In recent weeks we have witnessed two overwhelming waves of news I’d like to call ‘news tsunamis‘. Like real tsunamis you have no choice, you can’t escape the news when you are in the nearby area. For this kind of news the whole planet is nearby.
Maybe some tribes in the Amazon jungle or a few monks in the Himalayas haven’t noticed the death of Osama Bin Laden and the royal wedding, but apart from those lucky few, we have all been drowned in these news waves.
While I was unable to escape the news, no matter how much I tried, I at least tried to reroute the hype induced into something useful: SEO.
My first urge was to catch up quickly and take advantage of the huge waves of traffic.
Instead, I decided to watch the waves of news and to follow the steps of others who have tried to use the energy of these waves to power their websites. Why? It doesn’t make much sense to get huge news traffic without planning what to do with it.
I could have written this a few days later to get some traffic from Google News users; I did it back when the swine flu craze was all over the Interwebs. That’s a bit short-sighted of course. Back then I wanted to inform people. Today I want to be more practical, in a way. You can’t inform the people in a meaningful way anyway; people want to believe the likes of
So telling them that the swine flu vaccine might be potentially more harmful than the virus itself is futile in most cases. You can’t tell people that what they believe is wrong. You can only give them what they want to succeed, also financially.
A true SEO is always on the look out for opportunity in the attention economy.
The more attention, the more potential bounty. A huge attention wave propelled by a massive news story is an opportunity you can use.
Many people already monitor Google Hot Trends to react accordingly. In the case of a ‘news tsunami’ you don’t have to. Either you expect it beforehand and are prepared, or you watch where the attention and traffic goes.
I want point out two less obvious examples of recent ‘news tsunamis’, as you can’t rank quickly or at all for [osama bin laden] and [royal wedding] as keyphrases. I’d like to point out two examples of less importance but more opportunity.
What you can do is watch out for unexpected aspects and the ensuing demand. In the case of the royal wedding it was Pippa Middleton, the sister and bridesmaid of the royal bride.
When it comes it Osama bin Laden’s death it is the town he was hiding in, and thus the search for [map abbottabad]. It seems that nobody in the West besides the intelligence agencies had ever heard of it prior to this infamous event.
While the first SEO’ed result for [map abbottabad] is like an unintended parody, it shows “the nearest hotels” being 100 or more kilometers from the actual city, while Pakistan’s capital is just 60 kilometers away. Apparently the site has been there since before the city became famous for 15 minutes.
On the other hand there are four impressive sites for Pippa Middleton which we can learn a lot from.
Surprisingly the first one in this list ranks at #2 in the UK, Ireland and Canada for [pippa middleton], just below Wikipedia and Universal Search results (news and images). The .co.uk and the .net domains rank somewhere in the top 30 right now, but I’ve seen the co.uk in the top 10 at #9 or 10 for a while.
Of course there is fierce competition right now when it comes to search results for her name; mostly mainstream media from all over the world is clogging up the top results. So anybody ranking there fast on a low budget with a new site is worth a look. How did they achieve this? Let’s look at what the sites have in common.
All in all, this appears to be proof that the use of old SEO tactics is still working. When I started out in SEO in 2005, I took part in an SEO contest to find out what the best SEO techniques were. Surprise surprise, back then the same strategy worked out best: using a WordPress blog on a keyword matching domain with just sufficient content to be relevant and quite a few keyword mentions.
Another key component has been neglected in this post until now: link building. I took a closer look at the winner, pippasass.com, to find out how they did it. The answer is reciprocal links! A blog covering celebrity bums daily linked to it, embedding the actual RSS feed the last 5 posts). After that some press outlets (not only tabloids) linked to, one from the US, one from France and one from the UK: The Independent.
So a healthy mix of reciprocal and authority links has been key to achieving top rankings, as the site wasn’t on top just a few days ago when I first checked. The reciprocal links were enough to get noticed for a more targeted search, where the journalists apparently discovered the site and then linked it up to #2 for the main keyphrase, the actual name.
The WordPress sites get monetised via all kinds of ads, PPC, affiliate or even a shop with T-shirts, so there are always ways to earn money on a traffic wave.
How can you monetise a map? Either you sell maps, get commission from hotels or place ads as well. So even the other example could be profitable. Both examples are not really what you would work at out of sheer interest. These are sites you create for profit. The mainstream media knows as well; thus they have ads below the map. For instance, they sell flights to Pakistan in their ads.
So the business of news is ultimately that of predefined views and for SEO of page views. It’s not about what is most important but what the people want. Once you notice the wave and how to use it, you have to act accordingly and quickly. Don’t fight the current or you drown.