CASE STUDY: Southwest Airlines

SEO-PR and Southwest Airlines won the 2005 Golden Ruler Award for Excellence in Public Relations Measurement and Evaluation for linking optimized press releases to sales.

This success story, “,” continues to be one of the top stories that gets told and retold by anyone seriously interested in press release optimization.

One of the reasons why this customer success story is still being used as a “wake-up call” for public relations agencies and departments is the fact that no one has topped it. Since February 2004, Southwest Airlines has used optimized press releases to sell more than $3 million in tickets. Another reason why the Southwest Airlines case study seems to have “legs” is the fact that it keeps getting better each time it gets retold. The data just keeps getting updated. One can get a sense of its momentum by looking at the titles of the earlier versions of this success story.

On April 6, 2004, SEO-PR wrote the first iteration of the Southwest Airlines case study for KDPaine’s Measurement Standard. The title was, “You Are Now Free to Link PR and Sales: How Southwest Airlines sold $42,000 in tickets with one press release.”

The press release in question had hit the wires on February 12, 2004, with a headline that read, “Southwest Airlines Offers Low Fares to Philadelphia; Airfare to Philadelphia as Low as $29 to $99 One-Way.” It included a unique URL in the release that offered further information and linked consumers to the point-of-sale. This link provided a means for tracking sales directly attributable to the press release.

On June 15, 2004, Angela Vargo of Southwest Airlines and Greg Jarboe of SEO-PR co-presented an updated version of the case study at the Internet Planet conference in New York. The title of their presentation was, “Innovative Marketing: What’s Working for Southwest Airlines.” They reported that the optimized press release for the Philadelphia launch had now generated more than $80,000 in ticket sales.

On September 22, 2004, Angela and Greg co-presented an updated and expanded version of the success story at The Measurement Summit conference in New Hampshire. Their new title was, “Turning Press Releases into Ticket Sales – Measuring Results that Really Matter.” In addition to retelling the Philadelphia story, they also shared two new ones. An optimized press release entitled, “Southwest Airlines Spanish-Speaking Customers Can Now Make Their Online Flight Reservations in Spanish at,” had generated $38,000 in ticket sales. Another optimized press release entitled, “Southwest Airlines Treats Customers to 22 New Daily Nonstop Flights with Low Fares Starting at $29 One-Way,” had generated more than $1 million in ticket sales.

On October 27, 2004, MarketingSherpa published yet another updated version of the Southwest Airlines success story. The headline read, “How Southwest Airlines sold $1.5 million in tickets by posting four press releases online.”

On November 6, 2004, Linda Rutherford, the Director of PR for Southwest Airlines, did a PR News webinar about measurement with Katie Paine. Linda reported, “To date, Southwest PR has generated more than $1.9 million in sales from news releases.”

In late May 2005, Greg wrote an article for DM News that was published on July 25, 2005. It was entitled, “Savvy marketers are using press release optimization to increase web traffic, internet leads and online sales.” One of the examples that he gave was Southwest Airlines, which had tracked $2.3 million in ticket sales back to unique links in a series of optimized press releases distributed since February 2004.

In October 2005, Institute for Public Relations offered congratulations to Southwest Airlines and SEO-PR for winning the 2005 Golden Ruler of Measurement. According to David Michaelson, Chair of the Golden Ruler Award Committee, the case history was selected because it provides “a solid example of using new media and new techniques to tie public relations to sales.”

The Golden Ruler Awards Committee also requested that a detailed case history of the submission. SEO-PR and Southwest Airlines got to tell the success story again. At the time of its writing, more than $2.5 million in airline tickets had been sold. The success story can be found at

As of late 2005, Southwest Airlines had used optimized press releases to sell over $3 million in tickets. This is a customer success story that gets better and better every time it is retold.


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