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Old 05-10-2005   #1
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Press Release Spam

Normally I don't start threads like this, but I've been grouchy lately and this is funny, in a sad sort of way.

I've been watching, with increasing dismay, the drastic decrease in quality in press releases ever since it became known that a press release could actually get you back links and traffic.

True to form, this is a legitimate, wonderful and useful service that is now being overrun by over-enthusiastic SEO's and outright spammers, and is rapidly becoming useless.

Case in point:

My friend Bob Gladstein, a very funny guy who owns Raise My Rank, just put out this press release:

http://www.prweb.com/releases/2005/5/prweb235437.php

It is an intentionally sarcastic PR intended to highlight how stupid this is becoming, and even says so right in the PR:

Quote:
Experiments for the week included an attempt to determine the efficacy of the use of search engine submission forms and a study of the attention spans of editors working for online press release services.
It goes on to announce that (gasp) he got a new client and that his cats had their birthdays.

There was some discussion as to whether he went too far, since no one in their right mind would release this. The more cynical members bet that it would get released.

The more cynical members were correct.

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Old 05-10-2005   #2
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I have not personally seen an increase in bad press releases - I think they have been there all the time (off course, I could be wrong - I haven't followed it particular closely). I have seen some really bad, or poor, ones over time.

I saw one not so long ago about a company that bragged about the fact that they (that day) ranked a little better for a few obscure keywords. Bravo! What fantastic usefull news! hehhe

There seems to be no lower limit to what a hungy PR-person think is news worthy. However, I would not call it spam for one second. It's "spammy" that the news engines accept such crap but it is not spam to send it. Thats smart. The offender in my mind is the stupid editors and algos that accept such bad press releases and the sites that agrees to show them. Those sites "spam" me when I go there ... so, I find other places ...
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Old 05-10-2005   #3
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LOL!

I didn't know you could issue press releases regarding your cats. Our office cat gets groomed every other month. Maybe I could issue a press release each time and increase our backlinks!!!

Mmmm... what about my own haircuts? I get them once a month. That means even more backlinks!


On a more serious note, yes it is sad and becoming like many article depot types of sites that contain vast amounts of useless information.
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Old 05-10-2005   #4
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I must preface my comment as my company did send out a rather poorly construed and constructed press release once. (only once!). We have since stepped up the quality control process to ensure all press releases that go out are quality news items. (I think ours is the release mentioned by Mikkel above, but I would take issue characterizing the terms as obscure, but that's another discussion!)

With that said, yes, there are a lot of junk releases that go out. I don't mind if someone is making an announcement about their new tool that does this or that, but I've seen some that are really just articles.

I think the distribution points such as PRWeb have an obligation to vet any press releases that go out through their system for worthiness.

Last edited by St0n3y : 05-10-2005 at 12:42 PM.
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Old 05-10-2005   #5
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IMO, a press release service should be treated the same way as a directory - a "free for all" should be treated as an FFA and a legitimate, human edited service should be commended and treated well.

And by "human-edited", I don't mean simply having humans called editors involved, I mean actual editing and quality control happening. I can see a few slipping through, and even a decision to err on the side of disemminating news, rather than controlling it, but I think it's gone too far when a cat's birthday is considered a newsworthy event.

If I was evil, I'd create a press release scraper software that grabbed random quotes from various on-topic releases, then have it auto-submit on behalf of my 50 websites all the time.....

Note to Press Release services: I suggest you figure out how to deal with this issue, since it's going to get worse, not better. Search engines are not a fad, and actions intended to affect SE rankings are not going to go away until it is no longer profitable and effective to do so.

Press releases are a good and useful thing, don't let them become useless because you are sleeping at the switch. BTW, this is not aimed at any one PR service specifically - it's aimed at all of them.

My opinion,

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Old 05-10-2005   #6
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The one service we used 24-7pressreleases.com states that they have strict quality control on their releases. I don't how strict they are, but I do think its important for such measures to be in place and enforced.

Articles should never pass as a press release, there are other avenues for that, even if someone is willing to pay for it. But each service must also consider that what is news to one is not news to another.

I don't think press releases must adhere to a strict "newsworthiness" as press releases are primarily or publicity purposes. But there must be an element of legitimacy to them nonetheless.
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Old 05-10-2005   #7
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Quote:
I don't think press releases must adhere to a strict "newsworthiness" as press releases are primarily or publicity purposes. But there must be an element of legitimacy to them nonetheless.
Agreed - a press release service is not a newspaper, but it should provide the kind of service that a newspaper (or news website) would find useful. Publicity is OK, but there should be a legitimate reason for it, IMO.

