SEO News: Essential lessons small businesses must learn from big newspapers

Online newspapers are on the cutting edge of SEO. Here are the things you need to do too.

In an age where newspapers are making less and less money from selling printed news, they are having to find ways to do business online. Essentially, they are trying to find ways to make money from creating and sharing content and they know that an essential part of doing this online is SEO. In case you haven’t heard, these are the sorts of things that even a sole trader should be keeping on top of when marketing a small business. So maybe there are a few things we can learn from the big name newspapers that are straddling both digital and print media.

Natural language search

People ask Google questions. They ask Google as if it were an intelligent person (albeit often in a rather rude manner). More and more people are searching using phrases like “coffee shops near me” or “what is speciality coffee?”. This is a surprising shift away from the more technical, pre-meditated search queries that you would have needed to find what you were looking for in the late 90’s so really it’s testament to how far the invisible technology that powers Google has come along.

In addition to this, it’s now easier than ever to ask Google out loud. Hardware and voice analysis has come on a long way and it’s now almost not embarrassing at all to ask your phone for directions as if you’re tentatively asking for directions to the nearest pub in a non english speaking country.

The Telegraph: “What time is kickoff?”

The guys in The Telegraph’s football department realised that people would frequently search Google for the time a match started. So they started using this question as the title for their pre-match pieces. If Google thinks that a page from a high authority site is going to be highly relevant to a question it’s likely to rank highly. And if your site is top of the list for such a query you’re likely to get people visiting. This can be a great way to attract new visitors to the site.

The Guardian: “You asked Google – here’s the answer”

This series by the Guardian is a genius tactic. By providing comprehensive answers to some of the most frequently searched questions, The Guardian are positioning themselves as the answer to all your questions. And if Google determines the answers you provide to be good ones, this is not only going to reach a huge audience, but likely to increase the authority of your website across the board.

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Life’s important questions, answered.

Speed matters

The news keeps getting faster and faster. Once a day is no longer enough in the news publishing industry. Being the first to get an article up on a matter, regardless of depth (or in some cases accuracy) of information is key. We’re not saying your local business has to keep on top of to-the-minute live updates, but you do need to be posting as often as you can. If you haven’t added any new content to your site for a few years, what are the chances someone else has written something more recently? Google certainly likes to post stuff that’s recent, partly because it will be the most up to date.

Newspapers have been known to employ a range of tactics to try and achieve this. Often both win and loose articles are written in the build up to a big outcome, be it a football match, electoral result or court decision. This means they have a fully written piece ready to go the second the outcome is known. We know this happens because occasionally the wrong version of events gets published. Ever wondered why a “why the person got kicked off that show” the second the show has finished airing only the person didn’t get kicked off the show? It’s because newspapers hedge their bets. Some newspapers have been accused of being even more sneaky, at a recent SEO conference we were told by a senior newspaper SEO that they visited an unnamed German publication only to find an intern sitting in the corner updating the publication time of a piece every minute – so that it was always published just a minute a go.

You may not need to go to such extreme measure as pre-emptively writing article for every possible eventuality, but things up to date and posting regularly are simply essential for strong SEO.

Keep on top of changes by Google

We recently heard a talk by the head SEO honcho at The Telegraph. It sounds like half of his job is trying to work out what Google are going to do next. Google is always changing how it present information. For newspapers the next challenge is working out how to get featured in the “extract” boxes at the top of the page. Local businesses should be aware of the “map pack” which selects what Google thinks are the best 3 maps listings for a search, and these trump even the very top organic website result. What does this mean for your SEO? As usual, it means there is no one single thing you can do to guarantee results. Having a strong map listing, fully filled out with good reviews and linked to a strongly performing is the best way to get featured in the map pack.

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When you hit enter on this autocomplete search term you can’t even see a website above the fold.

Content is king

This should certainly be the takeaway from this piece. Ultimately what to newspapers create? Content. And that’s what Google is trying to provide to it’s many eager searchers. This may not be such a revolutionary tactic in 2017 but it should still be the lynchpin of any SEO campaign. Building and sharing lots of high quality content on a frequent basis is essential for high rankings performance.

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