I’m often asked when I mention doing press releases for website promotion, branding and visibility what online press release distribution services I recommend, if any. The truth is that I’m a longtime user of PRWeb, have spent thousands of dollars running press releases with them and am pretty pleased with their services.

When I first started doing serious press releases several years back, I signed up with PRWeb – partially because they were very visible at industry conferences like PubCon and partially because they offered (and still do offer) a series of free webinars that explained how to use the service.

I was making the leap from being a small site affiliate to creating true affiliate brands and knew press releases had to be a part of my marketing strategy. With the roles of traffic and branding playing a larger and larger part in top search engine rankings, utilizing every opportunity you have to get publicity, including press releases, is becoming more of a necessity.

The PRWeb offerings

PRWeb has tried to simplify their offerings over the years to give you a choice between four main press release packages:

  • Standard Visibility aka the $80 level
  • Social Media Visibility aka the $140 level
  • SEO Visibility aka the $200 level
  • Media Visibility aka the $360 level

While the site touts tons of features for each, the main (read, important) differences aren’t that difficult to spot.

Standard Visibility ($80)

The cheapest of all the available options, standard visibility gets your release listed on the PRWeb network (which gets about 2-3 million unique visitors per month), in Google News and Yahoo News. Additionally, you’ll also get access to basic statistics about how “well” your release did such as headline impressions (cumulative, by week and by day), full page reads (cumulative, by week and by day) and the ability to compare the statistics of one (or more) press releases to another (useful in identifying the best days of the week to send out releases and which features help make your release more appealing).

Social Media Visibility ($140)

This option gets you everything included in the Standard Visibility package with a little increased distribution. Specifically, your release will be sent to an additional list of about 35,000 opt-in journalists, a “media digest” list (a list of about 4-500 regional reporters or 150-300 vertical reporters – your choice) and will also be distributed on the Pheedo network (which means your release will receive exposure on the relevant high profile sites in Pheedo’s network).

SEO Visibility ($200)

The “SEO Visibility” package, in my experience, is often the most misunderstood. PRWeb, along with every other known press release site, has long been treated differently by Google. The links from within your press release, with or without anchor text are not going to give you much (if any) “inbound link value” in the eyes of Google. Then why bother with the SEO Visibility package? A few reasons.

The SEO Visibility option comes with everything included in the Standard and Social Media Visibility options as well as distribution to an additional regional or vertical media digest list (for a total of two), inclusion with relevant premium vertical publishers (like Entrepreneur.com) and the ability to embed an image within your release.

In addition to that increased distribution, you can also specify anchor text for your links, keywords to include in the url of your release when published on PRWeb. If the links don’t “count” then why does either of these options matter? To begin with, at first glance, a press release looks much neater and more professional with “anchor text” vs. www.mydomain.com/the-long-ass-url-to-the-feature-were-announcing.html as the links to the features, people or products being announced.

Additionally, PRWeb has numerous distribution channels and should someone from those channels decide to publish your release on their own site, you’ll likely find more value in that re-published release linking to you with anchor text rather than long and ugly url strings.

Specifying keywords to use in the url of the release hosted on PRWeb will increase (however slightly) the chances that your release will rank well in the search engines based on the domain age, trust, branding and traffic of PRWeb.

Additionally, you also get access to additional statistics called “Search Engine Hits” (which is a bit misleading since it is actually search engine visits, not “hits” as traditional SEO folk would identify “hits”). You’ll get to see the percentage of total search engine traffic each of the major engines sent to your release (Google News, Google, Yahoo, MSN and “other”) as well as the top 20 keywords that drove that traffic. Unfortunately, while they show you the % of traffic each engine sent, they don’t show an aggregate number of “total search engine visits”, which PRWeb says they’re working on providing.

Media Visibility ($360)

This package includes everything in the three previous packages, but with some additional “heavy artillery” distribution via the Associated Press and by having your release sent to a distribution list that includes the top newspaper in 100 designated marketing areas (DMA). It also includes the ability to include video with your release, access to additional geographical statistics (which is essentially a Google maps mashup showing you the location of people who have read your release) and the ability to export all of your statistics (you can find an example export here).

What to watch out for

PRWeb makes it incredibly easy to get your release in front of the right people (your release will need to do the rest) but it does have a few caveats you should be aware of.

Linking limitations

Links, even with the SEO Visibility package are limited to 1 per 100 words. PRWeb’s reasoning is that Google News seems to prefer this ratio and anything above it risks the release not being included in Google News. Since press releases traditionally are supposed to be short and to the point, you might find you quickly run out of links and are then editing your release to bulk it up to get another link or two in. However, note that if you contact PRWeb and explain you’ll take the risk of not being included in Google news, they will allow your release to go through providing the number of links isn’t excessive (aka obvious spam).

RSS groupings

PRWeb has the ability to group your releases, which is especially useful for those submitting releases on behalf of clients. However, note that underneath each release published is a section called “Other releases by the member” where other releases in the same grouping appear. So if you don’t want sites connected publicly, be sure not to connect them in your account by putting them in the same RSS grouping.

Editorial Scores

PRWeb doesn’t give much information about how it doles out editorial scores, only that each release receives a score of 1-5 (with 5 being the best) and that an editorial score of 4 or higher is required for your release to be distributed to Topix, Yahoo News and eMediaWire. If you get a score below a 4, you’ll want to edit and improve your release and submit it for another review to ensure maximum exposure. That said, I’ve never really had a problem getting an editorial score of four or above.

Three power user tips

  • PRWeb is releasing a “Tweet It” option for your press releases that will tweet your press release for you the second it goes live. Be sure to take advantage of this brand new feature. Twitter is awesome at spreading news in a viral fashion.
  • Press releases are listed on PRWeb based on who paid the most. You can buy additional “stars” above the four packages listed to show higher than other folks if you’d like. Whatever package you buy, you might want to consider paying a few dollars above the package price. So, if you buy the 200 dollar package, pay 203 dollars. This will bump you above all other press releases who only paid the 200 dollar base price without you having to buy another entire star for 40 dollars.
  • If you’re interested in trying out PRWeb, I’d suggest signing up for an account and then attending their free daily webinars as soon as possible before spending any actual money submitting a release.

My experience

As I mentioned, I’ve been using PRWeb with success for a few years now. Our releases are well written (we do them in house) and always submitted at the 200 dollar (SEO Visibility level) though I admit I didn’t realize everything that came with the Media Visibility package until I did this review and will likely use that level for our next “big” announcement.

The statistics of our last five releases published are as follows with the most recently released press release listed first:

(impressions/reads/email forwards/prints/pdf)

  • 116561/1990/0/17/0
  • 146304/2229/0/17/40
  • 107428/1542/0/14/40
  • 128481/1824/0/15/26
  • 98241/2122/0/9/27

Our releases all have gotten us several links a piece and we also have three business deals that have been very good for our sites that came from releases we’ve issued putting us on that company’s radar in the first place. Press releases, and PRWeb as a distribution method, have earned their spot in our marketing budget.