Five easy things journalists can do to help their web sites

Hey, Mr. Reporter, you like your job, right?

You do realize, don’t you, that its advertising that pays your salary, right?

And newspaper advertising is getting hammered.

Online news sites, however, well, there is some revenue growth and opportunity there, isn’t there? It’s just not enough, necessarily, to save your job … yet.

What if you could help online revenue grow?

No, I don’t mean you should go out and sell advertising. What I mean is you should help your web site get more traffic.

If your revenue is based on CPM or CPC models, traffic equals revenue.

There are at least five simple things (and none of them require a huge time commitment once started) you can do to help your site grow traffic. All of them are ethical, both from an SEO perspective and an SPJ perspective.

  1. Start a blog. Yeah, I know, I’m always saying journalists should start a blog (interestingly, 27 percent of them have), but this time the advice isn’t about doing something to learn web culture, it’s to help your site’s SEO. To be useful, your blog can’t just be a link farm to your site. You need to do real blogging, the kind of blogging other bloggers will link to, so you build good SEO credibility. When you do, you can use your blog to deep link to your own stories and to your favorite stories of your colleagues. Google loves blogs. Blogging is great SEO.
  2. Join social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. Now, you should NOT just throw up a link to every story you do — only your best stuff. You should build a network and use that network to drive traffic to your best work. Nick Belardes at KERO in Bakersfield uses MySpace a lot to promote his work.
  3. Use social bookmarking tools such as and reddit. Bookmark interesting things you find on the web for your own benefit, but also bookmark your best stories. With proper tagging, others will find your links.
  4. Get into Digg and/or Mixx, or similar sites. To be effective, you have to Digg more than your own work. You need to find good stuff on the web, Digg it, and build a reputation for finding good stuff. You should also Digg your best stuff. Digg, especially, has powerful SEO juice, so even one Digg can help your story get more traffic.
  5. Make vlogs about your best stories and upload them to YouTube and other social video sites. You don’t need to make fancy productions. You just need a web cam and something to say — if you have a Macbook, for example, you can shoot your video with Quick Capture with no software or extra equipment and upload it to YouTube quickly and easily. A good title and keywords, and you’re giving your story some good SEO.

These SEO ideas are just a few of the things every reporter could do to help his or her site grow traffic, and thereby help the site grow revenue. Imagine if half the people in your newsroom cared deeply enough about their jobs to get this involved, what it would mean for traffic and revenue?

This post inspired by the SMARTS marketing video.

10 thoughts on “Five easy things journalists can do to help their web sites

  1. so, if i get it right, you are saying clog the “airways” hoping for a notice, and everybody should do that…

    there is only so much time and attention to go around, it’s nearly fixed, and it ain’t volume that is going to get people to drop one view through the slot so that they will pick you…

    quality is the only way…. i hate advertising, mopst is low quality crap demanding my attention, the same is true for “journalism”, a sick profession if there ever was one, given the emphasis on brittney, sport politics, etc…

    i can create my own reality, and would happily trade n number of jounralists for a bit more freedom from advertising

    you are merely an advocate for the lowest common denominator… you will be on about page 1000 of digg…

    enjoy, gregory

  2. Obviously, you didn’t watch the video … if you had, then you would understand why your last statement is meaningless.

    And what I’m talking about is saving journalism jobs. Bottom line.

  3. Howard:

    You’re spot on. And contrary to what Gregory says (I do understand his point about noise and congestion) journalists need to be a part of the overall web conversation. If someone has great content, but no one finds that content … it’s the proverbial tree falling in the woods. That extra time each day submitting to Digg, Mixx, StumbleUpon, etc … WILL generate extra traffic. And when those extra visitors find your content – if the content is good enough – they’ll come back.

    In this fast evolving, disruptive digital age we’re in, you need to fight for every reader. Or get run over by those who are.

  4. Thanks, Jeff. I’ve written quite about why it’s important to be part of the conversation. That seems to fall largely on apathetic ears.

    I guess my big question for anybody who doesn’t want to promote a few links to their work: What, you don’t want people reading your best stories?

  5. I think you make some great points in terms of boosting the organic SEO for newspaper content. All of the social network techniques do work quite well in my experience.

    I would also encourage reporters to start conversations with the folks putting their stories into the CMS. They need to be linking to other content within their story.

    When I was editor of an online-only news site at UA, we used to tell student contributors their stories would not go online until the appropriate links were gathered and embedded.

    This should be a no-brainer, but then again promoting your stories online should be as well.

  6. Excellent post. I agree with everything – except Digg. I have been a long time proponent of Digg – I’ve used the site enough to even become a “top digger” – but more and more I find it’s a social media circle-jerk. The amount of time that is required to really benefit from Digg is not worth it. Not to mention the quality is going downhill. I’m not sure how I feel about Mixx yet – at the very least it is a much faster site.

    What I’d say: Find a social news site that fits your niche – there are LOTS to choose from: Mixx, Propeller, NewsTrust, Reddit, newsvine, Furl, etc etc (disclosure I work for Propeller and NewsTrust). The point is: Don’t just join digg and except traffic to come out of nowhere – it’s better to find a small social bookmarking community and make your mark there.

  7. Here’s another: Tell family and friends how to find their articles online. “First, go to the search bar. Then, type in my name. Put quotes around it. Click ‘search.'” …

  8. Watch little kids play soccer. They all chase the ball. Watch pros play soccer and everyone stays in position. Watch amateurs play soccer and they maintain position until the going gets tough – then they panic and play like little children.

    Is there not some hint of panic in this cry of “all hands on deck”? Doesn’t it sound a bit like “everyone chase the ball”?

  9. Devil’s advocate from the business side…
    Much of what is discussed in this post is about bringing out-of-network traffic (ie: non-local users) onto a local site for added reach. My sites have experienced the Digg/link-induced traffic and the vast majority are not local users. The problem is, the high CPM ads have to be sold to local advertisers. This is not beneficial traffic to them and therefore a not a sustainable revenue model for newspapers.

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