Optimizing press releases really started getting a lot of attention over the past 2-3 years and it's no wonder. We've sent out a large number of optimized press releases for our clients over the years. In many cases, in addition to driving traffic and links, these releases have lead to some serious media opportunities for our clients. Note, journalists increasingly rely on major search engines for their

  Press Release

research. In fact 98% of journalists go online daily

Hint: if it's not newsworthy it's not newsworthy, optimizing it isn't going to mysteriously drive droves of traffic and links (end of rant).

We recently came across a unique opportunity to test the various levels of PR Web Services. A client was running a contest with many unique prizes and wanted help with proliferation. We decided that optimized press releases (amongst other tactics) were definitely a good fit for our client's main objective of creating exposure for the contest.

We had the opportunity to send out 11 similar press releases all within the same timeframe. Wow! What an opportunity for testing! (Yes I admit I'm a marketing person who's not afraid of numbers)

Our MethodologyWe wrote the 11 press releases first taking PR Optimization best practices into consideration. We did our keyword research first and made sure that we got appropriate keywords into the headings and with the proper density (no keyword stuffing hereJ). We wrote the pieces, paying careful attention to craft catchy headlines and got client sign off. Then we randomly selected which releases we would use with each of the PR Web levels of service: Standard Visibility ($80), Social Media Visibility ($120) and SEO Visibility ($200). We had a tight budget, but at the last minute we decided to test the Media Visibility ($360) option too but we only tested this option with one press release.

Typically we use the $200 service because we like the reporting functionality but quite frankly, we wanted to find out if we were wasting our money. Maybe free was just fine? So we also send out one of the releases using a free service as well.

The Results The free service was pretty difficult to measure because it offered no tracking. We put out a Google alert for the headlines and regularly checked the search engines but found no evidence of it being picked up by any sites. The free PR pieces also did not get indexed by Google. If you take our time into consideration, this option ended up costing us money.   On average the $80 option yielded 40,424 headline impressions. In comparison, the $120 option averaged 69,362 headline impressions. Therefore for an extra 50% spend, 72% more headline impressions were generated. Not bad. The most interesting result though was the $200 option.

Keeping in mind that only one piece was released using this option; to our surprise it generated a total of 168,882 headline impressions in sharp contrast to the most expensive $360 option that yielded only 84,498 headline impressions.

The Conclusion PR Optimization is a great tactic for driving impressions and brand awareness. And let's face it; the links are kinda nice too. But you have to choose a package that meets your objectives and budget. If you have many releases to send out and budget is a concern then the $80 package will give you results. If reporting is also a consideration then I really like the additional capability that the $120 package provides. But if traffic and eyeballs are your biggest driving force then you should definitely consider the $200 option. Keep in mind, free isn't always free and paying more doesn't always pay off!