Too often, the newsroom on a small business website -- if there even is one -- is a graveyard for old press releases. But a dynamic online newsroom can be an effective tool for reaching new and existing customers; helping your business be seen as a leader in its field; enhancing the perception of your company's integrity; increasing traffic to your site; and boosting your search engine rankings, among other benefits.
Here are 10 tips and marketing strategies to help your small business develop and maintain a high-impact, search-engine-optimized newsroom.
1. Make Your Newsroom a Portal for Your Industry
Imperial Sugar Company is a large, Texas-based corporation. Nonetheless, small businesses can learn from its award-winning newsroom.
Rather than serving as a dusty press release archive, the Imperial Sugar Company's newsroom -- created and managed by Emmy-winning CBS news correspondent David E. Henderson and his team at The News Group Net LLC -- serves as a dynamic, frequently updated news portal for the sugar industry.
The newsroom includes a constantly updated news feed about the sugar industry; customer profiles; news stories; articles about partners; photos of employees; links for Twitter, Flickr and RSS feeds.
With its newsroom, Imperial Sugar Company is engaging in "a new kind of brand management," Henderson said. "It's not about pushing out content, it's about engaging with your customers and your industry, building trust and demonstrating integrity in the way you do business."
Among other benefits, the Imperial Sugar Company newsroom receives a great deal more traffic than the main Imperial Sugar website. In addition, the news room's content has earned about four times as many links from external web pages, compared to the main Imperial Sugar Company site.
That's important because keyword-rich links from external Web pages are the most important search engine ranking factor, according to SEOmoz. The more links your content has, and the more authoritative the sites are that link to you, the higher your content can rank in relevant search queries. For more about links and search engine optimization, see SEO Tips for Small Business: How to Get Good Links.
2. Create Link-worthy Content
Linkbait, as it's sometimes called, is web content that is so informative, useful, entertaining or otherwise compelling that readers will want to link to it from their blogs, articles, or other web pages. Given the importance of links for small business SEO, creating link-worthy content can help boost your search engine rankings. Plus, writing useful articles for your customers helps build loyalty, trust and repeat visits.
3. Hire a Freelance Journalist
It's an unfortunate reality that many fine print journalists are getting squeezed out of their jobs. To help you create content for your newsroom, then, consider hiring an experienced journalist on a freelance basis, especially one who knows your industry. The journalist can write stories of interest to your customers and industry, such as customer success stories, articles offering practical tips from your company, and Q&As with well-known thought leaders in your industry.
4. Add an Industry News Feed
A frequently updated news feed about your industry can help draw repeat visitors to your newsroom. Some news feed services are free, such as TickerMyFeed.com. EIN Newsfeed Maker, which gives you more options than most free services, charges $100 per month but offers discounts for six months or a year of service. (The Imperial Sugar Company newsroom uses EIN Newsfeed Maker.)
5. Make Your Facebook, Twitter and RSS Feeds Easily Accessible
An online newsroom landing page is a great place to showcase your Facebook status updates and tweets. Also, make it easy for newsroom visitors to get alerts via RSS feeds whenever you post new content. Google's Feedburner is a popular, free RSS tool. And give newsroom visitors easy options for sharing your content via Facebook, Twitter, Google Buzz and other social networks.
6. Showcase Your Latest Blog Posts
Along with your social media updates, make sure your latest blog posts appear on your newsroom landing page. This will help increase your blog's readership.
7. Use WordPress
WordPress has grown from a blogging service into a content management system that many large and small publishers use. The free software is open source, so there are thousands of useful free and low-cost plugins.
Though initial set-up can be tricky for less experienced users, a WordPress site is easy to update. In addition, WordPress offers lots of SEO advantages, and the All in One SEO Pack is among the most popular plug-ins.
You'll need a Web hosting service to host your WordPress site. Bluehost, the top hosting provider recommended by WordPress.org, charges $7 a month for Web hosting.
For more information, read Small Business Web Tools: Help with WordPress Blogs.
8. Don't Forget the Press Releases
While some companies write news articles or blog posts instead of press releases, the press release still serves valuable functions, especially when it comes to SEO.
"Online press releases are a fantastic way of generating targeted traffic," particularly when the releases are search engine optimized, said Thomas W. Petty, CEO of the Bay Area Search Engine Academy, which offers search engine optimization workshops.
"By applying standard search engine optimization techniques to the news releases, you can usually dominate the search engines for extremely competitive search phrases, in just a few hours, at least for a short while," Petty said.
"Also, your releases get duplicated over hundreds or even thousands of other websites automatically through syndication. This gives you lots of opportunities for your content to be seen. It's critical to always include one or more keyword-rich links back to your website, too," Petty added.
In addition, visual elements such as video are a proven way to increase readership of your press releases. Videos embedded in a press release don't have to be yours; it's easy to embed clips from YouTube. But they do need to be relevant and help highlight the points your press release makes.
For more tips, read Small Business SEO: How to Optimize Press Releases and Petty's blog post Search Engine Optimized Press Releases: Lots of Benefits!
9. Add Keyword-rich Descriptions to Image Alt Text in Online Photos
More search engine users use image searches these days, and Google recently made major improvements to its image search experience. If you post photos of company executives, products or other images to your online newsroom (or anywhere on your site), make sure to add a keyword-rich description to each image's alt text.
Alt text describes an image to those with visual disabilities, among its other purposes. Search engines take into account the alt text of images on a page when determining how relevant that page is to a keyword query. Alt text isn't as important in search engine ranking as the keywords in a Web page's title, but it's still a useful tool for SEO.
10. Track Your Newsroom Traffic
If you haven't already done so, you should set up Google Analytics for your newsroom and/or your entire site. Google Analytics is a free tool that helps you see where your site traffic comes from, how long visitors stay, and much more. You can also use free tools like Yahoo! Site Explorer to discover external Web pages that are linking to your content.
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