Which PR Distribution Service is Best for SEO?

September 26, 2011

There’s no question PR (and online distribution of news releases in particular) is beneficial to search engine rankings. Links are SEO fuel and well-crafted and placed news releases can provide text-specific links from high-authority news sites.  While there is some debate about how recent changes to search engine algorithms may have affected the value of these links, there is no question that they remain important. So which online press release distribution sites are best for SEO purposes?

Which PR News Wire Service is Best for SEO?Before answering that, a quick review of a few PR+SEO best practices:

  • • Write high-quality, “newsworthy” news releases. Never write news releases only for SEO purposes. High-quality releases are more likely to catch the attention of your market, get picked up by high-authority news outlets, enhance your brand image and provide valuable backlinks than keyword-stuffed fluff.
  • • Include text links within releases. In this press release for example, notice how the phrase records management software points back to a highly relevant web page for that term. This may seem obvious, but never use a press release distribution service that strips out these links. There are plenty of alternatives that will leave your links intact.
  • • Use at least one paid service. While it doesn’t hurt to use free services as well, journalists tend to pay more attention to news releases from trusted, paid sources than to the free ones and paid services generally provide better placement.

Okay, so which sites are best? Answers vary depending on who you ask.

In How to Select the Best Wire Service to Distribute Your News Release, Robert Beadle places PRWeb and PR Newswire (following upgrades to its website) at the top of his list for most organizations. He notes that Business Wire is also very strong, but is the most expensive of the “big four,” is most suitable for large, publicly-traded companies and the PR firms who serve them. He places MarketWire at the bottom of his list, though it is reasonably priced and has strong distribution for more localized and IT-related news releases.

Ted Weismann, in What Do You Know About Your Wire Service’s SEO Practices?, notes that PR Newswire initially took a search traffic hit from Google’s Panda update, but has since made changes to its site to regain lost ground. Business Wire has also addressed Panda. It’s not clear what other PR distribution sites have done to respond.

Search guru Lee Odden, in the SlideShare presention SEO + PR Tactics and Measurement (which also contains some excellent general guidance on optimizing news releases for SEO benefit), favors PR Newswire, though he notes that all of the big four provide SEO value. UPDATE: Lee actually endorses PRWeb for SEO. See the comments below.

This Press Release Wire Service Comparison from Clarity Quest ranks PR Web on top, and echoes Robert Beadle’s conclusion that MarketWire is a viable alternative for budget-conscious local firms. Unlike Beadle, however, the team at Clarity Quest doesn’t view Business Wire as an expensive, big-company-only alternative, stating that “Through their partnership with PR Web, you can get one of the best deals on the Web…For smaller B2B companies and startups, we use the BusinessWire package with PR Web.” The post goes hard on PR Newswire, but it’s not clear if this opinion reflects the recent changes PR Newswire has made to address SEO issues.

Based on traffic trends from both ComScore and Experian, PR Newswire leads all of the service in search engine referral traffic, followed closely by PRWeb, then in order Business Wire and MarketWire. Globe Newswire comes in the bottom of both graphs.

So much for the experts. What do actual PR practitioners think? According to this LinkedIn discussion on What is the best Press Release Service for results? Free or Paid, PRWeb (owned by PR monitoring firm Vocus) is the clear winner, followed by PR Newswire. Business Wire and MarketWire get honorable mentions, as do a few other lesser-known fee-based and some free PR distribution sites.

The bottom line? All of the big four do a pretty good job at helping with news release links for SEO. Which is the “best” service depends on your particular situation. PRWeb seems worth checking out for almost any company, and is a no-brainer for those already using Vocus. PR Newswire is another strong service, though slightly more expensive. Business Wire is likely the best choice for large firms with correspondingly large PR budgets, though its package with PRWeb is worth investigating for smaller B2B vendors as well. MarketWire appears best for budget-conscious companies and those primarily concerned with local news release distribution (and is also effective at reaching targeted industry publications).

