2010 really looks like the year of location-based social networks, and the news industry seems to agree. The Metro publishing group recently announced a partnership with Foursquare; once a site user says where they are (done via GPS), relevant articles from Metro’s Canadian papers will be pulled into the program, providing site users additional information about the neighborhoods, restaurants and stores near them.
While this move may make some waves for Metro, and may drive some incremental traffic to the Metro group of sites, some may question the move’s overall value for the news company.
Here are three additional ways news organizations — and the business units that support them — can leverage location-based social networks such as Foursquare to make money and drive some incremental traffic:
- Highlight local landmarks, must-dos and other activities in a multimedia tour. Location-based services such as GoWalla and Foursquare were created, essentially, for social urban explorers: people who like to go to new places and tell others about their travels. Local news organizations can encourage their writers to create content about landmarks and partner with advertisers to create promotions and deals for tour goers along the way.
- Drive SEO by encouraging local lifestyle writers to post links to reviews/articles on location pages. While not a location-based social network, Urbanspoon allows bloggers to link their restaurant reviews to restaurant pages through a special embed code. (Example here.) Social media leads at news organizations can encourage restaurant reviewers to post restaurant reviews as “tips” on venue pages, feature writers to link to pieces on local landmarks on those pages, and so on. Then, when site users check in to a certain location, they may click through to the newspaper article pages from the network venue pages.
- Partner with location-based networks to become their sales force. If a local news organization were to show interest in Foursquare, it could become its local sales division, helping draw in new users, new deals and new locations. The quicker Foursquare, GoWalla or MyTown grow, the more likely that site is to become the location-based social network of the future.
- Daniel B. Honigman
How else can mainstream media organizations leverage location-based social networks in a way that makes them money? Please share your thoughts as a comment on this post!
Addendum: Foursquare has announced partnerships with Zagat, Warner Bros., HBO and ExploreChicago. No other news organizations have signed on with the service, but the partnerships, as reported by Mashable, are quite interesting.
February 8th, 2010
This is from a social media newsletter that I send out to the American-Statesman newsroom. You can read previous newsletter entries about audience and responsiveness to the community.
Searching for traffic
Newspaper copy editors spend a lot of time crafting the best headlines for stories, with particular attention focused on the front-page headlines. The reason is obvious: to draw readers into our content. On the Web, writing a good headline is just as important.
Thanks to detailed metrics, we can see exactly what draws people to our content, and we know that search engines bring in a sizable chunk of traffic on newspaper Web sites. Most of that traffic is not coming to the newspapers’ home pages but to individual stories, blog posts, videos and photos.
This search engine traffic is so valuable that there’s an entire industry, search marketing, built around finding ways to drive it. When you search for something on Google, it’s not sheer luck that you can find what you’re looking for – Google takes several things into account before deciding what content to put first. Search marketers work with companies and individuals to help them place better in the search engines.
Although Google’s algorithm for ranking stories is a trade secret, search engine marketers have figured out the major factors that come into play. One of them is including relevant keywords in headlines. When news broke recently in Austin about the local-favorite Cactus Cafe closing, Austin360.com could have written a headline online that said, “Longtime UT music venue to close in August.” Although there’s nothing factually wrong with the headline, it misses out on some keywords that would help people find that story when they search for it on Google, Bing or Yahoo. The headline Austin360 did use was “UT to close Cactus Cafe, end informal classes.” That has all the keywords we’d want: “UT” “close” and “Cactus Cafe.” Thanks in part to that headline, the story appears at the tops of the search engines today.
“When writing headlines, you all are the masters,” said search marketing expert Kate Morris. “I did not major in journalism in school, but many blog writers are told to look at journalists for ideas.”
We’re all headline writers these days, whether you’re writing a headline for your blog, for a photo gallery, a video or a story that’s going on A1.
Morris has this advice for writing headlines:
* Look for a balance between eye-catching and relevance. Don’t worry about trying to pack the headline full of keywords to the point that the headline is awkward, but also try to avoid something that’s clever but lacks any keywords.
* Focus on one topic. Morris says: “Going for “Michael Jackson” isn’t going to get you on the top for his name. But if you go for something like “michael jackson documentary austin show” – that focuses well, but may not have the best traffic. In the end, write for the end user, but keep keywords in the back of your mind.”
* Although we’re not limited in space the way we are in print, if a headline is too long, it might get cut off online in an awkward spot when displayed in search engines.
Link, link, link
Headline writing isn’t the only thing that helps us in rankings. Google’s algorithm also takes linking into account. Generally, more people linking to us helps our search engine “juice.” Linking out, surprisingly, also helps, Morris said.
“Linking out is becoming more important as time progresses,” Morris said. “Think of it as Karma. The search engines have noticed that the sites that link out are more relevant than those that keep traffic to themselves.”
Morris said it’s important to link out only when relevant, though. Don’t add 20 links to one article or blog entry – two or three is fine. A few more than that is OK if they’re relevant. “Ask yourself if you would read the story, if the links are interesting to you. We are all readers.”
