A client of ours distributes "soft news stories" for their corporate clients. These can range from product safety recalls, to automotive crash test results, to product announcements, to BMX bikers who did well at competitive events.
Our client has traditionally used PR Newswire to distribute news releases about the news stories they were promoting since PR Newswire had broad acceptance with broadcast journalists which were the target audience for the press releases.
However, the web distributions of those same press releases hasn't done well in driving traffic to our client's site. The following press release is not one out client put out but shows some of the problems with PR Newswire press releases.
(click to full-size images when the images seem small)
Notice how the only links in the story are actual URLs, and the link text is the URL itself. For example, they have http://www.youtube.com rather than YouTube. This is not good from a search engine optimization (SEO) perspective since search engines use the link text to make sense of what's important on the page, and the URL doesn't tell them much of anything about what's important on the page. It's much better to have a word or phrase like 'YouTube' or 'great video site' associated with the URL.
But it actually gets worse... PR Newswire managed to include the comma in the YouTube URL which corrupted the URL and made it not work. (Curiously, they didn't have the same problem on the Yahoo! link which also had a comma after it.)
The biggest problem with PR Newswire's web press releases is that most of the sites that pick them up don't manage to preserve the link at all. Here's a typical example:
Not preserving the links results in two problems - 1) people are less likely copy and paste a URL into their browser than they would be to click on a link, so the traffic you receive is greatly diminished, and 2) you can't tell where the traffic is coming from when they do copy and paste the URL into their browser.
By comparison PRWeb is doing a much better job with their web-based press releases. For starters they have real links with genuine link text as shown below...
These links are FAR better from an SEO perspective as they relate the page with the most important keywords for that page.
In addition, those links seem to be preserved when the article is republished...
This gives PRWeb a big leg up over PR Newswire where the links (such as they are) are only preserved on the larger sites such as biz.yahoo.com and marketwatch.com.
"But that's not all..." PRWeb seems much more focused on getting the "linkerati" to pick up the story. In addition to the social media links (for sites like Digg, Del.icio.us and Technorati) which PR Newswire also has, PRWeb has things like "e-mail" to help with viral promotion and "blog this" to help bloggers link to the story, and a contact section to give their clients more "link juice"...
Another really valuable part of the page is their "Technorati tags" which are a great way for spiders to understand and classify the most important concepts on the page.
Bottom line, PRWeb seems to have their act together, where PR Newswire seems to be struggling with how to put out a proper web-based press release.