Have a different opinion, experience or perspective? Comments are welcome.

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14 Responses

  1. Hey Tom, great post. Not sure how it was extrapolated that I ranked PRNewswire over any other service from that 4 year old Powerpoint deck, but it’s pretty common knowledge that I’m a PRWeb fan.

    I’ve used PRWeb since 2001 and have been working with PRWeb to optimize their platform for better SEO over the past 4 years or so. PRWeb based on my personal experience is easily the most SEO friendly news distribution service. That’s the reason I used them for 7 years before they became a SEO client for TopRank.


  2. Tom 

    Thanks for the clarification Lee. I noticed PR Newswire featured prominently on slide 3 of the deck and made an assumption. And we all know what happens when one assumes. :-|

    I’m a PRWeb fan as well but wanted to be fair to the other services. I think all have their place, and their strengths and weaknesses, but agree PRWeb is very strong for SEO purposes.

  3. Thanks Tom – Any company that puts me on a billboard in Times Square in NYC deserves a slide in one of my PowerPoints :)

  4. Why go straight to the wire service when you can use a re-seller and save without compromising your distribution network. you are able to use SEO and when used properly Not only will Google Panda pick it up but It will make all the difference in the world. I don’t care who you use if you do not implement SEO correctly you are wasting your time. Check out http://www.macreportmedia.com They have very low rates that will allow you to spend a little on additional exposure with each release, and yes that includes SEO.


  5. Ranjan 

    Difficult to figure out how much SEO improvement resulted due to a press release on any one of these networks.


  6. Tom 

    There’s zero benefit from “a” press release on any service. Getting backlink value through online news release distribution requires an ongoing practice of writing optimized, high-quality news releases that online publications will want to pick up. Then within that strategy, pick a service that can help reach the most valued publications for backlinks.


  7. Israeli 

    Wow. An SEO article about PR services that doesn’t even mention the nofollow tag. Even the people who commented didn’t see anything wrong. You guys know nothing about SEO. All you spew all day is “Write high quality articles…blah blah blah”. You do know what a nofollow tag is right? You do know that many PR services use these tags on links right? You do know that this should be a very important part of this “guide”.

    You should follow your own advice. Stop writing garbage content that doesn’t provide any useful insight and focus on writing high quality content. Haha.

    Most SEO experts know nothing about SEO and how Google works in the real world. Sadly, the author of this garbage article is one of them.


  8. Tom 

    Hi “Israeli.” A few points: first off, your comment, though unnecessarily rude and offensive, does raise a valid point. You will have more credibility if you use your real name and level your criticism in a more professional and less sarcastic manner, and invite conversation.

    Second, yes I am well aware of the insidious no-follow tag and have written about it here: The Insidious Nofollow Tag: An SEO Rant. That would have been quite easy for you to find had you looked.

    Finally, I don’t believe it’s the case that “many PR services use these tags on links” though some might. Obviously, and service that no-follows their links is worthless for SEO, and more generally deserves public scorn. Thanks for raising that point.

  9. Excellent Article!Yes Business Wire is likely the best choice for large firms with correspondingly large PR budgets, though its package with PRWeb is worth investigating for smaller B2B vendors as well.

  10. I think PRWeb is doing a great job at the moment. It has greatly increased its popularity over the years.


  11. Tom 

    Yes, but unfortunately Google has made the relationship between PR and SEO much murkier. PR remains vital, but tactics need to change to focus more on direct results and less on search.

  12. Press releases are important since it contains content that is relevant to your website, and that is why it is essential to have a place for this in your SEO and internet strategy. There are a number of services that may be SEO friendly and relevant, but always treat this with caution. SEO algorithm is tricky and will sometimes tag your posts or materials as ‘irrelevant’ should it find so.


  13. Tom 

    Thanks for the comment Craig. Obviously, Google has changed the rules regarding the SEO value of links in news releases since this post was published. News releases still have value for overall web visibility, but the key now is to focus on valuable, newsworthy content rather than keyword-specific link building.

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