Press releases can produce major benefits in marketing and PR, even if they don’t achieve placements in major media outlets.

Savvy PR departments and agencies use both free and paid distribution services to disseminate news releases, as each delivers distinctive benefits. Paid services promise media placements and syndication, while free services secure valuable links for web traffic.

Many companies, non-profits and PR agencies utilize paid subscription services like Business Wire to assure their press releases appear in leading publications. The subscription services have arranged for automatic publishing of news releases in hundreds of online sites – thereby virtually guaranteeing placements for their clients’ news releases. Even more importantly, press releases often serve as the basis for journalist-written articles in prominent, high-circulation news publications. As a result, news releases distributed by subscription services often achieve high rankings in Google News search results.

Why Free Press Release Services Still Matter

Free services usually publish the release on their site and seldom have the syndication/distribution clout of the paid services. The benefit of free press release sites is their ability to build on keywords, links, tags and meta-tags — which all contribute to the traffic on your website and your website’s rank. 

These links all add to the number of total inbound links to your site, which page rankers like Google Page Rank and Alexa take into consideration when rating websites. As Bruce Clay, founder of Bruce Clay, Inc. marketing optimization agency, explains:

“Press releases have been around forever and they are still good for what they were originally created for: traffic and branding.”

Google’s recent link scheme guidelines have driven controversy about whether press releases build SEO. Google frowns upon linking key words as anchor text in press releases and wants them tagged as “nofollow” so that they have no value for search engine optimization. However, “navigational links” that use anchor text of a domain name, company name or product name do not need to be tagged “nofollow” and most likely still produce search engine optimization value.

Matt Cutts of Google notes that he “wouldn’t expect links from press release web sites to benefit your rankings.” However, in response to Cutts’ statement, a study by SEO Consult proved that links in press releases can have direct SEO benefit.

Whether press release links boost SEO or not, one thing remains certain: publication on a free press release site — especially those with high rating page ranks — generates traffic and readership.

Both paid and free press releases can also positively influence online reputation. Announcements of new products, services and promotions present positive information in search results that can rank highly and therefore push down any negative comments and posts in the list of search results. Pushing negative articles off the first page of search results is a major objective of online reputation management programs.

A successful distribution plan also requires media monitoring to track the press release’s placement. An effective media monitoring service will clip the publications that reported the press release, monitor conversations about the company or products following the release, and measure the reach and reader sentiment of the press release. Media monitoring services like CyberAlert provide national and worldwide monitoring coverage so public relations and marketing personnel can assess the full effect of their press release efforts.

CyberAlert reveals the best free press release distribution services based on Google PageRank, Alexa Rank, inbound links and reach.

Ratings/Rankings of Free Press Release Distribution Services

WINNERS:

With dozens of free press release distribution sites available, which ones deliver the best PR results? Several credible organizations and companies — including the media monitoring service CyberAlert, Inc. — have recently investigated various news release services to determine how effective they are in distributing news releases online.

The results of four separate experiments and assessments of free press release distribution services show that PRLog.org and Newsvine proved to be the overall winners for enabling links and tags, PageRank and unique traffic numbers, the number of press releases published, and the rank those releases displayed in Google News search results.

The following tests and studies analyzed the relative effectiveness of the various free press release distribution services.

Vitis PR’s Experiment

According to an experiment by Vitis PR, PR Urgent is the best choice to get your release onto Google News.

Vitis PR sent five releases each to nearly 50 free press release distribution sites to determine which were most effective. The results:

  • 8 sites published all releases
  • 11 published some of the releases
  • 26 sites “ate the homework” and didn’t published anything

In Google search results, IT-DirectorPR Log and Press Box all achieved page-one visibility in organic search results for Google News. For a complete breakdown of each page’s results, visit Vitis PR.

Mequoda’s Review

The SEO and marketing consulting group Mequoda put together a list of the best free and paid press release sites based on the following qualities:

  • Google PageRank of 5 or higher
  • SEO capabilities like links and tags
  • Observes “nofollow” tagging rules (see Google’s new link schemes guidelines)
  • Receives a high amount of inbound links

PRLog.org topped the list with 2.7 million inbound links — meaning it has more than 10 times the number of backlinks than all other free press release distributors.

Site

PageRank

Inbound Links

www.PRLog.org

6

2,745,743

www.Free-Press-Release.com

5

440,026

www.PR-Inside.com

5

258,195

www.PR.com

6

273,457

www.NewswireToday.com

5

31,239

The more high-ranking websites that link to a press release distributor, the better chance Google News and other search engines will display its press releases.

