“Newsjacking” can be an extremely effective search engine optimization (SEO) tactic – it’s a technique that allows you to insert your own content into the news cycle.
Ideally you will choose emerging, trending topics to comment on where journalists and other commentators are eager to insert their own two cents. If all goes to plan, your story will show up near the top of the search pile, leading to inbound links, quoting and sharing from quality sources. Over time, your site will build authority as a news-breaking authority or a go-to for commentary according to your specialist lens.
The trick to newsjacking is to:
- Find hot stories that are on the uptick. If you can insert yourself just as interest is building, you can become an intrinsic part of the story.
- Always add something to the story instead of just summarizing it. You want to aim to help make news, not merely report it.
- Emphasize journalistic level quality. Say something insightful, use proper formatting and write news or commentary like you would expect to see it on a site that pulls in 1,000 times more viewers than yours.
- Use promotion to ensure that your efforts are not in vain. A little time or money investment can go a long way towards propelling your content’s visibility.
To help our readers master this process, we have prepared the following guide to newsjacking.
What Newsjacking Is and What It Isn’t
First, it’s important to lay the concept of newsjacking bare. On the surface, the word “newsjack” sounds negative. A “carjacking” is theft, and “threadjacking” online is where a user (rudely) diverts a topic from the original poster’s to one of their choosing. Following this theme, “newsjacking” sounds like some illicit, grey-hat practice where you steal news content and repurpose it for your own uses, regardless of the original context.
Rest assured that the point of proper newsjacking is to do neither. Instead, you are putting on the hat — or rather the well-coiffed hair — of a journalist. If done properly, you will become one of the headline billings on news searches or receive shares via inbound links from highly legitimate news sources. This cannot happen if you are simply promoting your product or haphazardly sounding off on an issue without any real thought or attention to detail.
Luckily, the first part of the process starts with reading large volumes of high-quality news sources, so you can learn from the better ones and know which mistakes to avoid from the ones that sour your impression of the site.
Just to give an example of how this concept can be done properly, consider the following three posts related to George R.R. Martin’s upcoming The Winds of Winter novel and how it relates to the hit HBO show Game of Thrones.
- TIME: “George R.R. Martin Releases New Chapter From The Winds of Winter” — Original news-breaking story. Very succinct, a brief summary of context and a mere statement of the news being broken, in this case that the author teased an as-of-yet unreleased chapter of the upcoming book.
- The Atlantic: “The Growing Divide Between Game of Thrones and George R.R. Martin” — This article vamps off the above one by adding new contextual information, interpretation of subtext, and intelligent, opinion-based commentary from the perspective of the author. The subheading alone entices clicks, shares, and responses: “The new chapter of the sixth book in the sprawling A Song of Ice and Fire series shows how much the TV adaptation has diverged from the novels.”
- Parent Herald: “‘The Winds Of Winter’ Release Date, News & Update: Is Neil Gaiman Helping George R.R. Martin Finish Sixth ASOIAF Book?” — Spoiler alert, NO, Neil Gaiman has nothing to do with Game of Thrones, and the article says as much two short paragraphs in. So why include it? Well, because clickbait. This post’s only value is to the site itself, giving readers false hope that some new information will be had, only to hear a stale, regurgitated rumor with no grounding.
So, to summarize: don’t be the Parent Herald. It makes you look trashy and manipulative, punishing your reputation with readers and, potentially, with Google.
All that said, here’s how to work the newsjacking process properly:
Find Some News to Jack
Finding trending topics is job #1 with newsjacking. You will want to go about this in two ways:
- Monitor trending topics based on keyword research, looking specifically for keywords related to your industry or that regularly bring you organic traffic.
- Monitor trending topics in general, trying to find ones that can be “spun” to relate to your perspective, service offerings or area of expertise
Setting up Google News Alerts for specific keywords and hovering around Google Trends can fulfill both tasks handily. When looking at the latter, pay close attention to “trending queries” and the regions that they stem from. Remember that nationally covered news typically gets the most attention, but that regional news can spread quickly to become national news.
