The future of Local News - A digital-only perspective (Part 2).

Once you have an understanding about what the target market is, which content attracts them to visit your news portal and an understanding about local demographics, the next logical step is to explore strategies to increase the number of the local population who visit your site on a regular basis.


Digital News

To do this, we must look at the following: Content, Multimedia, Guest Posting/Link Building, SEO, Competitions, Offline Ideas, & other miscellaneous ideas.

Content

Write eye-catching articles that are Search Engine friendly - There’s nothing better than an eye-catching article; however the reality of a local news portal is that you are often reporting on events that are not particularly exciting. Content is King however (especially in SEO terms) and there are a few rules that should be strictly adhered to.

The first rule is that the URL of the page contains the article headline.

The second rule is that the actual article not only reads well, it also contains the correct keywords.

Write longer posts - Posts / Articles are not just interesting news stories for people to read, they are also Google food! Generally, the longer an article is the better. This is because it will contain more relevant keywords. Of course, the length of an article is not the only thing to consider with SEO, making sure that the content is unique is also important.

Explore your analytics, find out which is your most popular content and create more of the same - Google Analytics is a valuable tool and someone within the team should be analysing data on a weekly (if not daily) basis. One of the best things Analytics can tell you is what your most popular content is. Once you know this, you then know that writing articles with a similar theme / topic will be a successful strategy.

Multimedia

Use eye-catching photos and graphics to draw attention to your posts - The majority of digital-only local news portals understand the importance of using quality photos, graphics & video; however they miss the opportunity to share this content. The opportunity to share multimedia on specialist websites exists and should be explored. Sites such as Pinterest, Instagram & Slideshare are all excellent ways to drive traffic back to your local news website.

Guest Posting / Link Building

Guest post on other websites & blogs - Guest posting on other websites & blogs is a proven method of getting exposure (traffic) back to your website and for building backlinks to your website. A realistic target would be to guest post to a site or blog of significance on a weekly basis.

Duplicate content on Blogger, Livejournal, Typepad etc. and reference back to your news portal. There are multiple well-visited web portals on the Internet where you can post articles and reference back or link back to your own homepage. Doing this on a regular basis will significantly increase website traffic.

Invite others to guest post / submit a story on your news portal. Promote this via incentives such as a competition. Associations with local secondary schools would be advantageous as would sending invites to local bloggers, secretaries of local clubs etc.

Post helpful information in forums related to your niche and include your website’s URL in your signature - There are multiple forums on the Internet including ones with a local theme. Duplicating existing content and posting this regularly on these forums is another effective method of achieving increased traffic and interest in your news site.

Post articles on HubPages and similar sites - HubPages is an open community of passionate people - writers, explorers, knowledge seekers, conversation starters. Interacting and informing. Sharing words, pictures and videos. Asking questions. Finding answers. It’s a rich and rewarding experience with a unique set of tools and resources to help Hubbers find and build an audience, easily create articles, and earn all sorts of rewards, from accolades to ad revenue. Over 33 million people explore HubPages every month.

Consider allowing others to duplicate/share your articles on EzineArticles.com - A tough ask for publishers because they are usually very protective of their unique content; however, times they are changing and this is a fantastic way to increase links to your website.

SEO

In talking about content marketing and SEO, we are faced with a chicken-and-egg question. Which comes first – a list of keywords that need to be interlaced into text, or a great article that solves users’ problems?

On a local news site, content is determined / driven by local news. Conducting keyword research to find out what is currently a hot topic to write about is not an option.

After your article is written, it’s time to optimise it. It’s really, really difficult to write something when all you can think about is stringing together keywords. It’s better to do the opposite. Keep your proposed keywords in mind, but don’t allow them to dictate what you do. The actual keywords for the article are determined after the article is written.

Once the keywords have been determined, the article can then be altered to ensure that they are contained within the title (& URL) of the article and are repeated frequently (but not too frequently) within the article text and remember from the beginning of this process until the final edit, you write for people. They are your actual readers, not machines. The recommended keyword density is to aim for between 1.5 – 2.5%. This is a ratio of how many times your keywords feature in that page, against the overall content of the page.

Usually there are two distinct News SEO periods: the first 48 hours and the lifetime archive value; however with local news stories, the first 48 hours are not as crucial as they are with Regional, UK or World news.


Digital Marketing

Focus should be on long term Organic Search audience; which requires a solid page title that is both keyword rich and compelling to drive traffic ad infinitum.

Digital has magnified the amount of content that people consume. Today people are just as likely to search and rediscover articles published years ago, as the ones being published today.

A good habit to get into is to repurpose established URLs for reoccurring stories. (The New York Times did a great job of this for recurring stories about ‘Michelle Obama’s dress’) and to continually redirect dated versions of a page or story to the new version.

Throughout the SEO process, you should remember that nowadays; content widely shared on social networks by high-quality influencers holds more sway in how high content appears in search results. Some observers even believe that News organisations should embrace a social-first mindset and worry less about their SEO strategy.

Google changes its search engine’s ranking algorithm over 500 times a year according to Moz but the fact is, most writers and publishers do not need to worry about a majority of the changes and nuances of search engine algorithm updates as long as they have a good grasp of the basics. Modern CMS (such as WordPress) will take care of a lot of HTML and site architecture optimisation for you.

The focus should be on writing high-quality, original content that demonstrates authority and leadership in your niche. Google wins when a searcher wins, and the searcher wins when a page he or she clicks is the best page for the query performed.

Next article - The future of Local News - A digital-only perspective (Part 3).