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10 Keys to Ranking on Google & Bing During Breaking News Events [Study]

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A number of key differences in Google and Bing’s search results for breaking or trending news stories reveals strategies for marketers seeking exposure during these events. Inbound marketing software firm Optify recently examined three types of major breaking news events and the resulting opportunities for ranking on Google and Bing.

In their evaluation of worldwide breaking news events, business breaking news, and local breaking news, Optify found that the two major search engines treated results differently based on authority, multimedia elements, and recency.

Google Favors Authority, Bing Prefers Recency

Google and Bing Treat Breaking News Differently

CEO and co-founder Brian Goffman explains, “Google and Bing both react; they create different SERPs for breaking news events. Google tends to prioritize high authority sources, whereas Bing, in comparison, has more recent results, but they’re not necessarily as high authority.” Interestingly, he notes, “MSN is the number #1 news source every time, in our study. This was true in every case; almost a third of the page results were MSN. Google doesn’t change the results as often, but they are emphasizing high authority sites.”

Among the other changes in breaking news stories, the study reports that on both engines, sponsored stories or ads disappear from the results. Goffman speculates that advertisers may not want to be associated with breaking news and gives the example: if you were an airline, would you want your ad appearing next to news about an airplane crash?

Another notable change is the placement of organic listings, which are bumped down the page during breaking news events. Only the first and second organic results appeared above the fold; overall, these types of results are much less prominent during news events.

Finally, multimedia results with images and/or video are featured more prominently in the results for breaking news events.

How Can Marketers Prepare For and Participate In Breaking News Stories?

Normal vs Breaking News Searches

First, said Goffman, there has to be some measurable incentive for appearing in breaking news results.

“It’s important to executive teams that you are able to show some kind of business value out of the additional traffic. The approach is not to just get garbage traffic on terms that don’t convert. Depending on your business model, you have to look at conversion in your own way,” he said. “If you’re creating traffic just to get people to click on ads, it’s not good traffic. You will get penalized by the search engines if you’re just capturing unengaged traffic. It’s up to you to provide a high quality experience for the visitor. Provided you do that, the technique works and there’s nothing wrong with it.”

There are events that are unpredictable – e.g., a tsunami (worldwide breaking news) or the Amanda Knox story (local breaking news in the report). But business events are something you can prepare for, said Goffman Marketers need to anticipate what people will be searching for during business or recurring events, such as trade shows, large acquisitions, or product launches.

In their report, Optify offers 10 Tips for Driving Organic Traffic to your Site During a Breaking News Event. See the full report for an explanation of each tip:

  1. Format: Search engines try to surface multi-format results higher. 
  2. Social sharing: Using your social network and making it easy for people to interact with your content will increase your chances of ranking higher on SERPs. 
  3. Google+: Google will give more weight to content with a lot of +1’s, so it is important that you implement it on your site. 
  4. Freshness, uniqueness and recency: In the case of news event, freshness and recency are a must. 
  5. News category and News XML: You should also submit a news site map to Google so it can discover your content faster and ensure that you get full coverage of your content. 
  6. Optimize, optimize, optimize: Without optimizing your content using the durable elements of SEO, chances are that you will not rank very high. 
  7. Keyword strategy: Develop a keyword strategy by learning how users search for these events. 
  8. Research keywords: Use real-time monitoring tools to learn what resonates and how. 
  9. Use Social Media to drive traffic: The use of social media during breaking news event is becoming essential for marketers and publishers. 
  10. Think like a publisher, act like a marketer: Don’t forget that you are a marketer and ignore online marketing best practices.

“If you’re a marketer, you can participate in breaking news, but the window is smaller both in time constraints and the kinds of content that get in,” said Goffman.

"Google News: Key Ranking Factors [Study]" also covers more aspects of how websites can increase their visibility specifically on Google.

Becoming a Trusted Contact May Be Key to Participating in News Events

Particularly with Google, Goffman notes, unless you’re connected with a high authority news site, your chance of getting much attention is pretty low. He recommends that marketers and publishers aim to become the person high authority news sources call for comment on these events, rather than attempting to become an authority site (which is a tall order when you’re functioning as a business).

“Building relationships over time is critical in connecting with higher authority news sources,” Goffman said. He also offered a few additional pointers:

“Be available; if you’re not available on a consistent basis, they’re not going to call you the next time. Be interesting. This is hard to quantify, but are you willing to go out on a limb? You have to be willing to not be the center of the story. The story is not about you, but you’re a part of it if it’s related to you or your industry. You have to be okay with the story not being about you and willing to comment on these things that aren’t about you.”

Multimedia is critical and can put you ahead of competitors with plain text content, he advises. Creativity is required to insert yourself into breaking business news. Goffman suggests using software to enable trend monitoring, but reinforces the importance of backing up the awareness of recurring and breaking events with business processes to act on them quickly.

Optify is an inbound marketing suite that enables B2B marketers to drive traffic/leads and to track and share results. They primarily focus on SEO and SMM and have a number of other tools in the suite to help nurture, score and convert leads.


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