I suppose one option would be to disable (or nofollow)the links in PR's, but that could interfere with legitimate people wanting to visit the site, etc.

I'm sure that there is the issue from the editors viewpoint that a company that gets its first client might not be considered news in many cases, but in others (like your first client is Microsoft or Ford) it could be huge, so where do you draw the line? Tough call.

Personally, I would draw it at things like an announcment that you have begun optimizing a clients website, and oh, BTW, you specialize in optimizing press releases! (real and recent example).

Launching a new press release writing service, THAT would probably be ok. Announcing that you are doing business as usual seems like total fluff, to me.

I know it's a judgment call, I'd just be happy to see some judgment happening...

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Old 05-10-2005   #8
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Ian - that was soooo funny. I wish I had the chutzpah for that! Oh that is sooo rich.

I'm inspired. Yes it's sad but then again, so is a lot of the state of affairs these days.
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Old 05-10-2005   #9
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you're right, a lot of it is a judgment call. Announcing a new service you offer (even if it's the service of optimizing press releases) to me does seem legit. Business as usual, dunno, probably not. I've seen some of companies announcing that they have selected xyz company as their seo. Is that a legit release?
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Old 05-10-2005   #10
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The funny thing about my little joke (at least from my perspective) is that I ended up getting the benefit that those who put out the releases I mocked are after. Not only did the release get published, but I ended up getting linked to from here (thanks, Ian) and SitePoint, where Dan Thies mentioned it in his blog. As a result, traffic (which frankly has never been huge) tripled for a period of three days.

I'm left with the conclusion that putting out press releases has some benefit, whether you have anything to say or not. Unless editors (if there are editors out there) start actually reading submissions before they approve them, or coding links on releases so that they don't add to link pop, this is going to keep happening.

By the way David, I'm way overdue for a haircut, so let me know when you put out your release and maybe we can cross-promote eachother's hairdos
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Old 05-10-2005   #11
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I was just reading PRWeb's site and regarding the above laments about the poor quality of press releases, it doesn't help your cause when PRWeb has a specific link and pages on "search engine promotion".

I think it kinda says they don't care.
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Old 05-10-2005   #12
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I don't want to turn this into an anti-PRWeb thread, especially since they are not here to defend themselves. But you are right - that doesn't look good. I'll see if I can invite a PR firm to comment.

While it's possible you used to be able to trust submitters to at least try to have something to say, I don't think that concept applies anymore, and should be addressed.

Currently, reputable Press Release Firms I'm aware of include (alphabetical order):

http://www.24-7pressrelease.com/
http://www.ereleases.com/
http://www.internetnewsbureau.com/
http://www.prdirect.ca/en/home.asp (Canadian)
http://www.prnewswire.com/
http://www.prweb.com/
http://www.webwire.com/

I'm sure there are others, but that's my personal shortlist.

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Old 05-10-2005   #13
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Let's face it, these PR submission companies make a LOT from the SEO frenzy with putting out releases on anything and everything. Yeah, you can do free ones like Bob did and just get a plain URL link, but if you're willing to pay $200 you can have keyword rich links.

There's no way that these services are going to give up that cash cow anytime soon, and there's no incentive for them to carefully read the free ones.
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Old 05-10-2005   #14
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That's right Jill. And it's the reason free press release services are popping up all the time. I just noticed another one recently, przoom.com. Once they build sufficient momentum they can start offering a "premium" service for a fee as prleap.com has just started doing.

I wonder if Google's plans for TrustRank will improve the quality of the documents included their News Search site? The topic of cleaning up press release optimization spam came up on our blog last month when the Google patent regarding news was getting some play.

When we started using one particular wire service a few years ago, we would actually get an email with editorial suggestions on releases. Now when we purchase the same level of distribution, we still get an email regarding editorial suggestions but there are no suggestions included. I suspect it might be some sort of automated process.
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Old 05-10-2005   #15
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Editorial quality of press releases

This thread has been very interesting. Believe it or not, I am also concerned when people issue low-quality press releases -- whether it is a joke or a lame attempt to create a new form of search engine spam.

When you optimize a press release, you should try to follow Google's quality guidlelines, which state: "Think about the words users would type to find your pages, and make sure that your (press release) actually includes those words within it."

