I have always believed the old saw, “You get what you pay for.” Life experience tells me that free services often don’t have much of a payoff, or to use another old bromide, “There is no free lunch.” However, I have identified an exception that proves the rule – free press release sites. There are a growing number of online locations where you can post news releases at no cost, and they actually do have a huge positive impact on search rankings.
I recently ran across a blog post at BigNewsBiz.com, one of the free news sites, which, albeit biased had some interesting insights. Phil Davies of BigNews.biz LLC notes that free press releases sites have a real impact on rankings. As he posted to one of my LinkedIn groups:
“I kept seeing press releases from these free press release sites showing up in page 1 Google search results and page 1 on Google News. In some cases beating out results from major media outlets.”
Davies cites some specific criteria he uses to determine the value of free web sites, including page rank, Google News tracking, the amount of traffic, and how complex the rules are for acceptance (i.e. releases rejected for various reasons). He then lists his top 15 free press release sites based on their Alexa ratings.
I actually just completed an exercise for a client that demonstrates the value of free press release sites. This client is a small start-up that just completed a second round of seed funding – rather small by venture capital standards. To save money, we decided to bypass the conventional paid wire service (which can run into thousands of dollars if you’re not careful). Instead, I used a combination of e-mail pitches to targeted media outlets and we got some great results, including a pickup by Dow Jones. I am still waiting to see how the search rankings fall out among the major search engines, but I’m confident that, based on the early results, the free release site strategy is going to pay off.
All that said, the paid wire services also have real value, depending on your requirements. If you are a publicly traded company and disclosure is a concern, you can’t beat using one of the big three – PR Newswire, BusinessWire, or MarketWire. I have been following another LinkedIn discussion about which is the best wire service, and one of the contributors from China, Jonah Guo, sums up some of the value of the paid services quiet well:
“It depends what your clients’ need. If they just want some results while you research Google, you can use any wire. You do not even need to pay if you write a search-engine-friendly press releases. However, if your clients want serious PR, the commercial wires can help you. For example, SEOpressreleases.com and other cheap wires cannot feed Factiva, where most researchers find their info, and which archives your press releases for 20 years.”
Do you have hard and fast rules for using release wire services? What are your PR objectives and how do you use wire services to achieve them? How do you build the paid and free wire services into your best PR practices?