Along with blogging, a well-run news section is a great way of ensuring that a steady stream of new content is added to your website, bringing additional traffic to your site and giving the search engines plenty to crawl. It also shows you to be a source of relevant knowledge, demonstrating your expertise and interest in the area, making it a great way to enhance your brand. The principle is similar to retailers who produce their own free magazines (such as Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Boots) – it’s adding value to their customers, while subtly promoting them as a business.
To clarify, what I’m talking about is a section of your site dedicated to reporting on news stories that are relevant to your industry, as distinct from a section for storing your company press releases (though obviously it’s still good to have a separate page for these, to give journalists a helping hand).
For example, a travel site could have a “Travel News” section that would keep readers informed of things like forthcoming strike action and other things that might affect their travel plans, recent research on travel topics, changes in travel regulations, and so on. It could also report on things that may help encourage bookings, such as the Northern Lights being particularly strong this December.
Some examples of good news sections
In my last post I talked about Skyscanner’s Travel News and Features section as a great example of an engaging news section, with an entertaining mix of travel advice and topical news stories, with the example below being one of their recent stories.
Looking at other sectors, here are some other good examples of the kind of content I’m talking about:
- Harvey Nichols: HN Edit (fashion, beauty and food news)
- Knowthenet: Internet Safety & Security News
- Ecole Chocolat: Chocolate News
- Gramophone: Classical Music News
- Stork Butter: Baking News (see what they did there?)
Blog, news section or both?
A news section is a bit different from a blog, so if you wanted, you could have both without having any overlap of content. While a blog allows a greater degree of informality and a far wider variety of topics and formats, a news section should be more formal and impartial, with no room for the personal opinion of the writer.
Like a blog, adding a news section to your site provides fresh new content on a regular basis, and can be used to report on recent news for your industry, thereby capitalising on traffic for relevant ‘hot topics’. You might even be able to get your news stories featured in Google News, giving you an extra source of traffic.
Sources for news stories
To start with, where are good places to look for breaking news and other hot topics? Here are some suggestions.
- Watch the news! Or listen to it on the radio. You never know when something relevant to your business will crop up.
- Bookmark news sources and check them regularly for new stories; for instance, if you’re a travel site, simply bookmark pages such as the Telegraph, Guardian and Times Travel sections.
- Set up Google Alerts for topics relevant to your industry.
- Conduct your own survey or research and publish the results.
- Include a form on your news page that allows readers to submit news stories for consideration.
- Monitor press releases of companies and organisations relevant to your industry for any new and interesting stories and research results.
If you have any you think should be on this list, let me know and I’ll update this post.
Here’s a summary of what you should and shouldn’t do with your news section.
- Cite your sources.
- Only use sources you know you can trust, and ideally have a back-up source as well.
- If you can, include a quotation from someone involved in the story, such as a witness. This could even be just a tweet from someone. This helps bring your news story to life.
- Proofread and, if necessary, sub-edit your news stories to ensure a uniform style across your stories and high standards of English.
- Get your story up on your website as quickly as possible – this will increase your likelihood of being linked to.
- Promote each news story on Facebook and Twitter with a compelling headline and a link to the story on your site.
- Optimise your headlines and title tags using likely search terms.
- Make it easy for people to share by adding social sharing buttons at the top of each article.
- Submit your news section to Google News – more on this below.
- Post anything you can’t verify as having actually happened.
- Post anything defamatory.
- Use stock photos – these may make readers less trusting of what you say.
- Copy other people’s content – make the effort to tell a story in your own words.
Submitting your site to Google News
If you do your news section well, you may be eligible to be featured in Google’s News results. It goes without saying that you can’t just submit any old site to Google News – Google wouldn’t be Google if it didn’t make things tricky for us, after all! Google offers some guidelines on the standards it expects from sites, with regard to quality and also the technical aspects that make your news stories easier for Google’s algorithm to crawl successfully. These guidelines are summarised below for ease of reference:
- You should offer “timely reporting on matters that are important or interesting to our audience”. Content such as how-to articles, advice columns or things like weather forecasts and stock market data are generally discounted.
- You should adhere to journalistic values – your content should be original and honest.
- Aggregated content should be separated using robots.txt, as only your own original work can be included.
- You should demonstrate authority and expertise.
- You should include information about yourself, which should be clearly accessible, including things like author bio, email address and phone number.
- You should ensure good user experience with high standards of English and minimal adverts and auto-playing videos.
- You should use unique, permanent URLs with at least three digits
- Your articles should be formatted in HTML, not PDF or any other format.
- Make sure you’re not blocking your news section with Robots.txt or metatags.
- Google can’t index audio files or multimedia content, but they can crawl “supplementary text” and some YouTube videos. That means that if you’re going to include an audio clip in your article, you’ll need to include a transcript along with it.
- You should ideally submit a Google News sitemap via Webmaster Tools.
- Your content should comply with Google’s usual webmaster quality guidelines – that means not trying to manipulate Google in any way.
- You should only write about actual news, so your content can’t be commercial. That also means no paid advertorials. If you do have this sort of content, separate it from your main news section.
- Your site should be user friendly, with rapid page load speed, minimal redirects and so on.
- You should ensure that if you do use Google’s own meta tags, such as the news_keywords metatag, you should not abuse them by including irrelevant terms to try and rank for those terms.
As you can see from the guidelines above, the Google News section isn’t suitable for all sites. The guidelines are also a reminder to maintain journalistic integrity and not to use your news section as a further promotional opportunity for your own products or services.
This is the link you need when you’re ready to submit your site.
What to do when a story evolves
One final tip: if you’re covering a story that’s rapidly evolving, keep updating the story on the same URL, rather than creating a new URL/story for each update to the situation. That way, you’ll gain SEO benefit from incoming links to a single strong page, rather than spreading links across several stories.
Hopefully these tips will have inspired you to create an interesting news section on your own site. If you need any further help or advice, do drop me a line.