So, are free press releases – or at least, ones that won’t cost you an arm and a leg – worth it?

Recently, someone asked me if he could pay $40 to blast his press release to over 50 sites. The difficulty for me was that I charge at least $240 for the basic release.

It puts me in a strange, awkward position. Should I explain to this potential client that what he wants to do for $40 is an absurd waste of not just his time, but also his money.

At the same time, I know that press releases are a sound business investment at my prices. Try as I might, explaining to him the value of my offer and why his counteroffer was not going to get him anywhere, we soon parted ways.

It got me thinking, though. A lot of people like this will simply go to a free press release distribution website, without ever realizing that they’re making a hugely expensive mistake.

Let me break it down and show you the difference.

What You Get With Paid Press Releases

When you pay for a press release distribution through a reputable brand, your release goes to a huge network. That network includes:

  • Subscribed journalists seeking news stories
  • Tier 1 newswires – PR Newswire is the industry’s oldest, most established one, for example
  • SEO enhancements to help with your visibility on search engines
  • Proof of distribution through reports that let you see where your release went
  • Placement on Yahoo! News and Google News
  • Niche and industry distribution for targeted releases
  • Quite a great deal more – but you get the idea

There will be some variations and extras, of course – that’s capitalism for you – but the basic deal is that journalists actively looking for stories will see your press release.

You want to be included in that, right? Of course you do! The long and short of it is that you’re going to be featured in a huge amount of places, and your inbound marketing is going to get a significant boost.

Perhaps most importantly of all, these are websites that people actually visit, including journalists.

What You Get With Free Press Releases

If you go to a free press release distributor, you can see – instantly – that there is a big drop off in the quality. Not just of the service (expected), but also of the quality of the press releases. Now, the problem here is that journalists know about all these different outlets, and they can – and will – judge you by the quality of the company which you keep.

This has a knock-on effect on your distribution – in other words, whether you will actually reach the media.

The most important thing of all is to ensure that your press release will be on the newswire – and with free press release distributors, that very often isn’t guaranteed – which means your press release simply stagnates.

However, this isn’t even the real scandal. Oh, it gets worse.

The whole point of a press release is visibility – and a lot of sites that your press release will be on are low-cost websites – the kind with visitor counts and RSS feeds.

Now, here’s the trick. A robot will pull that RSS feed, and your press release will be in it. Up goes the visitor counter, and up goes your belief that one person saw it. The reality? Well, you can fool yourself, but you’re only watching your press release disappear into solid obscurity.

A final thing to remember is that they’re largely in that area of the internet that thrives on pay-per-click (PPC) ads from Google.

What this means for you is that you’re the billboard that a whole bunch of advertisements are on – including your competitors’. It’s a win for Google, it’s a win for your competitor, it’s a win for the free press release site, and it’s… a dead loss for you.

Some people get so badly burned by the experience that they swear off press releases for life. That’s a real loss for their business and just one reason that I cannot ever recommend that anyone go this route. Your business deserves so much better!

So, What Really Matters?

The only thing that matters about your press release is whether the media picks it up. The truth is – and this is the honest truth – it’s not easy.

However, that doesn’t mean it’s not attainable. It’s possible with one press release, but it’s not likely. Your best bet is to keep issuing newsworthy press releases that go to subscribing journalists and newswires. Remember, this is where journalists look every day for stories.

That’s where you need to be.

If you get picked up, you’re going to know about it – there’s the buzz, the sales, the whole sudden transformation that comes with it. It’s so powerful, that when it happens, you forget the pain of all those releases that didn’t work.

But don’t think they were a waste of time, because paid press releases come with backlinks. Not all sites will backlink, but those that do can send a lot of links back to your website – 100, 200, even 300. That’s powerful stuff, and it builds up your SEO, and it all happens in the background for you.

I have never heard of anyone who released a press release through a free service and got media attention in over a decade of doing this.

Time Is Money – So How Much Is Your Time Worth?

The other thing to bear in mind with free press releases is that you’re trading your time instead of your money. If you want to maximize your results with these sites, you’re going to be distributing to many different ones. Maybe 5, maybe 10, maybe 25. It takes time – and sometimes you might have to pay a nominal sum anyway.

Is that really worth it to you? Running a business is no cakewalk, and that time could be used so much better elsewhere. With a paid service, it’s a one and done deal.

Take the guy who wanted to pay me $40 to distribute a single press release to 50 sites. He realized the time cost for him was not worth it and tried to get me to do it.

What he didn’t realize what the rest of the waste to him. Free press releases simply don’t work! They’re free for a reason. Ultimately, if you want to be featured in genuine news media, you have to approach it as an investment – and an investment that might not pay off right away.

So, while my prices might start in the low hundred and reputable distributors start in approximately the same ballpark, I want you to realize that this is a good investment. Free press releases simply don’t work and prove more expensive because of that wasted time cost.

It’s up to you to choose – but I urge you to make the right decision!