Press releases aren’t a link building strategy that will work for any business, and they sure aren’t supposed to be “released” and published every week and on every piece of content you create. It’s even questionable how much of a link building strategy they really are, being used and misused many times, with people basing their entire link building campaigns on them.
What was a press release once and what it is today
In the old days, a press release was used to inform journalists on an event or a new product, or whatever significant news, and to get them to write about it. Today, press releases are getting published “as is”, and in the online world, they have been used (and still are) to produce backlinks to a website, apart from getting the word out. That has led to a massive misuse of press releases: internet marketers have started writing press releases about anything, and a whole bunch of PR distribution websites has appeared, pretending that they will help your piece reach many news and other sites in no time. And that worked for some time: you write a “press release” with a link to your website, submit it to a free or paid distribution service, and you get hundreds of places across the Web publishing it and linking back to you.
Then the rules changed. Duplicate content doesn’t get indexed anymore (in most cases), so the links from those PRs that got published aren’t worth practically anything; Google is giving more value to the “natural spread” of links, and 100 links appearing all at once – and within the same content – isn’t natural (Google doesn’t care if you wrote a press release or entire book, so they don’t exclude PRs from the pattern). Basically, it doesn’t work anymore. – Well, in most cases it doesn’t, at least not as a “strategy” meant solely for SEO purposes. But it can work, if you treat your press releases right and use them as a part of your link building strategy.
Some press releases deserve to live. Others don’t.
Just so we’re clear – a press release can drive quality traffic and generate nice backlinks for your website, if it’s good and distributed the right way.
To know what a good press release is, go back to the old days and mix in the new ways: it’s a news worthy story written in a proper format and with a killer headline that will attract journalists and readers. Remember, they get published as is, so you may as well think of them as articles and sculpt them to perfection. Come up with the hook and the angle that will make it interesting enough for someone to want to read the entire story. Now that’s the kind of PR that will get you links and traffic: if people like it, search engines will adore it.
And since it’s supposed to be news worthy, think twice before you start writing a press release about your new blog post – is it really that spectacular? If it is, then by all means proceed with it, and may it be seen by many!
How to get the word out
The best way for a press release to reach its target and to be seen by a large audience is to send it to individual journalists, editors, bloggers or other influencers. For this, as with basically any form of promotion today, online or offline, one must work on establishing relationships with the media by using all the available channels: Twitter, blogs, personal contacts…
That being said, we realize that contacting people one by one is time consuming, and that PR distribution services are far quicker solution. But don’t bother with the free ones, not even with the cheap ones, in most cases you’ll get no value from them. Submission to quality PR directories, unfortunately, requires that you pay for their service, but you’ll get a good distribution to all the relevant places with real possibility for your PR to get picked up by a big news site or an influential blogger. Not to forget that many of them offer social media coverage as well, so your press release will get tweeted and shared with their networks.
Ideally, you will want to submit different press releases to each site to avoid the duplicate content issue; you will not get penalized for publishing the same PR on multiple sites, but Google might just ignore it if it’s a site with low authority. But even so, your content will reach the audience of those sites, and probably generate more traffic back to yours.
Finally, don’t forget to support your PR with your own tweets and some backlinks that will help it find its way to the audience. Actually, apply to them all of the usual routine: don’t release them all at once (to get more natural growth in links), back them up with some tweets and shares, and if possible, vary the anchor text in them. Press releases are meant for journalists so that they see that you’re doing something great and to make their own story about you; but it’s even better if you manage to give them a life of their own.