Brian Scott’s Picks

In his experience with free press release services used for his business and clients, Brian Scott, founder of FreelanceWriting.com, names Newsvine.com as winner.

To assess the most effective press release sites, Scott uses an approach similar to Vitis PR’s experiment. Scott regularly submits a release to each of the sites on his list of “Top” sites and then monitors and measures the results to determine the rankings of each site.

Scott’s criteria:

  • Attracts moderate to high traffic to its site daily
  • PageRank of 4 or higher
  • Allows links
  • Enables distribution via RSS feeds and social media tools

The top sites on his list include many of those in the aforementioned studies, but also feature newer community-sharing services like Newsvine and PitchEngine. While Mequoda ranked pages by their total backlinks, Scott ranked them by the number of unique sites linking to the news distribution services.

Scott’s top 15 sites include:

Site

Google PageRank

Sites Linking In

Scott’s Rating

www.newsvine.com

7

140,517

****

www.prlog.org

6

53,308

****

www.sbwire.com

5

31,535

****

www.free-press-release.com

5

16,891

****

www.beforeitsnews.com

5

13,149

***

www.i-newswire.com

6

10,397

****

www.onlineprnews.com

4

8,214

***

www.1888pressrelease.com

4

6,619

***

www.pitchengine.com

5

6,275

***

www.briefingwire.com

4

5,285

**

www.pressbox.co.uk

4

5,072

**

www.myprgenie.com

4

5,028

***

www.openpr.com

4

2,339

***

www.newswiretoday.com

5

2,168

***

www.prfire.co.uk

4

964

**

CyberAlert Rankings

Using its online news search and measurement technology, CyberAlert ranked the free and low-cost sites based on Reach Per Million, a metric that measures the number of daily visitors to the site as a percentage of all users. For example, for every one million Internet users in the U.S., 472 visit PRlog.org every day.

Definitions of the remaining measurement data:

WebRank: Alexa traffic rank of the site in numerical order of all Internet sites worldwide, based on both the number of visitors to the site and average number of page views by each visitor while browsing the site.

National Opportunities to See (OTS): Estimated number of daily visitors to the site from the site’s home country. OTS combines the site’s rank, page views, reach per million and total number of Internet users in the country.

PageRank: Google PageRank assigns a page a numerical ranking of 0 (worst) through 10 (best), based on the amount of hyperlinks (also known as inbound links or backlinks) to the page.

Site

WebRank*

Reach Per Mil

National OTS

PageRank

Free

www.newsvine.com

3,848

5,908

1,448,661

7

Yes

www.prlog.org

2,178

472

115,736

6

Yes

news.thomasnet.com

6,498

370

58,830

6

Yes

www.sbwire.com

5,892

186

45,608

5

No

www.free-press-release.com

6,555

185

45,363

5

Yes

www.onlineprnews.com

10,910

107

26,237

4

Yes

www.pr.com

7,848

96

23,540

6

Yes

1888PressRelease.com

13,500

84

20,597

4

No

www.directionsmag.com

17,719

78

19,126

6

Yes

myprgenie.com

14,553

68

16,673

4

Yes

www.theopenpress.com

20,192

62

15,080

4

Yes

www.freeprnow.com

24,444

59

14,467

3

Yes

www.pressexposure.com

30,086

59

14,442

3

Yes

www.pressreleasespider.com

26,633

59

14,442

3

Yes

www.i-newswire.com

13,393

85

4,482

6

No

*As of 9/18/13

Conclusion

As a group, the cited studies offer insight into the press release distribution services that deliver the best reach and visibility. Using the services with better reach, Web Rank and Page Rank including Newsvine, PRLog, and i-Newswire will likely produce better results. The remaining sites should not be ignored, as they can still help build a website’s keywords and search engine ranking.

Many additional free press release distribution services not included in the studies are also available. CyberAlert’s List of Free and Low-Cost Press Release and News Release Distribution Services for Public Relations offers a more complete list including several low-cost services.

Free and low-cost services cannot match the distribution clout or media placements achieved by paid subscription services like Business Wire. However, PR organizations can utilize free press release services for better traffic, page ranking and reputation management. By combining free and paid press release services, companies receive maximum exposure and secure valuable links and key words in search engines.