Public Relations professionals know that one of the most important parts of the job is media relations, talking to journalists, editors and bloggers to understand what kinds of story would interest them – what’s the point in writing and issuing news if no-one covers it? However, instead of doing pre sell-ins to see if a release you are considering might be of interest, there is now a far easier way of getting your news out there…without ever having to lift the phone! Free PR distribution websites have been getting more and more popular in light of the current economic climate. But, which sites are a scam, which actually offer you the free PR distribution service you want to get your release online and which offer you even more, such as links and syndication to other sites?
For the SEO community, press releases have been used as a vehicle to help link building efforts, but do the free distribution services actually help build links?
Note, some of the sites didn’t make it past the first step of our test. We managed to submit press releases to 55 of the sites, because:
- Five of the sites focused on content we couldn’t provide with our test releases (e.g. IT Backbones, IT Director, IT Analysis, BetaNews). Note this isn’t to say that they aren’t good press release distribution sites – in fact, on the contrary, a clear editorial direction seems to be an indicator of a higher quality site
- Others requested some kind of payment in order to ‘publish’ the press release
- Others failed to load or gave some other error that prevented us from uploading the press release
Questions about best press release distribution services for real estate that we wanted to be answered
To determine whether these sites deserved our time and attention, we formulated these questions:
- Do journalists and bloggers actually use the press releases on free sites for news?
- Would the release appear on Google News?
- Would the release appear in a Google web search?
- How easy to use are free release sites?
- What help (if any) are free press release sites for link building?
- Could we use the sites to help ‘own’ the search results for a targeted phrase?
How we carried out the review
Firstly, we located all the free active PR distribution sites that we could find and then issued a series of press releases on each site. To make this a realistic test we used ‘real’ press releases containing news about our PR agency or client news. In total, we issued four releases using the sites (two releases about clients and two about Vitis PR). Each time we issued a release, we reviewed the results, only including the sites that we felt performed well in subsequent tests. The table below shows how many releases were issued in each ’round’:
- Release 1: issued to 50+ sites
- Release 2: issued to 100+ sites
- Release 3: issued to 150+ sites
- Release 4: issued to 200+ sites
As we uploaded each release, we looked for ease of use, additional complementary services, paid-for upgrades, and whether registration was required to use the service. Each release was amended slightly so that we could identify if it were covered by other sites we would be able to identify which source they had got it from.
After the releases were uploaded, we monitored for online coverage of the releases (we weren’t expecting any print or broadcast media coverage!). Specifically, we looked at:
- Did the release appear on the site (i.e. was it accepted by the service)?
- Was the release covered elsewhere on the web or in Google News?
- Was the page containing the release indexed by Google and stored in its cache?
- How high in Google search results did the release appear when searching for a phrase in the release?
- What sort of links did the releases generate (if any)?
Note: the sharp-eyed might spot that some of these tests are liable to error, but we think they give a good idea of the value of each site (one possible issue, for example, was the risk of duplicate content factors affecting how Google dealt with each copy of a given release).
Best free press release site for reaching journalists, bloggers, editors, and other influencers
- Winner: ZEX PR WIRE !
To be fair, we did expect this result, it is rare enough for someone to pick up news from some of the premium paid-for news wires and given the volume of free press releases being pumped out these days we would have been (pleasantly) surprised to find any pick up of our releases. When we did find a release that had been syndicated out to other sites none of those other sites came across as ‘high quality’, they were invariably loaded down with banner and AdSense advertising.
BTW, if you own or manage one of the sites we reviewed and think we’ve missed something, drop us a line and we’ll add your feedback or make sure we look out for it next time we run the review.
- Winner: ZEX PR WIRE
- Runners up: Open PR, PR Fire
Online PR News got three of our four releases on Google News. PR Fire only got one release onto Google News while Open PR got two of them there.
Appearing in web searches may be valuable as a way of trying to put your news in front of people searching for your target phrases – though it is unlikely this will be effective where the target phrases are more than moderately competitive.
- Winner: ZEX PR WIRE
- Runners up: News Wire Today, PR Zoom, Idea Marketers
Of the three releases that PR Fire accepted, all three appeared on page one of Google search results for the phrases we searched on. For the runners up, at least one of the releases on those sites appeared on page one. Note: News Wire Today appears to be a copy of PR Zoom, but on a different domain name.
Given that none of the releases was picked up by any site that might be considered to be the source of a valuable link, it seems that there is little value in using these services for link building. However, some of the sites do provide links and a few allow you to tailor the anchor text. (If you’re not familiar with ‘dofollow’ or ‘nofollow’ links, a good rule of thumb is that the ‘dofollow’ or ‘followed’ links are the kind that usually give some SEO benefit and ‘nofollow’ links generally don’t.) Most sites either didn’t give a link or gave a ‘nofollow’ link.
To get a feel for which sites might be best for links, we could use how highly each press release page ranks in search results as a rough indicator of how much link juice that page might be able to pass. When one of our releases appeared on page one of Google web search (and the free release site provided a link) we rated that site highly for link building (note, this is a very simplistic approach, but good enough to get a feel for the sites; a more detailed analysis might give slightly different results).
Update 21st March 2012: Business Services UK was one of the winners here, but they now charge for their releases (albeit a nominal amount).
- Winners: ZEX PR WIRE, Idea Marketers