Free press release sites a detailed review

Public Relations professionals know that one of the most important parts of the job is media relations, talking to journalists, editor and bloggers to understand what kinds of story would interest them - what’s the point in writing and issuing news if no-one covers it? However, instead of doing pre sell-ins to see if a release you are considering might be of interest, there is now a far easier way of getting your news out there...without ever having to lift the phone! Free PR distribution websites have been getting more and more popular in light of the current economic climate. But, which sites are a scam, which actually offer you the free PR distribution service you want to get your release online and which offer you even more, such as links and syndication to other sites?

For the SEO community, press releases have been used as a vehicle to help link building efforts, but do the free distribution services actually help build links?

We’ve done the leg work, spending a month researching and trialling the 83 free PR distribution sites we found that were still active online, so you don’t have to.

Questions about free press release distribution services that we wanted answered

To determine whether these sites deserved our time and attention, we formulated these questions:

  1. Do journalists and bloggers actually use the press releases on free sites for news?
  2. Would the release appear on Google News?
  3. Would the release appear in a Google web search?
  4. How easy to use are free release sites?
  5. What help (if any) are free press release sites for link building?
  6. Could we use the sites to help 'own' the search results for a targeted phrase?

How we carried out the review

Firstly, we located all the free active PR distribution sites that we could find and then issued a series of press releases on each site. To make this a realistic test we used 'real' press releases containing news about our PR agency or client news. In total, we issued four releases using each of the 83 sites (two releases about clients and two about Vitis PR). As we uploaded each release, we looked for ease of use, additional complementary services, paid-for upgrades and whether registration was required to use the service. Each release was amended slightly so that we could identify if it were covered by other sites we would be able to identify which source they had got it from.

After the releases were uploaded, we monitored for online coverage of the releases (we weren't expecting any print or broadcast media coverage!). Specifically, we looked at:

  1. Did the release appear on the site (i.e. was it accepted by the service)?
  2. Was the release covered elsewhere on the web or in Google News?
  3. Was the page containing the release indexed by Google and stored in its cache?
  4. How high in Google search results did the release appear when searching for a phrase in the release?
  5. What sort of links did the releases generate (if any)?

In reviewing the sites we limited ourselves to the free elements of each site's services only (many services offer paid-for extras, but this review is all about what you can get for zero spend).

Note: the sharp-eyed might spot that some of these tests are liable to error, but we think they give a good idea of the value of each site (one possible issue, for example, was the risk of duplicate content factors affecting how Google dealt with each copy of a given release).

The best free press release distribution sites

A note about press releases being accepted for 'publication' by the sites: we have (as you might expect) a lot of experience writing press releases that meet the rules laid down by various news wire services (e.g. don't make claims about being the 'best' something unless you can prove it). However, not all of the sites accepted our releases, this may be because they didn't meet the site's editorial guidelines or for some other reason. On the whole, though why some sites rejected our press releases isn't at all clear.

See below to find out what we discovered in our tests - your experience with these sites may be different of course, if so let us know in the comments.

Best free press release site for reaching out to journalists, bloggers, editors and other influencers

Winner: none!

To be fair, we did expect this result, it is rare enough for someone to pick up news from some of the premium paid-for news wires and given the volume of free press releases being pumped out these days we would have been (pleasantly) surprised to find any pick up of our releases. When we did find a release that had been syndicated out to other sites none of those other sites came across as 'high quality', they were invariably loaded down with banner and AdSense advertising.

BTW, if you own or manage one of the sites we reviewed and think we've missed something, drop us a line and we'll add your feedback or make sure we look out for it next time we run the review.

Best free press release site for Google News

Winner:   Online PR News

Runners up: Open PRPR Fire

Online PR News accepted three of our four releases and all of them appeared on Google News. Both PR Fire and Open PR also accepted three releases, but PR Fire only got one on Google News while Open PR got two of them there.

Metric Release 1 Release 2 Release 3 Release 4
% of all sites where the press release appeared in Google News 1% 1% 2% 1%

Best free press release site for appearing in Google web searches

Appearing in web searches may be valuable as a way of trying to put your news in front of people searching for your target phrases - though it is unlikely this will be effective where the target phrases are more than moderately competitive.

Winner:   PR Fire

Runners up: News Wire Today, I News Wire, PR Zoom, Idea Marketers

Of the three releases that PR Fire accepted, all three appeared on page one of Google search results for the phrases we searched on. For the runners up, at least one of the releases on those sites appeared on page one, see the full table to see a detailed breakdown.

Metric Release 1 Release 2 Release 3 Release 4
% of all sites where press release is in Google cache 38% 7% 16% 35%

Best free press release site for building links

Given that none of the releases was picked up by any site that might be considered to be the source of a valuable link, it seems that there is little value in using these services for link building. However, some of the sites do provide links and a few allow you to tailor the anchor text.

To get a feel for which sites might be best for links, we could use how highly each press release page ranks in search results as a rough indicator of how much link juice that page might be able to pass. When one of our releases appeared on page one of Google web search (and the free release site provided a link) we rated that site highly for link building.

Winners: Idea Marketers, I News Wire, Business Services UK

Metric Followed links Followed link with choice of anchor text
% of all sites providing links from the press release 40% 6%



Site Release 1 Release 2 Release 3 Release 4 Comments Included services Extras Releases in Google cache? YES YES YES YES
Release in Google News?
Page of SERPs release appeared on 4 2 4 3
Kind of link provided Link Link Link Link Releases in Google cache? YES YES YES YES
Release in Google News?
Page of SERPs release appeared on 5 1 4
Kind of link provided Releases in Google cache? YES YES YES
Release in Google News?
Page of SERPs release appeared on 3 1
Kind of link provided Link Link Releases in Google cache? YES YES YES
Release in Google News?
Page of SERPs release appeared on 4
Kind of link provided Link Link Link


Final thoughts


Please note that registering with free PR distribution sites will inevitably mean you start to receive SPAM emails so, to avoid this, we recommend setting up an alternative email address and using this to register with these sites.

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