to conduct interviews. They can also choose to write a story based on the press release alone if they feel it answers the questions they’d ask during an interview.
And when journalists write stories, these are significantly more valuable in terms of validation, content and rankings.
To supercharge your visibility, here are some tips:
Write a complete headline that grabs the reader’s attention – put your most valuable information at the front of the headline, to maximize impact.
Make sure your press release is saying something new and ideally worthy of telling people about
Keep it short and sweet. A Cision report found that the average length of a press release is 686 words. And the most successful releases are 400 words or less! (If a longer release is necessary, don’t despair. Some announcements require more words. But to keep your reader’s attention, lean on tools like bullets, headers and lists to break up the text into smaller, more digestible chunks).
Use your head: The average headline is 88 characters. Keyword tools like Google Trends can increase headline relevancy.
Be smart with your keywords. On Google, the first 100 words matter for keyword searches.
Adding multimedia like photos or videos is a helpful way to quickly grab attention, but it comes at an added cost. So always start by understanding who you’re trying to reach and how much you want to pay to get there. These benchmarks will help guide your decisions on whether or not to pay extra for multimedia. If you do use it, be sure to employ media captions and tags to add keywords, and name each multimedia file with searchable terms so that the media itself can be easily harnessed, shared and utilized.
Know your audience and your budget. How big of a news story is this? Do you want to reach a wide audience, or a specific and niche one? You wouldn’t throw a dart without first looking at where the target is, so don’t write and produce a press release without first being sure you know exactly where the audience you hope to reach is located and what is the size of the audience. And remember: the wider the distribution, the greater the cost. Be specific and targeted with your audience for the best ROI.