Press release wire services are an antiquated way of reaching out to media. Journalists barely use them and the SEO benefits they once imparted on their users are a thing of the past. Companies would do well to scrap them altogether and not waste their money.
The irrational nature of us human beings never fails to amaze me. We smoke and drink which is not healthy. We save a little bit of money for retirement, thinking it will be enough, while it won’t. We buy lottery tickets greatly overestimating the odds of winning. And to this list can also be added: we send out wire releases counting on them to amplify our messages.
A short word of context first for the non-American readers of this blog. In the American market it is possible (and fairly easy) to send a press release directly to the journalists you want to share your news with. There also exist service providers that act as intermediaries between the companies that want to communicate to the press and the media outlets. These are the press release wire companies. They go by names such as PR Newswire, PRWeb (both owned by Cision) and Business Wire. They charge their clients up to $2,000 for press releases they host on their site and distribute to the media.
Wire releases are thought by some to deliver value on two fronts: they are supposed to help companies reach the media with their press releases and they are supposed to be a boon to the SEO of their clients through all the backlinks that appear on the websites that syndicate the wire releases. On both fronts, wire services do not deliver.
No SEO value
Some years ago, it looked like the press release wire services had it all figured out. Through syndication deals they could promise their clients that they would get valuable backlinks on hundreds of news sites. Of course (is anyone surprised?) things spiraled quickly out of control and Google stepped in with penalties for anyone trying to game the system with bogus press releases that are sent out for no other reason than creating backlinks.
Today, the press release wire companies use nofollow links in their releases. This makes that any backlinks to the sites of the companies that pay for the service no longer pass on any link juice. One sales representative of a newswire company tried to convince me that its clients derived great value from the fact that the newswire site ranked high in Google search results. But why would any company care for how its press releases rank on a third party domain?
“But what about traffic, does traffic that ensues from all these links not improve organic rankings?” I hear you say. While it is true that website traffic (all traffic but especially direct traffic according to the SEMrush Ranking Factors research) is an important ranking factor, one can not reasonably expect that the links in syndicated wire releases make for a worthwhile source of traffic. When was the last time you found yourself on a second tier news outlet reading (or even scanning) a syndicated wire release and clicking on one of the links?
Low use by journalists
If the SEO game will not work, do journalists then not at least make extensive use of what comes in from PR Newswire, Business Wire and their peers? The answer to that question is simply “no.”
For its State of Journalism Today survey of 2018, Muckrack asked journalists in both the U.S. and abroad how important press releases sent by wire services are to them. Only 3 percent of the American respondents said they relied on them heavily and 53% of the U.S. journalists said they did not use them at all. (to be clear: this is an appraisal of how press releases sent by wire services are used, it is not an evaluation of the use of press releases that are sent out by companies or their PR agencies directly to the media).
Wire release services cost money and communication professionals need to invest time in putting them ready and scheduling their distribution. The return of press service wire services is negligible. Companies would do well to spend those resources in other ways, for example in the set-up and maintenance of their professional newsroom or in the enhancement of their press releases with interactive data charts, high quality pictures, etc. whenever such is useful.
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