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February 21, 2008

Online PR – Is there any value beyond the links?

A few months ago I wrote a post comparing various online press release services. While nobody disputed their effectiveness at building links, there were questions as to how to measure the full value of Online PR.

For fun, I’m going to take a real release that we recently did and answer each of the questions that was raised.

(Full disclosure, this is a client of ours and he agreed to share these numbers)

Here’s what we did

We had recently launched a Blog for a client and decided to give it a little boost by sending out a press release. The product is very environmentally friendly so we wanted to make sure that we got additional coverage in the client’s own state plus those states that are pro environment (like California).

Of course, we followed the basic PR Optimization best practices like making sure that the title was catchy (but contained a keyword) and that the piece included a link back to the client. We used PRWeb for our distribution (we really like the $200 option).

What to Measure?

1) In the original post I used Headline Impressions as the main comparison metric.

In this example the release generated 61,468 headline impressions. Given that the release was focused across a few states, I would consider this number to be pretty good.

2) Links Built is the most obvious metric from an SEO perspective. Our press release generated 173 links.

But of course quality is more important than quantity. Many of the links generated from online press releases are of little to no value. They were from off topic, spammy scrapper sites.

But some of these links were fantastic!

The piece made it to both Google News, Yahoo News and which provided the client with tremendous additional exposure. Plus it got picked up by local news sites, environmental news sites, and industry specific sites.

So far we’re off to a good start. But as PRWeb commented (in my previous post), the metrics that are most meaningful are those from your own operations.

3) Increases in site traffic Site traffic was up 87% over the previous month. Most of this was the result of a big spike in referral traffic. This referral traffic was coming from sites that picked up the press release.

Of particular interest, this referral traffic was quality traffic. They spent an average of 4 minutes on the site, had 4.34 pages per visit and a low bounce rate.

4) Increases in Off line inquiries from both media and prospects. It’s not unusual for media releases to lead to other media opportunities.

We got in through the back door. Traditional PR companies go through the front door and “pitch” ideas to the media. With online PR you happen to be at the right place at the right time when reporters are researching a story.

This particular press release lead to an inquiry from the Governor’s office and a nomination for an Environmental Award!

5) Increase in conversions (e.g. sales). There was one sale that definitely came as a result of the press release (the visitor came from one of the referral sites that picked the release up).

Due to other marketing initiatives (both online and off line) it’s not possible to definitively measure whether the press release drove a marked increased sales. But empirical evidence (customers saying that they had seen the release on local news sites) suggests yes.

6) Increased ranking for the strategic keywords used in the release.

The release is currently showing on spots 6, 8 an 14 (through powerful sites that picked up the release) and the client’s site itself is in spot 18.

It’s been a few weeks since the release and we are searching for their keyword phrase not a branded term.

These results can be attributed entirely to the release itself

To make this a true test we picked a release that was targeting a new product. We have not otherwise targeted this keyword before with any link building or on-page optimization efforts – all of the above metrics can be entirely attributed to the release itself.

So was there any value to the online press release beyond traditional link building? The client sure thinks so!!!!

What do I think? Like anything else, it’s all about the content. Online PR created for link building purposes only will probably only build you links. Online PR that is quality content will lead to quality metrics.

Author:  Jennifer Osborne writer and marketer for Search Engine People.