7 Actions to Amp the ROI of Every Online Press Release

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Some PR traditionalists grow a little uncomfortable when you put ROI and PR or ROI and Online Press Release together in the same sentence. PR and publicity have traditionally been perceived as awareness and branding-driven, and less for making the cash register ring, at least directly.

Yet with the advances of online PR,  the ability to reach prospects and customers directly, and now with our current challenging economic issues, PR ROI is on the front burner.

NOTE: you may have read some blog posts about the death of the press release. My response? ‘Bout time. Beat that dead pony? Not going there.  But I will say that press releases with no story, no angle, just a boring announcement? Not a fan. I’m happy to see that type of press release die.

Let’s focus on the living as in how to make your Online Press Release not only come alive in the eyes of readers and media, but also some best practices to spur action and ultimate conversion.

Introducing

7 Ways to Amp Your Online Press Release ROI...

1. Turn Your Online Press Release Into an Optimized Press Release

As much as this sounds like Online PR 101, even PR pros forget to do this or don’t optimize press releases consistently. Just putting a standard press release online without enabling all the Web 2.0 and social media benefits, is really only scratching the surface of online visibility. What are we talking about here? Making your online press release “search engine friendly.” This expands your online visibility.

A couple key points: put your keyword search phrase in the headline and 3-4 times in the copy, especially in the first and last paragraphs. And while most only put one link to a web site at the very end of a release, I suggest both anchor text links (your keyword search phrase as an actual link) as well as the entire web site URL link in a release. Here’s an optimized press release example.

2. Build the Story/Ditch the Announcement

Now that online press releases can be done by just about anyone, it’s getting more and more difficult for an announcement-driven release to deliver the results you want. Those online press releases that have a real story, a twist, that piggyback on a current event, those are much more likely to go viral, and gain extra exposure. That exposure translates into more web site visitors. And the more visitors, the better the ROI.

3. Make it Evergreen

Remember that old saying, “nothing is as dated as yesterday’s news(paper.)” Conventional thinking looks at press releases with that same limited vision. But with online press releases, it’s a different ball game. Online Press Releases have a long shelf life, first in the news search engines than in the regular search engines like, Google, Yahoo! and MSN.

So what happens if you have an online press release where your very subject is time sensitive? Say it’s to promote an event. Well, people will see your release after the event has come and gone. So make sure you add content that’s evergreen or timeless.  For example, offer a free download of key takeaways of past events. Basically, something that is of value today, tomorrow and in the future.

4. Include A Call To Action

Not all calls to action are created equally. A call to action that says “blah blah blah, visit our web site, call our toll free number” is a call to inaction or simple apathy. PR purists will say press releases need to be written in editorial fashion, with not even a hint at being too “salesy.”

I say we can have our cake and eat it too. The key? A call to action that solves a problem, meets a need, and delivers lasting value. Sure, no one wants to be sold. But people want to be informed. And enlightened. So what would such a call to action look like?

Here are a few rapid-fire ideas: a special report. A free download.A complimentary consultation. Even a request to take a survey or quiz where a reward is given for successful completion.

Let’s make sure we keep our eye on the prize: we want a lead. An email address. Something that shows we converted a suspect to a prospect.

5. Integrate Social Media Marketing

With Online PR, we want visibility across as many different marketing channels as possible. Submitting press releases online will penetrate the search engines as well as land on web sites that pull in the newswire RSS feeds as a way of providing fresh content.

We can extend and expand exposure by incorporating social media. I don’t mean just blindly bookmark a press release. I suggest incorporating images, video, audio, and more into your online press releases. Pitch Engine is a free resource for sending social media press releases.

PRWeb recently added capability that allows people to “tweet” press releases on Twitter. This video about online press releases and Twitter explains how that works.

6. Fork You Target Audiences With Landing Pages

With other forms of search marketing like PPC it’s fairly common practice that to enhance conversion and boost ROI, you send traffic to a landing page. Such a page has minimal navigation and simplifies the choices available. So for example, “opt in or don’t opt in.”

With press releases, I advocate forking the two primary audiences: 1) the media and 2) prospects. Send the media to your media room or online media room. (Note: the following post gives you specific ingredients of a successful online media room.

For prospects you want to capture as leads, send them to a landing page. Make sure the landing page ties into why they clicked on the link in the press release in the first place.

So, for example, if you are offering a special report, make sure you put something about a special report in the headline of your landing page. It helps complete the circle of communication and enhances conversion.

7. Benchmark Metrics and Testing

One way you can boost online press release ROI is by testing. To do that effectively, you need to establish some benchmarks. Most paid press release distribution newswires offer the ability to track some key stats like views, reads, downloads and more.

You can also perform manual searches in the news and regular search engines and then do screen captures of your press release rankings that your online press release received. In addition, if you follow Tactic #6, you can check the web traffic stats from your web host (or even better, Google Analytics) and know exactly what traffic your online press release is generating.

Then, you can also calculate conversion. For example, 100 people visit your landing page and 10 opt in you have a conversion rate of 10%

I suggest you test one variable at a time with an online press release. What to test? You can test headlines, calls to action, press release newswires, days of the week your online press release is published and much more.

In summary, the beauty of online press releases is that what can be tracked can be measured. And what can be measured can be improved. Did this open your eyes on being more attractive to the media? If so, please share in the comments below.

Story highlights and action steps:

  • Time to review: 14 minutes
  • Online press release performance can be measured and improved across the press release process: from press release creation, to distribution to conversion
  • Related Resources:
  • Action Steps:
    • Choose 1 or 2 tactics from the list here. Commit to a date and hold yourself accountable to implementing them.

Marc Harty is an online publicity expert, professional speaker, Internet marketing consultant and CEO of MainTopic Media, Inc. Marc’s Online PR Made Easy can help anyone at any skill level generate targeted web site traffic on autopilot.