Make News, Win Links

newspapers-micsNo longer can we get away with creating content. It has to be newsworthy content. It has to be unique (or you’ll find Twitter abuzz with people fussing about how sick they are of seeing x types of posts) and it has to be crafted with your audience and reach in mind.

Newsworthiness isn’t a simple concept though. Almost everyone could give you a different definition of what it means to them.

What defines newsworthy? This really good list sums it up nicely in eight factors:

  • Impact
  • Timeliness
  • Prominence
  • Proximity
  • The Bizarre
  • Conflict
  • Currency
  • Human Interest

Couple these factors with your audience and your social reach and you’re well on your way to understanding how to make newsworthy content work for you.

Your Audience

Your audience is critical when you’re choosing content ideas. If you’ve ever been reading an article and a very offensive or inappropriate ad was displayed near it, you will understand why I say this.

If your goal is to create controversy then fine, but make sure you can deal with annoying people enough that they don’t return.

If your goal is to keep people coming back and invite new readers, you should do some target market research to see what your audience will respond to.

For example, if you ran a site about natural childbirth, an article detailing the benefits of using drugs during delivery probably wouldn’t sit well with your audience. A post where someone details giving birth with drugs, and then later without, would probably do well though. You just need to know how to properly frame your topics for your readers.

Your Social Reach

crowdboosterTools like Crowdbooster can help you measure your reach and find influential followers. If you’re going to need to promote content and you don’t have an epic reach, having a good relationship with someone who does (and is willing to retweet you) is a good way to get more eyes on your site and increase your reach.

The tab listing Influential Followers will give you a better idea of people you should follow back, as they have a good social reach. Making a connection with them will help increase your chances of them retweeting your content and getting it seen by more people.

You should also pay attention to your Top Retweeters and engage with them, since they’re already helping you out.


I like to incorporate non-SEO “tools” into ideas for figuring out what’s popular. Late night TV, weekly radio quiz shows, and almost any form of satire are fantastic ways of keeping up on what’s popular enough to get parodied. The unpopular story doesn’t usually get referenced in these formats.

More traditional tools and methods are listed below.

If You Love Social Media:

  • Twitter: I tend to learn of news on Twitter, which can break some stories faster than many news outlets can publish the information. When Hurricane Sandy was hitting the East Coast, I was glued to Twitter. When the presidential votes were being tallied, I was glued to Twitter.
  • Twitter Trends: This can be seen in various ways depending upon your Twitter platform…but if you’re on the web version like I am, you’ll see a Trends section on the main page, which you can adapt.
  • Facebook News Feed: if you’re addicted to Facebook, you can usually see news-related items quickly when people post about them.
  • Google Trends: There’s so much to look at in Google Trends. You can view the hot trends, search for keywords and see trending information, etc. Just play around with it.

If You’re A News Junkie:

  • CNN News Alerts: I’m sure other news outlets have these, but I use CNN Alerts to deliver breaking news to my iPhone.
  • Twitter Breaking News Alerts: Follow @BreakingNews on Twitter. There’s also a mobile app.

If You’re Old School SEO:

  • Google AdwordsKeyword Tool is fantastic for giving you paid search data on keywords so you can find the most popular variations of your keywords.
  • Bing also has a great keyword research tool.
  • Blekko has a very cool news section that I actually like more than anyone else’s. If you click on More under Search Filters, you see a bunch of other popular hashtags that make searches a bit easier, especially if you’re feeling brain-overload.


One problem with trying to create newsworthy content is that people tend to only think in terms of what’s currently popular. While it’s great to ride the wave of what everyone else is talking about, it can also mean that you’ll be drowning in a sea of posts that all say the same thing.

You need to either find what’s happening and write about it first, take what’s popular and give it a unique twist, or write something that on its own is newsworthy.

How to be the First

Figure out what’s coming up. Ada Lovelace’s birthday, for example, was Dec 10. If you don’t know who she is, she’s credited with being the world’s first programmer.

Birthdays of famous people, especially when they are dead and made a massive contribution to the world, are always good newsy topics. You easily could have planned and created a post to publish at midnight on Dec. 10 about Ada Lovelace.

Find birthdays of people in your industry, make a content calendar, and get something ready to post at midnight of their birthdays. You can do the same with anything that happens on a regular basis, whether it’s seasonal, annual, monthly, etc.

How To Stand Out

Use all the tools I mentioned (and anything else you can find) and put a unique spin on it. When we brainstorm at my company, we go off on tangents that sometimes seem completely irrelevant until I write them all down and look back over them. Sometimes when you’re not trying to be 100 percent logical, you can be creative enough to come up with something really amazing.

