Many public relations professionals criticize press releases as an antiquated and worthless PR tool. Almost nobody reads them or shares press releases, they argue. Besides failing to gain attention, most press releases overflow with corporate jargon, verbose language and snooze-worthy quotes. Some brands have stopped issuing news releases all together, at least in the traditional sense.
However, new research from tech firm ARPR reveals that press releases generate high-quality web traffic. The PR firm surveyed IT sales leaders and analyzed data from 15 technology companies, including hundreds of survey responses, website visits, and news wire distributions. Referral traffic from news releases represents just 0.12% of total traffic. That’s really low! Maybe the critics are right … but, wait!
Higher Conversion Rates from Press Releases
Website visitors that originate from press releases tend to view more pages, view them longer, and complete desired actions, such as sign up for subscriptions and downloads, more often than visitors from other sources. The goal completion rate for press release-driven traffic is 12% higher than other sources.
Press releases based on research data drove the most traffic by far and momentum releases that report on financial progress or business growth converted the best. Releases on acquisition and funding news, as well as speaking engagement and certification announcements didn’t convert.
Surprisingly, just 44.21% of news release traffic and 33% of goal completions came within a week after the press release was issued. In other words, press releases have a long shelf life and continue to drive a high volume of qualified traffic well after the initial announcement is made.
While readership of B2B tech press releases has fallen precipitously, the releases still produce results, but sometimes in different ways than in the past, says Frank Strong, founder of Sword and the Script Media LLC.
A copy of the news release on the company’s website can produce organic web traffic from searches containing keywords in the release. It’s important to optimize those keywords. However, that traffic is hard to track. The best method is to add unique UTM codes to internal links in the news release to the landing page.
To track performance of releases in earned media, it’s important to include no more than three unique links within the press release to pages on the corporate website. The UTM codes include a “?” at the end of the standard URL, followed by parameters that identify the referral source. If you are distributing only a handful of releases to trade media, it’s beneficial to give each publication its own unique parameters. With that, you can track performance and results from each publication.
Be Smart about Press Releases
“Does this mean you should fire off a dozen press releases? No. Be smart about it,” advises Strong. Consider your audience and write quality releases about important company news. “Important” is in the eye of the journalists who are screening the release. The press release content must appeal to the reporters and their specific readership audience. Why spend the money on news release distribution if it won’t be picked up?
Although the ARPR study indicates that releases on financial transactions produce few results, Strong argues that they’re important to B2B technology businesses. They may not drive referral traffic, but, when done right, produce outsized media coverage.
“Why? Because people follow the money. Funding is a form of validation and acquisitions signal a strategy – those things impact the market,” Strong asserts.
The Power of Earned Media
The ARPR research also shows that Web traffic from media coverage also outperforms other sources, producing longer session durations and lower bounce rates. Traffic from earned media was 56% more likely to complete a goal. Sales teams find media coverage useful in selling. The overwhelming majority (93%) of sales reps say they use their company’s media coverage in communications with prospects, the research states.
Other research also supports the value of earned media. An academic paper published in the Journal of Marketing Research found that mentions in traditional media outlets improve sales more than other types of media. A study by the Institute for Public Relations revealed that PR can significantly improve the impact of the brand’s advertising.
Bottom Line: New research shows that press releases can deliver high-quality web traffic to corporate or brand websites. News releases refer visitors that are more likely to peruse the website longer – and are more likely to convert – than other types of internet traffic. Still, experts recommend PR pros select subjects for news releases carefully and to spend the time needed to craft them well.
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, media measurement and analytics solutions across all types of traditional and social media.