The 63 search engine marketing partners that we work with are also trying to write press releases that clearly and accurately describe their client's content -- and they then use PR Web to distribute their press releases not only to the news search engines, but also to a database of 100,000 journalists, analysts and free-lancers. So, something as silly as Bob Gladstein's press release isn't going to make a positive impression -- on either journalists or the news search engines.

Plus, PR Web has editors who review each press release before it goes out -- and if a press release doesn't get an editorial score of at least 4 out of a possible 5, then it also doesn't goes out through eMediaWire -- PR Web's premium wire service.

I don't know what the editorial score of is for Raise My Rank's press release, but it doesn't appear to have been distributed via eMediaWire, so you can make your own judgement about its editorial merit.

By the way, when I do a search in Google News for "SEO Firm Raise My Rank", I find the press release disbributed by PR Leap -- not PR Web or eMediaWire. So, I suspect that the quality control efforts at PR Web are actually working.
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Old 05-10-2005   #16
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Plus, PR Web has editors who review each press release before it goes out -- and if a press release doesn't get an editorial score of at least 4 out of a possible 5, then it also doesn't goes out through eMediaWire -- PR Web's premium wire service.
That's good to know. I had assumed that eMediaWire hadn't carried the release solely because I used the unpaid option.
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Old 05-10-2005   #17
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Quote:
PR Web has editors who review each press release before it goes out -- and if a press release doesn't get an editorial score of at least 4 out of a possible 5, then it also doesn't goes out through eMediaWire -- PR Web's premium wire service.
I love statements like that. I hope you don't take this as argumentative or unduly hard The PR Guy , but what does "4 out of a possible 5" really mean?

See, if the 5 ranking criteria are:
1. Uses the word "the".
2. Has pargraphes.
3. Scans ok.
4. Is paid for.
5. We like it,
It would be easy to score 4 out of 5. For a score to be meaningful, the criteria need to be meaningful. Without knowing what the criteria are, the score required to be accepted is, really, pretty meaningless.

I like the pres release in question. I was really wondering how Bob's cats were
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Old 05-11-2005   #18
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The problems isn't the Press release company - Press releases can and always have been able to be about anything you want, people issue press releases and mail them directly to the media - all the release companies are doing is making that easier - and just as with offline you get press release management companies who literally just send them out (used to be put it in the bag for dispatch to each paper) and ones who edit on your behalf (improve the copy before sending it).

I'm not sure what anyone espects the Press Release company to do? Tell someone they won't release it? Re-write the release? Go and make something newsworthy happen? If you read your local small town paper and see how often there's something in there about the local scout group raising 12.27 for the orphans you'll see the level that Press Releases have to cover.

But old fashioned press releases (ie; not online) were never published if they contained nothing which was newsworthy in the opinion of the editor. (except in August). A media editor would simply bin them. So you tended not to see them. Now for some inane reason people/sites have started taking Press Releases and treating them as news.

If the SE's and other sites which are buying into this removed the PR companies release sections from their indexes and relied on the actual news sites who's job it is to filter the releases then the problem would be solved (at least until the niche 'news' sources which publish every release spring up).
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Old 05-11-2005   #19
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>This thread has been very interesting. Believe it or not, I am also concerned when people issue low-quality press releases -- whether it is a joke or a lame attempt to create a new form of search engine spam.

it likely being a major source of income, no doubt you do not want the system getting clogged up or made a joke of.

>So, something as silly as Bob Gladstein's press release isn't going to make a positive impression -- on either journalists or the news search engines.

no, but it may get a few links. and it shows some problems with some systems and the lighter side of the industry, which I think is a good thing.

>I don't know what the editorial score of is for Raise My Rank's press release, but it doesn't appear to have been distributed via eMediaWire, so you can make your own judgement about its editorial merit.

he did the free option.

>That's good to know. I had assumed that eMediaWire hadn't carried the release solely because I used the unpaid option.

you have to pay (I believe it is at least $30)
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Old 05-11-2005   #20
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The funniest part was that the same day Bob's release ran at PRweb, I browsed through a few others that were featured on the front page (as apparently they all are) and there were many, many, many releases that were just as dumb, if not dumber than Bob's!

There was one for a karate school that basically just said that the guy who runs it likes karate and got interested in it when he was little. Then it was simply a big ad for the school!

There was another for a candle company, if I remember correctly, that also said nothing.

In fact, those ones made Bob's actually seem GOOD in comparison!
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