Another good method is to homebrew your own tailored newsfeed using RSS and a program like Feedly.
Great topics to cover include:
- New technology and how it relates to your niche
- Legal changes and how they affect the way you or your customers will do business in the future
- News stories that could use your expertise, such as a pool equipment distributor adding their take to a story about a pool electrocution by mentioning the needed precautions to avoid such a tragedy.
Topics to pass on include:
- “Celebrity gossip” unless the event brings to light deeper issues somehow.
- Rumors and hearsay
- “Smear campaigns” or outrage-based topics unless you want to bring a more neutral or objective lens to the subject.
After selecting a topic, you can evaluate its efficacy for your needs by weighing its keyword strength or by examining its trending power using programs like BuzzSumo. Keep in mind that with newsjacking there is such a thing as writing about a topic that is too strong, since the purpose is to become a part of the mounting news cycle, not to jump on at the peak and ride it down.
Craft Content Based on the News Story
Your next step is to create newsworthy content that will help you get clicks, shares and, ideally, quotes from outlets with larger readership bases.
Chances are quite good that if you run a blog site, you have used current-event content before. The difference between the typical strategy and newsjacking is that here you are not reflecting on an event after-the-fact, days or weeks after it has broken nationally. Instead, you are attempting to find news that has not yet “caught fire,” so that when the rounds of shares do happen, you are part of the process or linked to it, at least.
This altered approach requires a more nuanced perspective on the issue that attempts to add new context rather than simply discussing the context that already existed. You want to be quotable and insightful, similar to The Atlantic’s “Winds of Winter” story.
Always make sure that the post you write is highly relevant to your industry and audience. Recall how The Parent Herald post had absolutely nothing to do with parenting. The impression the reader gets is that the whole “Parent” angle is a ruse, and that this site will cook up any sort of headline to drive traffic and obtain revenue from its display ads. Not a good look!
Another important point to remember is that you shouldn’t be aiming to have 100 percent of people agree with you. Not only is this impossible online, but dissent can actually be beneficial. Someone writing a negative response to your piece or sharing it just to complain about its conclusions is still traffic, after all. This is not to encourage you to purposefully assume controversial opinions or speak on taboo topics in a crass way, but it is to encourage you to be bold, decisive and clear with your opinion.
Alternative Tip: Instead of writing on the topic yourself, you can reach out to small-tier journalists or bloggers in your niche to co-write a post with them or supply juicy insight for their needs. This strategy can take advantage of their readership to drive traffic back to your site.
Broadcast Your Content
Once you hit “publish” on your blog, your work is far from over. You will want to promote the living tarnation out of it to ensure that it can spread before the news cycle peaks or begins to get cold.
- Send an email around to your subscribers asking them to check out your important piece so they can add their own comments or see what their friends think.
- Share to social media using relevant hashtags.
- Contact journalists or sites that do guest blogging to see if they are interested in reposting the content in its original form.
- Create a third-person PR release covering the story, summarizing your post and linking back to the original. This tactic requires an investment, but it can frequently be worth the resulting traffic.
- Send your post in as a tip to niche blogs that report or aggregate news. For instance, if you had a juicy and vitriolic but well-thought-out counter-argument to The Atlantic’s piece, sites like i09 may be interested in posting about it.
Finally, as the story develops or similar stories emerge, remind readers via social media or new blog posts to check out your take on the issue. It may be too late by that point to newsjack, but you will get readers in the habit of remembering that you had something interesting to say in the very beginning last time.
Newsjacking is a great tool within a larger SEO and digital marketing repertoire. Done judiciously once every two to six weeks, your site could easily hook onto the momentum of a trending story and become embedded within the news cycle. Done repeatedly as your only marketing tactic, and you could come across as desperate or, worse, manipulative.
Exercise good judgement, write good content and always allow diligent keyword research to guide your hand on topics worth writing about.