Offline press releases are a tried and tested way for marketing department to speak with journalists and other influential commentators. Online press releases are a slightly different animal; they enjoy all the benefits of their offline counterparts, but are a fraction of the cost and prove a great way of attracting links.

Online press releases also have one up on RSS distribution, in that they are regularly picked-up by news aggregators (including Google News), thereby broadcasting your message to a much wider audience. And this is exactly what you should be aiming for when choosing a distribution company.

In recent years there’s been an explosion in the number of online press release distribution services, and for once it isn’t a case of ‘you get what you pay for’. Costs vary wildly from a few dollars to few hundred dollars, and from a link building perspective there often isn’t much between them.

Currently at the top of the pile sits PR Web who guarantees a slick service with the tangible SEO benefits of being able to place links within the copy and guaranteed distribution to their journalistic friends at the Associated Press. A quick scan of Google News also shows that their editorial standards have clearly won Google’s trust.

So embedded links, a great contact book and likely inclusion in Google News, what’s the catch? Well there isn’t a catch, except that you need $249 for the ‘Advanced Package’ to play ball. And while this sounds like a lot of money, it’s actually a cost-effective way of getting some great links.

However, if your pockets aren’t quite that deep you’ll find plenty of competition at the more affordable end of the spectrum. In fact, there are a few sites which do a pretty good job without charging a single dime. Admittedly you can expect less flexibility and control, but the results can be surprising.

Most online distribution services are quick and easy to use, but you’ll need to invest ‘up front’ in creating a press release which people will want to read and reproduce. If you have something that’s genuinely newsworthy; you are in luck. If you don’t; you’ll have to put on your link baiting hat and get creative.

Once you have a hook it’s essential that your press release is well written. Remember that you are appealing to a group of people who make a living from writing, so sloppy prose and grammar just won’t wash. If you don’t have the requisite linguistic skills, seek professional help.

Finding affordable online press release distribution sites

If the aim of your press release is to get into Google News, then Google News is the best place to find which distribution services are doing their job properly. Google kindly tells you where they found the article, and it’s up to you to follow the lead. Test a number of different services and keep a close eye on which has the most impact.

Can press release distribution harm a SEO campaign?

If you if distribute a press release via a third-party service and host the same press release on your website, you need to make sure that your page ranks in Google and not one belonging to stronger site who has (kindly) has reproduced your article. So it’s up to you to tell Google which is the original and the authoritative version.

Google generally ascribes ‘originality’ to the version it first indexes, so it makes sense to first publish the press release on your website and wait for it to be slurped before further distribution. Similarly, Google uses links as one measure of ‘authority’ so insist that all reproduced press releases contain a link pointing back to your site.

In the not too distant past Google clamped-down on press release distribution websites by hammering them in the results. From a search engine’s perspective they were viewed as little more than duplicate content machines making money as link farms.

However, recently Google seems to have relented and seems to take a more sympathetic approach (if in doubt just look at the results in Google news) and press releases can still play a valuable role in the online marketing mix.

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