Using Press Releases to Promote a Website: A Case Study
Pat Lazure from WikiCity is a good friend of mine, and I have been helping him some along the way as this great idea has gone from concept to execution to success. We talked recently about his first foray into using press releases, and I asked him if I could share it with you guys. Here is his story.
In an effort to promote the official launch of WikiCity, we decided to spend $680 that we really didn’t have to publish a “US1” press release (the granddaddy of them all — PRNewswire’s most expansive U.S. distribution offering) entitled “WikiCity Launches a Hyper-Local City Wiki for Every City.” Simply put, we decided to invest in a press release because we wanted more traffic. As part of the decision process, we considered a number of factors, researched best practices, and did everything we could to determine what kind or results to expect. Despite our best efforts and growing frustration, none of the dozens of experts or reputable press release agencies we met would dare guestimate what kind of results we might experience. And therefore, it is this same frustration that has motivated me to share our press release results here with you so that if you are considering investing in a press release, you can draw upon our experiences so that you won’t have to make the decision in the dark. I’ve recapped our results below, but in summary, traffic results did not meet expectations, and the key learning was — as with many things in life — size doesn’t matter; it’s how you use it that counts.
Not much incremental traffic, but lots of much-needed links. Unfortunately, not a single phone call or even an email inquiry from a journalist. Pathetic.
- Incremental # of unique visitors on day of release: 150
- Incremental # of unique visitors on day after release: 50
- # of links / web publications: 180
- # of phone calls from journalists: 0
- # of email inquiries from journalists: 0
A variety of lessons, ranked in order of importance:
- Size doesn’t matter; it’s how you use it that counts. Even if your initial results sucked as bad as ours, recognize that a press release is a single action. It’s what you do around them that matters. Contact targeted journalists both in advance and after your press release is published, asking them if they will help share your story. Use the release as an excuse to tell everyone you know… Link the release to your blog, website, Facebook fan page, LinkedIn profile, etc.
- Credibility: Press releases, especially when distributed through reputable agencies, can get your release published on reputable sites such as Forbes or Yahoo Finance, which search engines seem to appreciate. Beyond that, these links have already helped to lend us credibility with our partners and users, while at the same time, making it much easier to share our story with selected journalists.
- Links from web publications: You get lots of them. (Quick math: $3.78/link)
- Time your distribution wisely: Avoid distributing on Mondays, Fridays, when the stock market opens/closes, or when pop icons die.
- Choose distribution wisely: We chose PRNewswire’s “US1” distribution because it was the only way we could reach small-town newspapers within the thousands of small communities we serve. However, based on the lack of inquiries from journalists, we will need to instead find other means to reach this audience. If we were to do it all over again, we would probably select an on-line only distribution.
- Choose your press release agency wisely: Sure, each agency has a little something different to offer, but for the most part, as long as you’re distributing through the Associated Press, press release distribution is a commodity. Note: There are a lot of “free” press release services out there, and I’ll be the first to admit that they too can be used effectively to help boost credibility, but you likely won’t reach the more reputable news agencies because the freebies are generally considered “spammy”, and therefore, you won’t enjoy nearly as many back-links. Stick with PRNewswire, PRWeb, Marketwire, or Warren Buffett’s Business Wire and you should fare well. Hope this helps, and best of luck!
Pat and I will continue our conversation in the comments, but please add your own questions and your own experiences with using press releases as well!