Search is a hot topic at the moment. With innovations in mobile and local search and the impact of real time mentions and social media, the competition for the much sought over front page position is hotting up. For some, the temptation may be to take advantage of one (some) of the many free press release distributors in the hope of creating  a few of those juicy Google links –

Here’s why we don’t think they should jump in, without looking deeper…

Death by association:

Your content might be good, but there’s no saying what it might be next to.  Scanning the headlines on a couple of the leading free press release sites shows that “Innovative Bilingual Program Builds Bright Future for YCIS Beijing Students” is next to “New Website Scores You On How “Do-able” You Are” and “Sceneric relaunches Frasers Autographs on hybris”  precedes  “Inspired or expired meat! Can cancer make you feel horny?” With little say in what your content will sit alongside – both in terms of other stories and links –  the reputational risk is definitely worth considering.

But press release pages are for journalists and not consumers, right?

Well, yes. It could be argued that journalists are accustomed to sifting through press releases to identify the relevant stories; however, what you’re paying for in traditional press release distribution sites – direction, focus, proactive targeting – is lost when you take out the price. As Daryl Willcox from DWP Publishing said in an Econsultancy interview last year: “You get what you pay for with free press release distribution services. Enough said.”

So, free press release sites aren’t great at taking a story to the right person, but what about generating online links?

An SEO strategy?

As one of the determinants of page ranking, the promise of online links might be enough, on its own, to tempt businesses towards free press releases. There are few flaws in this thinking. For a start, not all the free press release sites that we reviewed permitted live links, and the majority did not permit anchor text. And then, the risk to reputation that we were talking about earlier? With some recent noise around the quality of Google’s search and the consequent demotion of low quality, spammy sites, a link is not always an asset.

This extract from the Google blog illustrates the point:

“As “pure webspam” has decreased over time, attention has shifted instead to “content farms,” which are sites with shallow or low-quality content. In 2010, we launched two major algorithmic changes focused on low-quality sites. Nonetheless, we hear the feedback from the web loud and clear: people are asking for even stronger action on content farms and sites that consist primarily of spammy or low-quality content.”

Recommendations

Google’s emphasis on relevance is the key, we think, to both effective online content strategies and getting a news story out. The internet may have opened up the media, but some of the old rules still apply:

  • Targeted approach: Invest time in identifying, targeting and developing relationships with appropriate online influencers. Individually pitching your news angle to the top people you’ve identified within your market is more likely to result in coverage and any links will be more valuable due to the relevant content they’re associated with.
  • Content strategies: Having high quality content online is more likely to generate natural linkage and encourage share-ability.  Ensure that content is well optimised for search so that news is discoverable and will appear in any relevant online searches.
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