Are news sites doomed?
News websites have taken a serious hit from Google and Facebook, leading many to think that these kinds of sites simply won’t work in the future.
But that’s not the case. News websites can still thrive, but only if they follow a very specific strategy.
As search giants like Google and Facebook continue to send less and less traffic to news sites, marketers need to adopt a strategy that will keep the category from becoming obsolete.
1. News Sites Need to Build Their Own Audiences
This is a critical step for news sites that wish to continue to perform well in the search rankings.
While digital marketing efforts like SEO, social media involvement, etc. remain important, news sites need to make a concentrated effort to build their own audience.
So, how do you they do that?
First, build their own advertising audience.
This will enable you to build an audience separate from organic traffic through strategic ad placements, which will, in turn, send traffic back to your website.
2. Send Push Notifications
Push notifications aren’t suited for every industry. But for news sites, they can work wonders.
These tiny messages that pop up on mobile devices are a great way to keep your audience coming back to your site on a consistent basis.
Keep in mind, push notifications are used to capture returning users. To send them notifications, you’ll first need to get them to your site and collect their contact information.
For more on push notifications and how to grow your user base, read my guide here.
3. News Sites Need to Invest in Social Communities
Staying on top of the social scene is crucial for news sites who want to remain relevant.
That means participating in (or starting your own!) Facebook groups, Twitter Chats, LinkedIn Groups, Facebook Pages, and so on.
Being active in social media will allow you to build up communities and actively participate in conversations with your target audience. The more you interact and share relevant, timely information, the more your audience will trust you and come to see you as a reliable source of information.
You won’t need users to find you in the top page of Google; instead, you’ll have dedicated users seeking your site out specifically.
4. Get Inside of Google Discover
Google Discover has taken off – majorly.
The platform now has millions of users, and it’s growing every day.
Google Discover is Google’s answer to social media feeds, showing users an updated stream of content from sites they’ve shown interest in or may be interested in based on their browsing history.
I’ve seen news sites in Google Discover get hundreds of thousands of visitors a month just from the platform, making it one of the most effective ways for news sites to get reliable traffic.
Getting into Discover is a little different from your search results. To land a spot, you’ll need a good mix of community engagement, a quality mix of content (with an emphasis on images and videos), and a clear focus on building a strong, reputable brand.
For more on Google Discover and how you can break into it, check out my full article here.
6. No-Click Optimization in Google
No-click search results have taken your search results pages by storm.
For reference, no-click refers to any result that appears that don’t require a click.
These are typically your Knowledge Graphs, Local Packs, Featurend Snippets, etc. that display an answer or information regarding your query. Because the query is answered on the search results page, there’s often little reason for users to click through to a website.
While this means you may not necessarily get a website visitor, it’s still a great place for users to surface your content.
Optimizing for no-click results is similar to optimizing for the featured snippet position, meaning you’ll want to frame your content around quick answers to your audience’s most commonly asked questions.
For more on how to optimize for no-click search results, check out my full article.
6. News Sites Need to Run Ads
If you write a great piece of content that has the potential to be a big hit with your audience, you need to be advertising it.
Let’s face it: content is expensive. Why not take some of that expense and budget it towards advertising? Doing so will get a lot more eyes on your content, and ultimately, more traffic to that page.
Say you have thirty days worth of articles written. Choose the best five and advertising all around the web.
7. Ramp Up Your Content Production
The rules are pretty simple here: the more content you produce, the more traffic you’ll get.
And as a news site, your content is your bread and butter. Make sure you’re continuously producing high-quality content, and Google will take notice.
Take, for example, a site like Buzzfeed. They produce thousands of articles per month, and I don’t think I need to tell you that their traffic has remained pretty steady.
Now, that doesn’t mean you have to produce at that volume, but it does mean that you need to scale your content into different verticles and continue to build up your content hubs.
8. Create an Evergreen Content Strategy
Though volume is important, it’s not all about volume.
It’s important that news sites are able to identify their top one to two hundred pages where you need evergreen content that will rank in Google for your top terms.
For reference, evergreen content is content that stays relevant. Though a lot of news sites are focused on the latest story and breaking news in an industry, it’s crucial that you also have content built out around your main topic pillars.
9. News Sites Should Create an App
“There’s an app for that” may well be the catchphrase of the last few years, and if you don’t have one, it’s time you created your own.
An app provides a go-to source of information on a user’s mobile device. They won’t need to search through the internet to find what they’re looking for; they already have the app in their hand.
But this goes beyond app creation. Once you have that app, you need to market the heck out of it.
Include the download link on your website, email communications, and send it out through social media.
But don’t stop there. Advertise your app as well.
Recently, I worked with a client to build up their app users and ended up getting over 50,000 downloads a month.
That’s an incredible amount of users, and building up your app community will make it so that you don’t have to rely on Google and its search results to remain relevant.
10. Invest in Email Marketing
Email is still incredibly important and can be used in many ways to increase your website traffic.
Not only do you want to consistently send out your new or breaking stories, but you should be investing in email automations.
As a news site, you likely have a ton of content. One of the best ways to repurpose that content is through email.
For example, if you an entire content niche dedicated to “true crime,” you could create an opt-in for visitors that would allow you to send them a series of 50 or 100 articles related to the subject. This will keep them coming back to your site for the duration of the email series (and hopefully, long after that!)
11. Run Contests on a Consistent Basis
People are suckers for contests. They almost always produce high engagement rates, and even have the potential to go viral.
As such, they should be done on a consistent basis.
The topics can be based on anything related to your site – “Biggest Story of the Year,” “Most Shocking Reveal,” “Favorite Celeberity”, etc., depending on the kind of niche and audience you serve.
12. Create Buzz
Outside of contests, it’s also a great idea to do PR stunts, run industry studies, anything that can create a buzz.
As an online news site, creating buzz around your stories is one of the most important ways to secure views and traffic.
Of course, you never want to go over the top and do anything that will damage the credibility of your brand.
But generally speaking, creating infographics and PR stunts with the potential to go viral will help your cause. Industry studies are great for this as well.
Think about your major topic areas and how you could create a study around them. Let’s go back to “true crime.” People are loving that genre right now. But why? Why has it taken off over the past year?
Think about framing it as a study, and posing questions that hint at people’s motivations and fascination with the niche.
The great thing about studies and viral content is that it will get picked up in other news sites and publications around the web, which will send more traffic back to your site.
13. Don’t Rely Solely on Advertising
Advertising, as evidenced above, is far from the only way to get more traffic you site.
Yet still, many news sites have turned solely to advertising as their search traffic has dropped.
While it’s a great way to get more traffic initially, it’s not a great strategy for the long haul.
Instead, think about things like product or service tie-ins. What’s a high-ticket item you can attach to your content that will actually make you money?
Wrapping Up Online News Sites SEO
Long story short: online news sites are not doomed. But they do need to evolve.
By implementing the strategies above, news sites can continue to stay relevant – both to their audience and the search engines.