Now that 83% of the typical B2B sales cycle is over before decision-makers contact any technology vendor, it’s critical for your company to get found in those early-stage searches to drive high-quality lead generation. In this context, I often get asked, “Do news releases still work? And are news releases effective for IT lead generation?”
The Changing Online PR Landscape
Online PR has changed significantly in at least two respects in the past few years. For one, there really is no “online” public relations strategy anymore per se. It’s just PR, with little or no delineation between how you’d reach out to mainstream journalists that may still work for a print-centric publisher and more niched bloggers that solely publish online.
Second, Google has come out publicly against using news releases to inflate organic search engine rankings artificially. In fact, Google has warned publishers of online news releases to use the “nofollow” HTML attribute to ensure it isn’t passing along inbound linking benefits to customers that publish online news releases.
On a more macro strategic level, I think about my brother-in-law, who worked for mid-sized traditional PR agencies in New York. And in the years since he’s been out of PR, wow! More changes in a very short time span than in the previous 100 years. Incredible.
But given these changes, can you and should you still use news releases for IT lead generation purposes?
Yes, but only if the news releases add value to readers. News releases should no longer be written just for the media. Write for all stakeholders because the releases are visible to all stakeholders.
Consider On-Page SEO, Social Sharing, Anchor Text Links, and Relevant Calls to Action (CTAs)
When you’re planning your news releases, make sure that you take into account:
On-page SEO strategy, preferably that coordinates with your existing persona research and keyword research
Social sharing, so you can leverage channels like Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook to help spread your message
Anchor text linking, so you can gently support your external SEO efforts, and
Relevant CTAs (calls to action) that drive to targeted landing pages for related offers
And make sure you hire someone that’s keeping up with rapidly-changing content marketing best practices. Or invest the time to keep up with these changes yourself.
Case in point: Online news releases are now in the same Google crosshairs of controversy as article directories were a short time ago, as you can see from this article from the Content Marketing Institute, which specifically warns about:
Native advertising (paid advertorials/which are rampant in the IT channel and their cousin, the paid webinar)
Mass article submission
This brings up one of my personal pet peeves: Seeing experts on webinars and at conferences teaching tactics that stopped working several years ago and can now get your website penalized. So be very careful!
Distribute Externally with Care
With online news releases, there is some value to external distribution. But don’t overspend.
It’s hard to quantify. However, as you see from the changing sentiment from Google, it’s a moving target.
The links are fine. Don’t overdo the anchor text optimization in an unnatural way. If they haven’t already, these links will become “nofollow” at some point, removing much of the “vote” credit.
But news releases can still be very valuable for referral traffic to support your IT lead generation efforts, especially if driving to solid, tightly-related landing page offers.
For distribution, think Goldilocks. Usually, $300 to $500 is overkill for small companies. But steer clear of free services that are like spam farms.
In this post, we looked at whether online news releases should play a role in your IT lead generation toolkit. Do you currently use news releases to generate leads? If so, what have you found most important to ensure long-term success? Let us know your thoughts in the Comments box below.