Press Releases Are Useless

Did you know that 98% of journalists go online daily (source: white paper released by Expansion Plus Inc. Here’s the breakdown of what they’re doing while they’re on the Net:

92% article research
81% searching online for stories and information related to piece they’re currently working on
76% to find new sources and/or experts
73% to find press releases

If you’re crafting a press release to fax or email to the media – stop! This is a colossal waste of your time. Why? Because the old way of doing press releases no longer works. Press releases, the old way, are useless. And here’s another tidbit: by posting your release online you can circumvent: gatekeepers, spam filters, or your press release disappearing in the glut of emails a reporter or producer gets each day.

A recent study indicated that over 70% of Americans get their news content online, so not only are reporters online, but consumers are too. This has made online press releases very attractive to media professionals and authors. A few years ago you could almost guarantee a media person would call you if you posted your release in an online newsroom like PRWeb. It was simple and free and a posting generally took you no longer than five to ten minutes. It was time well spent. But as the flood of press releases hit these online venues, the ratio of posting vs. media attention changed and the deluge of releases only served to clutter these portals until finally a paid service was offered.

Many thought this was the salvation of the online press release posting and for a while, it was. Now, however this has changed yet again. The low cost of posting to these sites makes it fairly reasonable for anyone to get a listing and consequently, the clutter continues. But much like the clutter of sites on the Net, the solution to this is very simple: press release optimization. What is “optimization?” Let me explain.

When your press release resides online, whether it’s through a service like PRWeb or you’ve just put the release in the media room on your site you need to treat this release just like you treat a web site and optimize it using keywords and techniques that are “web friendly.”

At AME we’ve developed an entire system for optimizing releases with our Resident SEO (search engine optimization) guru, Susan Gilbert. Susan cites an example that she used to gain her a mention in a major news source: “Here’s an example from a new web site I created. The domain name was registered on February 3rd and the site was completed on Feb 10th. I created a press release (which has an official date of February 15, 2007) and submitted it to several online press release agencies. My site was indexed in Google within a week, and was considered the ‘authority’ on the topic in Google by March 15th. On April 2nd I was contacted by a journalist who found my press release online. She was researching my topic for inclusion in Home Style magazine. Home Style is published both offline and online by Content That Works, which has licensing agreements with more than 200 newspapers in the United States and Canada. Combined, these newspapers reach more than 12 million households. My website and interview will be featured in May’s issue.”

The trick here are the keywords which are often misunderstood: “The biggest mistake a novice can make,” offers Gilbert, “is thinking that your keyword is the root word of your subject matter. The competition for all root words (i.e. romance novel, scrapbooking, etc) will never achieve ranking. Keyword research is an art that takes a long time to learn and takes keyword research tools that can be costly. Additionally, keyword research changes based on the newest algorithms and search engine advances.”

Much like a web site designer, or someone who writes your press release, don’t trust your keyword searches to just anyone. Make sure they are tuned into the Net and aren’t just offering standard or “root” keywords.

Once you have your keywords defined, you’ll want to use these in the headline and the first 50 words of your release. The next piece of this is the length of your press release. Generally online releases should be no more than 600 words in length and have at least one (preferably two) hyperlinks back to your web site. The keywords can also be used as anchor text for these links too. Again, a good keyword person should come back with two or three relevant search terms that your target audience is likely to use for a news search.

By optimizing your release you’ll not only get onto the radar screen of your desired media and consumer targets, but you’ll also get some valuable incoming links and search engines love those! Anytime your story gets picked up by web sites (and in particular news web sites) it creates an inbound link which helps with your site ranking.

And finally if you’re still not sure this is the route for you to go, consider this: Yahoo! News outranks CNN and the BBC, meaning that Yahoo has more news readers than either of these two giants. So if you’re planning a campaign, or still knee deep in an ongoing one, consider optimizing your press release, it might give you the boost you need and who knows, maybe even get you noticed by that elusive media target.