Almost every company has a 'news' section on their website, but only a fraction of these are being utilised properly as a marketing asset.
In this guide, I'll take a look at the paradigm that holds many businesses back in this regard and offer some advice on how to turn your neglected news into something worth reading, as well as an effective tool to boost your profile and SEO (search engine optimisation) in the long term.
Your Site is Not For You
In even the biggest companies, there's a disparity between what's thought of as "real work" and marketing. The latter is all-too-often an afterthought and progress in this area is driven in sporadic bursts and fits from feelings of guilt, fear of missing out or prompted as a direct result of something a competitor has achieved.
I think most businesses that don't fully incorporate their marketing would acknowledge this as a problem, particularly on the online front. Sadly, upper management are often too busy moving things along on a day-to-day basis to devote the necessary time and resources into correcting these issues.
This typically extends to the company website, which is incepted with the best of intentions, but often becomes neglected in the long run. Many end up trying to do too much, or lack clear direction and thus become an object of compromise and design-by-committee, which no one ends up being happy with.
The first step in tackling this prevalent issue is to get your head around what your website is actually for and what it's not. And the bottom line is, your site is not for you - it's for your customers and prospects.
It then follows that if your online assets are not completely geared toward courting your potential customers and raising your profile among key audiences, they're not doing their job properly.
When companies don't 'get' this, or clear marketing goals only drive some decisions in regard to these resources, it becomes pretty apparent if you know what you're looking for. And nowhere is this more true than on the news page.
All too often, companies are publicising the wrong stuff in this section and if they are publishing the right type of thing - it's frequently handled in the wrong way. We've all seen sites with news pages filled to the brim with staid stuff that's unlikely to garner any interest - let alone clicks or inbound links.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that company news should be forsaken, but when deciding to devote time and energy to putting items up, there should be a clear rationale behind it. Company growth, recruitment and new business can all be relevant and interesting if handled in the right way.
So how do we go about this? The first step is to ask yourself one question:
Why am I doing this?
Before you even put pen to proverbial paper, before your new site even goes live - think about what you're trying to achieve with your news section, how you'll measure its success and what past experiences have taught you. Another good step is to check out how your competitors, or those you wish to emulate, are doing with theirs - there's nothing like a spot of envy to spur you into action.
While expending so much effort in the planning stages might seem like a bit of a waste of time, it'll actually make you more efficient in the long run and prevent your news section from becoming a time sink that serves no particular purpose.
Some key considerations to take into account at this stage include:
How often you'll aim to update your page
Who will be responsible for keeping the page updated
The type of articles you'll be posting and what you'll be avoiding
Where you'll source your images
After what period you'll sit down and review your efforts
What metrics you'll use to evaluate the page's performance
What to Post
Company news can be relevant, interesting and a great tool for building trust, as well as your profile. However, it's vitally important to resist the temptation to share everything or post stuff just for the sake of keeping your news section updated.
If you've got a business - you've got a story, the key skill that you'll need to develop is determining how objectively interesting these are to the audiences you're looking to attract. As mentioned, your site is not for you and I've seen too many news pages fall prey to staid, self-promotional stories that drown out interesting news when (and if) it's posted.
Providing a definitive list of what you should and should not post would be impossible - there's too many specifics involved. However, some of the most common issues I've come across while delving into these oft-misused assets include:
Press Releases: Do journalists regularly trawl your site looking for news? No? Then don't post press releases or dry, press release-style articles - simple as that. If your strategy for attracting news coverage is to post these on your own site and hope someone stumbles across them - you're doing it wrong. Similarly, if you're complementing this activity by firing them out at online press release directories - you're posting duplicate content across multiple pages, which is a big SEO no-no.
Having said this, there is a right way to handle the re-posting of press releases - rewrite them. Take the salient points of the release and whip them into a short, interesting posts that spell out key messages and highlight the wider impact of the news you're sharing.
Company Growth: Hiring new staff is an important milestone for any company, but how you handle promoting this is a key consideration. We've all seen those posts 'John Smith joins the team at company X' and I've looked at enough analytics reports to tell you that for the most part, only you, them and their mums are reading this.
But, I hear you bemoaning, 'these posts only take a few minutes to throw together!' and while this is true, the fact you still think it's worth it could be a sign of endemic complacency. Unless you've hired a raft of new employees or poached a big name from a rival with a view to expanding your business offerings - as a rule of thumb, it's probably not worth it.
If handled in the right way, however, this type of news can be a valuable asset. If you've made several acquisitions from the local area, highlight the economic impact and highlight how you're investing in home-grown talent. Similarly, if a new staff member is helping you branch out into new products and services - don't be afraid to shout about this.
If you're dubious about whether a new hire is worthy of its own article, why not simply post something on social media or send an internal round-robin email welcoming your new staff to the company?
New business: Determining when your new business is interesting and when it's not isn't always easy. In your position, it can be hard to distance yourself from your day to day work and realise something you find compelling might not appear so to your key audiences.
The bottom line is new business is only worth shouting about when it's 'big' news. Upsold a new product or service to an existing client? Probably not. Bagged a raft of new contracts or instructions, particularly in a certain field or geographic area? Well worth it.
No-brainers: There's certain types of news that you will almost always want to publicise. For instance, if you've won an award, been featured in the news or produced a piece of research - shout about it. Don't beat about the bush however, as its value will quickly decrease as time goes on.
Consolidation: If, after you've eliminated the above, you don't have much left to say - that's OK. Don't try and force it. If you're producing regular blogs, commentary or thought leadership pieces (and you should be), consider consolidating your company news within this section. It'll save you from having to cope with a barren news section and should go some way to improving the chances of company news articles being read.
News as SEO
If you've got regular news to share (and provided it's genuinely interesting of course), a great way to double its value is to optimise it for search. SEO (search engine optimisation) can sound like an arcane practice to those outside of the field, but these days it's really relatively simple.
Google and co. are trying to get their search robots to act more like humans and as a result of this, more and more search results are being personalised, the type and frequency of content you post is being taken into account when determining where your page should rank for a given term and most importantly, so is the popularity of a post. Modern SEO is largely concerned with making sure search engines can 'read' or index every piece of content hosted on your site. By crafting headlines with a certain key term in mind, titling images and writing metadescriptions (the paragraph of text that appears below a link on a search engine result page) with this in mind - you can exponentially increase the chances of being discovered through organic search by qualified leads.
Similarly, by keeping it interesting - your news has the potential to attract inbound links (i.e. a hyperlink from another site pointing at your article), which are an increasingly important metric in the eyes of search engines.
The Bottom Line
Building an interesting and useful news section is more of an art than a science, but that doesn't mean you can't be empirical about the process. By keeping your objectives in mind and not being afraid to try new things or abandon the things that aren't working - you'll be in a great position to make the most of your website's company news section.
Have you come across any truly awful websites news sections? Or any you'd like to applaud? Either way, let us know in the comments or give us a shout on Twitter - we always love to hear what you have to say.
For those looking to learn more about online marketing, we've put together this handy guide so don't miss out and download for free today: