Seven Traits of Highly Effective Press Releases

For this edition of SEO Tip Jar I wanted to look at hit releases and see what attributes they tend to have in common.  My methodology was simple and straightforward.  I defined hit releases as those getting the most release reads (or page views) and took the top 10 releases on EON: Enhanced Online News for each full month so far in 2010.  I looked at 40 releases in total.

For each release, I counted the words in the body, the date and time of release, whether the release included a photo, and so on for a total of seven main traits.

The “Average” Hit Release

Across the board, these releases were an average of 642 words, with the longest being nearly 1500 words and the shortest being just over 250 words.  The word counts were quite evenly distributed as well, and there didn’t seem to be any word count exceptionally more likely to hit than another.  In total, 58% of releases were over 500 words.

The most common day of the week to release was Thursday, which was the date of choice for 22.5% of releases.  Tuesday and Wednesday were close behind with 20% of releases each and Monday and Friday were slightly less likely at 17.5%.  Just one lonely hit was released on a Saturday and no hit releases premiered on Sundays.

Moving on to the best time of day (rounding to the nearest hour), 10am and 12pm ET were tied for the most frequent, each with 12.5% of releases.  Additionally, 40% of all the hits were released before noon, 35% between noon and 3pm, and 25% from 4pm onward.  It looks like news consumers tend to be early risers, so get your release out during the workday if you can.

Traits from Top to Bottom

  1. 87% of releases included at least one link in one form or another in the body of the release, with many of the top releases containing quite a few very descriptive links.  If your company happens to be a holdout in the release linking game, I hope this may persuade you to start adding descriptive links to your press releases.
  2. 73% of releases incorporated some special formatting within the body of the release, whether it be bold, italics, underlining or an embedded image.  In today’s xhtml world, special formatting can be an excellent way to emphasize key points of your releases, break your content into distinct sections  and provide cues for ‘skimmers’ to gather meaning as they quickly scan content for relevant information.
  3. 68% of releases had a subheadline.  This stat was the most surprising to me.  The subhead seems to have an unclear role in press release SEO, since it’s not really the headline and not really the body either.  While the robots digesting releases may not pay it much mind, it’s clear that the subhead offers valuable supplementary guidance to readers as they consider whether to continue on reading a release and possibly even share that release.
  4. 58% of releases included the company name in the release headline (Ex. Company X releases XYZ app).  Of course, this also means that 42% didn’t include the company name and still performed quite well with readers.  There is very little real estate available within your headline and if it is more than 22 words you might not make it into Google News.  With this in mind, consider the goal of the release and campaign when making your choice.  If company branding is a chief concern, including the name is probably a good idea.  However, if the focus is more product or service focused, for instance, maybe the company name should take a back seat.
  5. 35% of releases included a photo or video, with the vast majority of those including a photo only.  It’s safe to say that much fewer than 35% of all releases include multimedia, so it’s clearly a good idea to include multimedia in order to help your releases stand out.  Product photos, charts, infographics, company executives, high-resolution logos . . . the list of possibilities is nearly endless.
  6. 23% of releases encouraged social sharing or engagement within the body of the release, typically Facebook or Twitter.  All EON releases already offer social sharing chicklets covering all major social networks, so it’s not absolutely critical to give them additional emphasis within your release.  However, if social engagement is a priority or your release is geared towards “sharability”, why not give readers a bit more of a push?
  7. 5% of releases, just two, had any special characters in the headline.  So perhaps adding special characters in headlines is not a good idea.

Have a burning SEO question? Drop us a comment or talk to Joseph on Twitter @EONpr to get it answered in the next SEO Tip Jar!

24 Responses to Seven Traits of Highly Effective Press Releases

  1. Dave Manzer says:

    Great information, Joseph! This is real data to sink our PR teeth into as opposed to the typical this-is-my-opinion approach one tends to get on blogs. Keep up the great work!

  2. It would be good to know what industries these releases were in, and whether they were B2B or B2C.

  3. Anita Harris says:

    How are you defining a “hit” release? Had all of the releases been on EON for 30 days? In general, I’m finding my releases on BW itself do better than those on EON…

    • Joseph Miller, EON Product Manager says:

      Hi Anita,

      I defined hit releases as those getting the most release reads on EON (also known as page views). Almost all of them had been on the site for 30 days, except for perhaps some of the April releases I looked at. Thanks for your feedback.

  4. Please clarify your point #3. Do you mean they had subheads within the body of the release, or do you mean they had a secondary headline, right after the headline? Thank you.

    • Joseph Miller, EON Product Manager says:

      I’m referring to the secondary headline. I was looking for more standard, easily measurable release attributes.

  5. Thanks for this initial look at characteristics. You’ll want to next compare the stats on these successful “hit” releases with the stats on releases that were not so successful. It’s in that comparison that you will be able to see whether adding special characters, releasing on a certain day etc. has an effect on the release’s visibility. The page views would depend on the company, the headline and that first sentence that is visible to the reader before they commit to click and read the rest.

    • Joseph Miller, EON Product Manager says:

      Thanks for the feedback Kathleen. You bring up good points, but I think it would be an extremely time consuming endeavor to be honest. I will keep it in mind for future blog posts.

  6. Mike Willner says:

    Very helpful post. Thank you. Any chance you can show us those 40 press releases?

    • Joseph Miller, EON Product Manager says:

      Hi Mike,

      I’m glad you enjoyed it. Unfortunately, I cannot share the individual releases. I will keep your feedback in mind for future posts though.

      Joseph

  7. Graham Clark says:

    Joseph,

    Thanks so much for this great information. Following up on Hellena Smejda’s comment, I’d be interested to know how the type of content in these releases affected the number of views. Would it be possible to group the releases into categories, such as “product/service announcement,” “feature,” “event announcement,” “event recap,” etc? Just a thought for consideration.

    Thanks again for sharing your excellent research!

    Graham

    • Joseph Miller, EON Product Manager says:

      Great idea Graham. I haven’t considered it because it would involve a little more judgment on my part in terms of classification, but I bet we could learn something from it.

  8. Great information that I will try in the future. Thank you.

  9. Interesting study. Press release length is not the obstacle it once was apparently — not when the average word count is 642 words as indicated. Maybe the press release is not dead after all.

  10. Jesse Torres says:

    Joseph,
    Great stuff. I’ll try it ASAP.

    I’d like to see a follow up analysis with an entirely new data set in the future to see if these characteristics hold true or if they change.

    Jesse Torres
    President and CEO
    Pan American Bank
    East Los Angeles, CA 90063
    “California’s Oldest Latino-Owned Bank”

    • Joseph Miller, EON Product Manager says:

      Glad you like it Jesse. Your idea for a follow-up is excellent as well. Perhaps it could be an annual post.

  11. [...] BusinessWire, a press release distribution service we at SGC swear by, recently looked into some of their most successful and highly effective press releases to determine what traits they all had across the board. The following are the seven traits BusinessWire found to be necessary for an effective press release: [...]

  12. Great analysis, Joseph. I can’t imagine people reading releases that are over 500 words, though. Are there measurements on how long a release is looked at before the visitor clicks away? Did they simply click a link, see that scroll bar button shrink to nothing, and click away? It’s a hit, but not a successful one.

    • Joseph Miller, EON Product Manager says:

      Well, this blog post was 800 words or so :) You bring up some good metrics that we should look at for future studies. I’ll keep them in mind!

  13. [...] BusinessWire.com: Seven Traits of Highly Effective Press Releases [...]

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