We should also link internally, again, when relevant. Linking to one of your own past blog entries or another story on our site is good, but only if it makes sense to do so.
Search engines also look at the tops of storie sand blog posts to find relevant key words to organize and rank content. Morris points out that a good story will already most likely have the top keywords near the top of the story. So burying the lead online can be as much of a problem as burying it in print.
Overall, we’re doing pretty well, Morris said. “You’re more ahead of the game than you know.”
Click here to read a Q&A Old Media New Tricks conducted last year with Morris.
- Robert Quigley
February 2nd, 2010
There are few things that can affect your site’s traffic (in a positive or negative way) as much as whether your material is optimized for search engines. Search Engine Optimization (or SEO) makes good stories rise to the top of Google. Without it, your work can be buried.
Journalists generally are not experts in SEO, so we should turn to people who know what they’re talking about. One of the best, in our opinion, is Kate Morris. Pay attention: What she says can make a big difference for your site.
Please give us a short bio.
I have to talk about myself? Okay, it all started on a windy night … oh, short huh? Well when it comes to internet marketing, I got started as an intern working in paid search for BusinessSuites, a client of my then marketing agency employer. I worked with Apogee search as an intern afterwards and soaked in all I could about SEO. I’ve been in-house in multiple places since then working in general marketing, PPC, and SEO.
Where do you work and what are your official duties?
I have settled as the Director of Client Strategies at New Edge Media, a Dallas SEM agency. It’s here that I get to really focus on SEO, PPC, Social Media, writing and educating/meeting people.
What is search engine optimization?
Search Engine Optimization to me is the science and art of molding a website to entice customers to buy, search engines to index and rank, and partners to engage. It’s a blend of technology and art. Coding on one side and usability on the other. I consider both to be integral parts to SEO.
How did you get into social media? Don’t tell it it’s just because of SEO. (Joke.) Are there any problems with being an SEO expert and trying to do social media?
Well first off, I never consider myself an expert. I rather see myself as a jack-of-all-internet-trades. I think SEO experts in their pure form (technology-based more than marketing) might have a hard time getting into the social media space because it more about marketability rather than technological modifications. What I do believe is that most people who are considered “SEO Experts” are really internet marketing experts at heart and would have no problems moving into social media. Understanding the intent and needs of the end user is the basis of all marketing.
Now, how did I get into Social Media? Being social. (Hey, I didn’t say because of SEO.)
How does Google PageRank work?
First off let me say that people really do need to take PageRank with a grain of salt. PageRank does not indicate how well your site will do in the rankings. Rather it gives you an idea of what Google deems as the importance of your site to their end users. So major sites like Google, Yahoo, The Chicago Tribune, and Austin American-Statesman are highly relevant to a wide base of users. If you are in a niche business, don’t think that having a PR 4 is bad. In a niche, that is actually really good. And in all this remember that what we see (Toolbar PR) can be largely different than the number that Google uses internally.
Let’s talk about link strategies. What are some basic, basic SEO rules of thumb your typical overworked news producer can abide by?
Rule #1 – Use your in-house writers, ask for specific stories.
Rule #2 – Link between properties. You own these high PR sites, use them! But only do it where it makes sense. Otherwise it’s a form of linkspam.
As far as news site structure, which sites have the best SEO consistently?
I am slightly biased, but the Statesman and Tribune do a fantastic job of site structure. I’d love to hear from other properties and why they like theirs better. But really, I am rarely on whole news sites. I rather pick up stories from social sites and gadgets.
Going to blow up your spot a little bit. Not too many folks know about the rel=”nofollow” tags, but it’s one of the most powerful tools in SEO. What is it, and how does it work?
Rel=”nofollow” tags are something that Google started to recognize a few years ago as a way for people to link out to sites but note that they didn’t place any trust in the site, therefore restricting the link juice. This was largely for use with blogs when people left comments and linked back to other sites. Owners couldn’t keep up with how many sites were being linked back to, and this was a way to say “we are not sure what’s there and don’t vote for the relevance to what we are talking to on the referring page.”
It still is used that way to this day, but can also be used — Matt [Cutts] don’t shoot me — to sculpt a site’s navigation. Sometimes there are pages on every website that are not relevant to search results, but are linked to from the most popular page. About Us, Login, and Terms of Service are all examples of pages that people want to see but are not relevant to product searches.
Are there any rules of thumb when it comes to tagging content? In fact, when this interview is posted, how would you tag it?
The tags I would add are: kate morris, seo, social media, nofollow, news, new media, pagerank. I take what I figure people might be searching for and this might help. Kinda like categories, but more keywords.
Tags added, thanks! Any other pointers for our readers?
For those people working in old media I would say use what you have. You have content, relevance, and traffic built in. Those are the top three things that any business online works for. It is what every SEO wants at the start. Old media has that. Use it to it’s full extent, but be smart about it. Don’t let SEO interfere with your writing, but educate your writers. Let them write the content for the readers, and let SEO perfect the code and tags. Blend the two worlds and you will come out on top.
February 9th, 2009