On content-driven, information-rich websites we use press releases for more than the basic announcement. We also use them to release free white papers because we know they offer more opportunities for inbound links and the SEO benefits required to get a landing page ranked well in Google.
Since Google now holds us responsible for the inbound links that come to our site, we decided to update our annual guide to the best paid and free press release sites by completely eliminating the sites with low SEO scores. What started out as a 50-something list is now down to just nine.
These PR distribution services are deemed both credible and SEO-friendly, which are the only inbound links we truly value.
- Credibility: We determined credibility by checking the SEO industry’s most trusted metrics: Majestic Trust Flow and Moz Domain Authority. This process eliminated most of the free sites in our list. We think paid sites should offer more link credibility in addition to bonus features, so we slimmed down our list to include only those with high scores, also.
- Search Engine Optimization: We also took into account basic SEO functionality. These sites allow tagging, anchor text links, keyword data and other search elements. The paid sites typically allowed up to eight outbound links, whereas most free sites only allow one.
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Our Top Paid vs. Free Press Release Sites
The differences between paid and free press release sites:
- Free press release sites are usually web-based and may or may not let you include photos, videos, or HTML formatted content.
- Paid press release sites usually have a press list that they will send your press releases to in addition to posting your release on their website and in their RSS feed. Many paid sites also offer extra SEO benefits like tagging, the option to edit your meta data, and grammar checking. They may also tweet your release to their lists depending on the level of service you choose. Robust analytics also come with the territory.
Free press release sites
I read recently about a test of 60 different free press release sites. The winner of their test was PRUrgent.com because it was the only one that got them in Google News. Unfortunately, that site had low ranking scores, and still does, so I didn’t include it in this list. It might be worth trying, though. The second place was OnlinePRnews.com, which I’ve added to the list this year because it’s almost up to snuff with the others and lets you include a live link. Their free option only keeps the press release up for 90 days.
We’ve consistently found PRLog.org to be the best free press release site. It allows links, tagging and branding for free, but most importantly, it has the highest ranks, unique traffic numbers and inbound links of its competitors. In our own comparative distribution tests, it also ranked higher than any other release.
As mentioned, we only included free sites with good domain authority, because you are who you associate with when it comes to search optimization and inbound links. Their rank tells us about their SEO potential for any live links we put on their site. Over the years that we’ve maintained this list, PRLog has always remained at the top, but even sites like PR.com have lost rank across all search reputation monitors. Also, many of the formerly free sites have gone paid. It’s a shorter list, even shorter this year than last year.
Paid press release sites
It used to be a toss up between PRWeb and PRNewswire for the best paid press release site. PRNewswire had the highest score of all the paid sites and offers a huge arsenal of tools for optimizing your release with wide distribution and a hefty price tag—the average cost of a release with all the bells and whistles can cost as much as $1,000. PRWeb offered a robust release around $300 and a basic one for $99 and both offered activity and SEO reporting on press releases. However, Cision owns them both now and their sites look almost identical, even though they still have their unique URLs.
Once logged in, you’ll find that PRWeb is similar to before, but PRNewswire is a higher touch option, and you can’t even set an account up without talking on the phone to one of their representatives.
The list below started as a 20-something site list and has been slimmed down quite a bit. But hey, you only need one good distribution service, right? The sites listed here are also known to cache your press release indefinitely. Some sites delete them after 90-180 days. Our preference is PRWeb for their high domain authority, (they’re all in the 90+ range) and their approachable pricing.
Tips for choosing the best press release distribution service
- Search Engine Optimization. Most press release sites are designed to allow you to optimize your press release for search engines using tags, anchor text links, header tags, etc. If you’re not sure, look on the PR website for a statement about press releases being optimized for search engines (SEO).
- Note NoFollow tags. NoFollow tags are inserted into website code to stop the search engine spiders from following the links. If the spiders can’t follow the links in your press release, there is little benefit.
- Seek Inbound Links. The more inbound links they receive, the more respect they will earn and the higher they will rank in search engines. The higher they rank in search engines, the more visible your press release will become, and the more traffic you will receive.
The “wire” isn’t the only way to get buzz out there these days, though. Try out some of these alternatives for unique and possibly even more valuable press coverage:
- PitchEngine – Pitch your customers / subscribers directly and create elegant press releases. Also try PRnob.
- Help a Reporter Out (HARO) – Don’t let the journalists come to you, go to the journalist by answering queries asked by major news outlets.
Promoting freebies through press releases
Most of the time we use free press releases to promote our free downloads. When we launch new freebies, we want the world to know! Here’s how we recommend organizing this process.
1. Create a press release and submit it to free press release sites, and paid ones if you want.
2. Post the press release on your site.
3. Use your press release to create a circ-builder email and send it to your own email list.
4. Work out an arrangement with your partners for them to promote the freemium and Rapid Conversion Landing Page (RCLP) to their lists using the copy from your circ-builder.
5. Send out Tweets and posts to Facebook about the new freemium. Direct readers to your RCLP and attach a unique tracking code.
Work with a copywriter to craft 12 unique promotional Tweets about the freemium.
Schedule those unique promotional Tweets once per day for 12 days.
Schedule them again once per month for 12 months.
On Facebook, promote your Freemium and its RCLP on the day it launches and at least once per month.
Test to see which formulas perform best.
6. Get in touch with industry bloggers and send them the PDF of your freemium, or access if it’s digital. Include a link to the RCLP and a short bulleted list of take-aways to make their job easier when reviewing the product. Collect their Twitter addresses too, so you can @ them (just once, don’t be that person!)
7. Create a document that keeps track of everywhere you posted your press release, and all of the sites who wrote about your freemium. Create an ongoing press list from this so that you can focus your efforts more effectively the next time.
If you have anything else to add, add it in the comments!