Press Releases Are Not an SEO Strategy

I’ve written more press releases in 2014 than any year since Google rolled out the first Penguin algorithm update – but I haven’t used a press release site. Not because they don’t still work (I’ll take other marketers at their word that they do), but because I can get better results contacting journalists directly.

In the months post-Penguin (mid 2012), Greg Habermann published a great article on Search Engine Watch[1] telling marketers to stop syndicating press releases without having a newsworthy reason for doing so. Fast-forward two years and it’s past time that press release syndication was stopped entirely.

Press release sites have never been subject to the same measures of QA that have been applied blogs, etc. – a criticism I’ve often heard levelled at parenting bloggers is that they’ll write about absolutely anything. I can hardly imagine that letting absolutely anyone write about absolutely anything on a website is going to make it a good target to acquire links from. Bloggers have a vested interest in maintaining the quality of their sites – marketers publishing press releases are guests in several other people’s websites, often several times per week.

The readability of press releases is also up for debate. Many businesses I’ve worked with publish each press release they put out in a “press center” section of their website, which is not a particularly good way to break a new story, for three reasons:

  1. A press center has a very niche audience and therefore has to be buried in the site – there’s no point linking to it in the top nav, for example – as a result it’s extremely unlikely anyone will see it. Certainly not in a timely manner.
  2. One TechCrunch journalist recently said[2] he gets about 80 pitches each day to his personal email account and several hundred forwarded to him from the [email protected][3] account. With such a high pressure job, there’s no time to waste trawling PR sites, and even less time to visit yours. If you’re going to syndicate something in the hopes it will get on TechCrunch.com, you’d have more success submitting it to Hacker News and TechMeme.
  3. It’s duplicate content. Even if you publish it before you syndicate it.

In the last point lies an opportunity – because you absolutely should be publishing your news on your own website. You’ve just got to remember to write for your audience, not just for journalists.

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