Finding a genuine "scoop" of a story can be SEO gold. It can whizz round the internet gathering links as it goes. However when you have a story that is a little "too hot to handle" you need to careful how you manage it.
Recent events would make you believe that the traditional print media is a bit too cosy with the establishment and that if you want to publish a controversial article which will turn into juicy SEO link bait then the online world is for you.
However, my experience shows this is not necessarily the case and that if you have news which is “too hot to handle” then Google News might be your best bet.
Cutting a long story short, when HTC returned my phone to me there was a URL on the packing slip which showed my personal details including name, address, phone IMEI number and phone serial number.
If you changed the number in the URL then you could see other HTC users’ details. The length of the URL suggested 25m records online. Wow! I could publish the story on our site and the links would come pouring in? SEO gold?
The slight fly in the cyber-ointment was that before I broke the story I had to tell HTC so that they could fix the URL. Obviously I didn’t want to facilitate the mass download of people’s private data.
HTC’s PR department didn’t seem too concerned, saying that tech sites wouldn’t run the story because they wouldn’t want to damage their reputation with HTC. I thought this was a hollow statement as surely online tech sites provide tech news free of external influence? How naive I was...
News distribution agencies ran a mile.....
HTC fixed the error and I ran the story. I wanted to use a news distribution agency to get the story out. Reuters listed PRnewswire, Business wire and Globenewswire as their trusted sources.
I spoke first to PRnewswire who said that even if the story was true they didn’t want to run it. I had all the necessary screenshots and pointed out that the truth was a defence to a libel law suit.
They said “PR Newswire as a business has decided not to distribute your story for our own self-protection as a publisher”.
Would Reuters be happy if it knew that one of its news agencies was censoring news? Never mind there were the other news distribution agencies, so I then tried Business Wire.
After a few hours the answer came back that they couldn’t run the story. One source told me that the bosses didn’t want to run it because he thought that they had a good relationship with HTC’s PR firm.
Globenewswire was next and the same thing. I loaded up the story, initial interest and then complete silence. No-one was interested in potentially millions of mobile phone records being available online?
Google News to the rescue...
So who ended up running the story? Google News. Within seconds of putting it in our blog it was up there for the world to see. Thank goodness there is an online service that is willing to walk where others dare not tread.
My advice when trying to maximise the SEO benefit of a Google News release is to think about the big, generic keywords that journalists may have signed up to receive alerts on.
Also the fact that Google News stories only appear in the news results for a limited time means it's unlikely you will pick up much long tail traffic. It's those big terms that are going to deliver meaningful traffic over a limited period of time.
Further advice for anyone trying to maximise the SEO impact from a good story:
- Plan every step of how you are going to handle the release and plan your reaction to how the various parties might respond. You don’t really have much time to think much on your feet when the story goes live.
- Make sure that by making the release you are not compromising people’s security/privacy etc.. otherwise the story will backfire on you.
- If you have to pre-warn the company that is subject to the story, try not to involve their PR people as they will start to put pressure on publishers.
- Speak to publishing websites in advance of running the story but on a no names basis to start with. Find the sites that seem to be most interested and release the story to them first.
- Have cast iron proof that your story is true. Take screenshots, record interviews with people involved etc.. In the UK you can run any story you want without fear of being sued for defamation as long as it’s true.
- Make sure that you have a Google News account as a backup in case the news agencies find the story a bit too hot to handle.
- Have a well optimised page on your website ready for the story to be hosted on and for people to link to. Also optimise the press release you are going to send out. Think URL structure, keyword density, anchor text and the suchlike.
All you need to do now is to find someone who can help with that all important scoop. Now, where did I leave that News of the World journalist’s number......