Do your research, though. If you’re writing about Ada Lovelace you’ll see that almost anyone writing a new post about her is referencing the Google Doodle done on Dec. 10 in her honor. The whole front page of listings is variations of “Google pays tribute…”

Now, I’ve been a Lovelace fan for ages because of my math background and because she’s Lord Byron’s daughter. Has anyone written a math poem about her in his dark fashion? Not that I can find. And yes, I know that’s a bit of a dorky example.

You can easily use connections to put a spin on anything. Just make sure that everyone else isn’t doing the same thing, so when you do have an idea, search to see if anyone else has said the same thing.

How to Make News

Think about all the things that have gone viral…let’s take Denver the guilty dog as an example. Dog shaming is now a huge hit with many people (sadists). In March 2011, Denver got shamed big time and it was all over the news. His official video is below:

Look at those stats: more than 21 million views. The official Denver Facebook page has over 54,000 likes.

Animals are obviously very easy to promote because they do absurd things and they’re cute as the dickens. I personally am very fond of seeing people fall. That’s just video though and I can’t think of how Denver or a person falling off a diving board would really benefit any business other than a company who made dog-proof snack packages or really sturdy diving boards.

What if you run a local art shop selling works by artists that live in your hometown, and you don’t have a big budget? You could host a small wine and cheese open house once a month for a couple of hours on a Friday evening.

Invite a few business leaders from the area around your shop and ask them if they’d like to host some of your shop’s artworks for a month or so at a time. Create content on your site that showcases each business owner, details about the business, and the artwork featured. Get quotes from the artist and take a photo of the artist standing beside his or her work at the business.

That’s one piece of interesting and newsworthy content for the month, but it could easily be adapted. You could write a post about the business and the artwork, just an overview, and you could then write a post about the business owner, then one about the artist. That’s then three posts a month.

Remember that news is different for everyone. News isn’t just something that will generate 100 million hits on your website; it’s anything interesting and noteworthy. That could be anything from a big sale next week to an introduction to someone investing in your business. It could be a post about your latest employee, or an expose piece on pesticides being used in parks where kids play.

A Couple Of Examples

I regularly read Rolling Stone online so my first example is from a few posts there. Some types of news are always newsworthy as you’ll see below.

  1. The Kill Team is an article about how U.S. soldiers killed Afghani civilians and how the Pentagon tried to censor the images revealed in the investigation. War is always news of course and the spring of 2011 was full of news reports of war. This article was published in March 2011. It has 40,000 likes on Facebook, was tweeted 2,649 times, and has 1,919 comments. It has 21,914 backlinks from 1,375 unique domains.
  2. Another post from March 2011 was about how Jay-Z and Beyonce held an auction to raise money for a school that helped children with learning disabilities. They’re both usually huge news no matter what they do, but this article got 11 likes on Facebook, 24 tweets, and 0 comments. It has 772 backlinks from 86 unique domains. It’s news, but it’s not big news for a site like Rolling Stone.
  3. The trial for Michael Jackson’s doctor got postponed that same month. 0 likes on Facebook, 112 tweets, and 4 comments. There were 906 backlinks from 119 unique domains.

Now, these are three newsworthy articles on a very popular site. However, war is bigger news than celebrity (usually.) Rolling Stone is a site that is mainly concerned with celebrity, yet a post on war gets much more attention in the same month that posts went up with big news about big celebrities.

Secondly let’s look at an SEO industry example to show us that traditional news isn’t always what’s going to be the most newsworthy for the audience. Sometimes it’s going to be the most useful information that isn’t being written, in various voices, all over the place.

  1. When the news broke about Google’s new disavow functionality, Simon Penson wrote a great piece on this site about it and it in October. The post got 500 tweets, 120 likes on FB, 64 G+ shares, and generated 36 comments. It has 286 backlinks from 66 unique domains.
  2. Also in October 2012, there was the big Facebook leak news which Miranda Miller posted about. That post was huge news in our industry too. There were 414 tweets, 152 FB likes, 19 G+ shares, and 9 comments. The post generated 492 backlinks from 88 unique domains. This was big news just like the disavow.
  3. Something that was not giant news was a post about Instagram. Lisa Buyer wrote a fantastic piece about how to use it for visual marketing and even though it wasn’t news per se, it was useful to the target market at Search Engine Watch. That’s real news, in my opinion. Her post had 911 tweets, 205 FB likes, 50 G+ shares, and generated 12 comments. This post generated an amazing 4,816 backlinks from 643 unique domains.

Bottom Line

Newsworthy content isn’t easily defined, as it’s dependent upon your target market, what else is going on when the content is released, how good your promotional efforts are, what your reach is, and what people are looking for that they can’t find somewhere else.

The content getting the most social shares and generating the most links are pieces that stand out for being unique, whether it’s in where they are or what they say. That’s the real key: standing out in a sea of information overload.

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