are press releases worth it seo

A few of us at the Kuno office recently had a conversation about the worth of a press release distributed over a commercial newswire. As inbound marketers, we had been using press releases as just one of the many ways to build visibility for client websites (as well as our own) and build legitimate backlinks. But did the tactic actually work anymore? Is it still worth the time (several hours) and cost (a few hundred to a few thousand dollars)? And what is the actual ROI?

The weird thing is that we left the room without a solid answer. I was intrigued; are we doing ourselves an injustice by not sending out press releases to announce our new content and services, or are we simply wasting our work hours and money?

Value of the Press Release

For many years, businesses, public relations departments and SEO gurus were sending out press releases for three main reasons:

  • Announce information, such as launching a product, meeting a milestone or kicking off a tour, to their audience, as well as the media —the original objective of press releases
  • Create good press and brand exposure by placing a spotlight on news or deeds
  • Build backlinks by including embedded links to the business’ website in the press release to boost SEO

Let me be clear, the third purpose was our main goal as inbound marketers in recent years. While the first two reasons certainly still have the potential to garner results in a public relations setting, the third goal has come under scrutiny with Google algorithm updates such as Panda and Penguin. As Google welcomes quality content with open arms and high SERP rankings and gives poor quality content the boot, where does that leave press releases?

Is there SEO value?

Google says links from press releases won’t help your SEO efforts, but SEOConsult performed its own little experiment to find out if that was true—turns out, it’s not: “An unremarkable press release that adds nothing to the story is still having direct SEO benefit to the target simply down to the distribution and scraping that has occurred.”

OK cool, press releases with embedded links can indeed help your SEO efforts—temporarily. Hey, embedded hyperlinks are one of the building blocks of SEO. But wait, did you catch that really awful word in that quote? “Unremarkable.” (Ick!) Why would your business ever want to create, develop, write, generate or establish anything unremarkable? It is just bad business.

Content is the Real Value

While building links using press releases has some value, the real worth lies in writing content and sharing information your audience will find useful. This can be in any format, including blogs, online articles or even press releases. So start by writing for your audience then work to make your content findable using pre-determined keywords. Remember, don’t overdo it; you are writing for humans here.

Your goal for a press release should go back to the original purpose: announcing useful information to your audience and, yes, the media, too. This means your information should be helpful, timely and relevant, as always. To obtain maximum results from your press release, you should aim to have it picked up (beyond press release sites) by media outlets or respected industry news sites—these are great backlinks and will help spread your information even further and to the right audience.

To accomplish this goal with any type of content, here are a few top tips:

  • Write about what interests your potential buyers
  • Use language your audience uses and searches with
  • Use specific keywords (including your company name if applicable) in the headline while keeping the title concise and intriguing
  • Use important keyword phrases in your first paragraph and add a relevant hyperlink when possible; (do not let your first sentence ramble)
  • Use long-tail keywords relevant to your service and industry (use a free tool like Google Adwords Search Keyword Tool); do not embed the same phrase more than once
  • Develop a loyal readership and offer simple ways for readers to share via social media

Well, is it worth it?

If you ask me, “Are press releases worth my time and money?” My answer is still, “Yes—with the proper content and effort, of course.” Maybe Mike Cherenson, EVP of Success Communications Group, says it better: “Authentic and relevant link building, aimed at driving engagement, informing publics and building mutually beneficial relationships should be a part of every public relations and SEO effort.” He goes on to say, “Public relations professionals are skilled storytellers and content generators and should be a part of every SEO effort. The future of SEO is not in the technology, it’s in the ability to tell stories that readers and Google will find interesting.”

A good press release is good content. And when online buyers and media alike get a hold of information they find useful or entertaining, you will get more backlinks than you ever asked for.

What are your thoughts on the press release debate? Sound off in the comment section below!

photo credit: funkandjazz

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