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free press release distribution websitesAlthough free press release distribution websites may seem like an easy public relations tactic, PR experts generally recommend avoiding them or at least being extremely leery of them. Paid news distribution services offer far better results, assert PR and SEO gurus.

In the not-too-distant past, businesses and SEO agencies used the sites as an SEO ploy. They would stuff low-quality news releases with keyword-filled backlinks and send them to scores of press release distribution sites in an effort to game Google’s algorithm. In response, Google’s 2012 Panda update severely penalized the sites. It rendered the SEO value of their links virtually worthless and classified many of the sites as spam.

What Experience Shows

SEO expert Jeremy Levey, now with Mars Med Supply, recalls when he worked at CardCash.com and the company signed up for a 12-month unlimited press release plan in 2013. “We sent many press releases with a decent amount of links and got little SEO boost from it. We actually saw the drop in effectiveness over the course of 2013 and we just dropped it towards the end,” he told online marketing agency Local Fame.

In a month-long trial by Vitis Public Relations, just three of 60 free press release distribution sites (Online PR News, Open PR and PR Fire) won mentions in Google news.  Four (PR Fire, News Wire Today, PR Zoom and Idea Marketers) won placements in Google web results.

“I think the fact that press related sites are not a trusted source of information for a site like Google News sums up their now spammy nature,” writes SmartInsights blogger Chris Soames. There are so many of the sites, journalists cannot possibly read them all, and they often lack newsworthy or relevant content, he adds.

In another Vitis PR trial of 82 sites, only one, PR Urgent, placed a release in Google News and three (IT-Director, PR Log and Press Box) placed releases in its web search results.

What is Really Free?

Some sites that promote themselves as free sometimes offer very little for nothing. The free sites frequently do not actually distribute news to media outlets, but only post the release on their website – sometimes for only a limited time. They may urge visitors to pay additional fees to “publish” the press release or to “upgrade” for additional services, such as including live links or posting the release beyond the minimal time period. Some sites merely run advertisements that link to other press release sites.

“While free press release sites are tempting, I’d advise not to use them for distribution. Google has labeled many of them as spam. If you have a good news release that is worth getting out, spend the money and distribute it through a reputable site such as Business Wire, PR Newswire or Marketwired,” comments Sara Callahan, owner of Carter West Public Relations.

Advantages of Paid News Release Distribution Services

A legitimate, paid new release distribution service such as Business Wire has far greater credibility among journalists and search engines. The paid press release services get your company news directly in front of actual journalists, resulting in placements in print, broadcast and online news outlets. Business Wire has arranged for automatic publication of news releases it issues in dozens of influential online news sources with high ranking. With placements in recognized news sources, you can be pretty certain that your news release will be shown in major search engine results including Google News.

The paid services typically offer measurement reports for each news release, providing valuable insight into the reach the news release has achieved.

If a paid service does not include media monitoring, it’s essential to employ a media monitoring and measurement service to learn when media outlets publish your releases and measure the effectiveness of your PR efforts.

Schedule a free online demo of our media monitoring and measurement dashboard.

For any well-written release with genuine news, a paid press release service is the most cost-efficient way to earn legitimate media placements, confirmed by valid media monitoring and measurement reports. If you use your own media contact list as your primary method of targeting specific journalists and news outlets, the paid news release services can and should be used to supplement and backstop your targeted media relations efforts.

Bottom Line: Using free press releases distribution websites is a fruitless PR and SEO strategy, experts warn. Paying to distribute news through a legitimate service will surely produce better results that that can be tracked through media monitoring and measurement. “You get what you pay for” when you chose a news distribution service.

William J. Comcowich founded and served as CEO of CyberAlert LLC, the predecessor of Glean.info. He is currently serving as Interim CEO and member of the Board of Directors. Glean.info provides customized media monitoring, measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.