PR syndication: successful or spammy?

December 22, 2011

Following on from the last blog on trends in online PR, we thought no study would be complete without a discussion on the merits (or otherwise) of press release syndication. This method has become widely used in PR and impacts the way people encounter content and how that content is perceived.

PR can be seen as getting coverage for free. So, to some who want something for nothing, the Internet seems like the promised land; a boundary-less haven of opportunity to get a story ‘out there’. There’s no denying that syndication maximises exposure, giving a press release visibility in more places. Assuming there’s someone landing on the syndicating website, and the press release includes a clickable URL it can also generate traffic for the company submitting the PR by click-throughs.  Obviously, without traffic, no website is going to be a success – so the pressure is on to get results.

According to everyday there are “approximately 550 million searches worldwide using 50 million keywords.” This daunting figure can make it seem like content will become a needle in a haystack if you don’t absolutely maximise its exposure through methods like syndication.

However, even if it targets more people, syndication won’t necessarily target the right people; ones who will click on your link and go to your website. It embodies the ‘spray and pray’ method, prioritising quantity over quality. An RSS feed very different to a discerning human being (otherwise known as a hack) with an eye for good editorial content. It doesn’t make judgments on relevance, it simply duplicates.

There’s a risk that marcoms managers will become over-reliant on syndication, mistakenly believing that sprinkling keywords in press releases and syndicating them to anyone and everyone will reap huge rewards for the search engine rankings and traffic. This isn’t always so. As Kelvin Newman who works for one of the leading SEO firms eloquently (and vehemently) argues:

“The links that have the most impact are those that are hardest to achieve; genuine editorial mentions on relevant pages of sites with huge trust. Press release syndication will never enable you to do that. All it does is get you a link from a website which no real person ever visits.”

Whilst his view is damning, Kelvin picks up on a key point: that it does no one any favours to be linked to ‘spammy sites’ and content farms. Click here to see the rest of Kelvin’s perspective. In this way, syndication has the potential to over-simplify, encouraging us to become click-hungry and forget credibility. Nowadays credibility is becoming important not just to satisfy your publics but also to satisfy increasingly clever search engine algorithms which rate respectability.

Syndication is a great tool if used correctly but it’s best to be selective in its use and to keep a balance in your online PR activities. When planning online PR campaigns, choose authoritative and niche sources. Mentions from these sites will raise your profile and make you seem more credible. Apart from being ineffective, the spray and pray approach means your brand and ideas could end up on random and irrelevant websites that your brand will not want to be associated with. If these sites are in the search engine’s black books, it can have a detrimental effect on your publics’ the perception of your press release, your website and even your company (or your client) as a whole.

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