Press releases were once the golden strategy for SEO. They were relatively easy to create, plentiful, cheap, and yet they packed a powerful boost to your domain authority when you submitted and published one. To top it all off, they came with almost no risk whatsoever, compared to less predictable strategies like traditional link building.
But as we’ve all experienced firsthand, the world of SEO changes quickly, often without warning, and sometimes so subtly that the differences are almost impossible to discern for any but the most attuned to algorithm changes. In today’s world, where mobile dominates, the content market is oversaturated, and link building is evolving in strange new ways, are press releases still important?
The main wonder of press releases is the fact that they have so many advantages. With a well-written press release, you can theoretically achieve the following:
In exchange, all you have to do is write up a story that’s newsworthy and relevant for your brand. The submission process typically requires a third party service (or hours of work to track down individual publishers and submit manually), but the whole process shouldn’t take more than 25 hours of work or $500 (unless you’re going very high profile).
All of these qualities are still relevant to press releases, but they have gone through some changes over the last few years.
Submitting a press release today will actually get you exposure to even more channels. But there’s a problem that’s arisen from the oversaturation of press releases (and content in general). Because there are so many sources publishing so many things, the overall value of each publisher has gone down. The publishers who pick up your press release for publication generally won’t pass that much authority to your site anymore. The really high profile publishers who hold all the authority have, as a result of this oversaturation, gotten far pickier when it comes to content to syndicate—meaning even if you have a well-written release, your chances of making it in aren’t good.
Similarly, you’re bound to get a bit of referral traffic from any press release that gets picked up on more than one outlet. People will see it, read it, and click through. But the publishers most likely to pick up your release are probably picking up dozens to hundreds of releases a day. It won’t be long before yours gets buried, giving you only a momentary blip of extra traffic.
Brand visibility is an intangible asset, but press releases are still good for it. They can’t take your name out of the headline, so even people who don’t read your entire article will experience some level of exposure. The problem with this is the same as with referral traffic—in a matter of days, and sometimes hours, your brand will be buried in a pit of white noise.
Press releases are just as powerful as ever for publicity, and for one reason: press releases are shareable. If you publicize an event that gets the public excited about something, you’ll easily earn hundreds if not thousands of shares. Posting on social media just isn’t enough to generate this level of attention.
The pickier a publisher is, the more traffic and authority you’ll stand to generate from it. That means it’s more important today to write a press release that’s truly worth publishing. It needs to be relevant, concise, valuable, appealing, and interesting all at once, and well-written and well-formatted to boot. Achieving that level of quality makes writing an effective press release more difficult now than it was even five years ago. Keep this in mind when you consider including press releases as a part of your strategy; the time and money you invest in them must increase if you want to reap the same rewards.
If you’re looking for a quick answer, here it is: press releases are still good for SEO, and worth the effort you put into them, but they’re not the authoritative juggernauts they used to be. They’re going to cost you more time and money, they’re not going to be as credible or as visible as they used to be, they aren’t going to pass as much authority to your site, and they aren’t going to generate as much overall traffic.
As a balanced part of a well-rounded and diverse SEO strategy, press releases are perfect. But don’t make them a fundamental pillar of your approach, and don’t let yourself believe that a single press release can turn your campaign around. Use them judiciously and in moderation, and you should have no trouble making them a valuable part of your content arsenal.