What occurs a thousand times a day but is rarely noticed?

The answer: public relations professionals publish a press release.

SHIFT Communications delved into the raw Google News database of millions of news stories per year to extract just press releases. What we found amazed (but didn’t surprise) us:

Number of Releases

In September 2016, PR professionals cranked out an average of 1,092 press releases per day. In the first 10 months of 2016, PR professionals generated 236,356 press releases.

The cost of press releases

1,092 press releases per day is an enormous flood of news to create, and press releases aren’t inexpensive. While some wire services offer “low cost” press releases, many charge between $200 and $1,200 per release. Consider what 236,356 press releases have cost companies and agencies: somewhere between $47 million and $283 million this year.

Do press releases work?

Let’s take a look at some of the median content metrics around these releases.

SHIFT extracted a random sample of 1,052 releases from 2016 and scanned them for key content metrics. Out of these releases:

  • The median number of clicks: 0
  • The median number of social media shares: 2
  • The median number of inbound links to releases: 1
  • The median MozTrust score (how trusted a URL is, 0-10 scale): 0
  • The median MozRank score (how well ranked a URL is, 0-10 scale): 0

No one is sharing our press releases, other than us.

No one is clicking on them.

Because Google devalued press release distribution sites a few years ago, press releases are untrusted and therefore don’t pass along any SEO authority.

$200 to $1,200 is a lot of money to spend on a piece of content that gets shared by us, doesn’t engage the audience, and offers no SEO value. For the same $200, you could hire a blogger or two to create original, unique content on your website or owned social media properties and receive more benefit.

Conclusion: rethink sending press releases

Unless you have regulatory reasons to do so (SEC Reg FD, FINRA, FFIEC, etc.), there’s no longer a reason to send out press releases. No one is reading them, no one is engaging with them, and they offer no search marketing benefit to you. You’re almost certainly getting no ROI from your spend, and you could spend that money elsewhere, like on social media content amplification, syndication, or original content creation.

Methodology and disclosures

Using Google’s BigQuery database and its index of 411,261,459 news stories (as of the time of writing), SHIFT extracted press releases matching known newswires and distribution companies by domain name, as well as URLs matching “press-release” or “news-release” and variants thereof. SHIFT chose a time period for URL extraction of 1/1/2014 – 10/11/2016. SHIFT then ran a random sample of 1,052 news releases through its SCALE content scanner to assess social sharing metrics. Clicks are measured with the bit.ly API and represent any click on the destination URL from any source. The random sample of 1,052 on a population of 236,356 represents a 3% confidence interval at a 95% confidence level.

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