Newsjacking – An SEOs approach to improving rankings

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Newsjacking should be a key tactic in any approach to digital PR but before I dive in, let me clarify how I see it.

Newsjacking is adding value to an existing popular conversation online.

The process behind that is what I’ll expand on here, along with how to make sure the tactic adds bottom-line value to your activities and isn’t just a vanity play.

Being an SEO first and foremost myself, the impact of what I do is always judged on the impact it had on organic traffic, and more importantly, revenue. To have such an impact, there needs to be the key connection that is capable of not only resulting in links and brand placements but the ability to improve rankings for valuable queries.

Links are what most of us will be targeted with and judged on, but in isolation, this is a vanity metric. Instead, links are a means to an end and that end is increased revenue (mostly) through organic traffic. To do that, we want to improve ranking performance for relevant keywords – and that’s the key here. 

Successful newsjacking or any link building activity, if just measured on links could see the brand becoming relevant for queries that are of no value. For example. gaining coverage for an analysis of Strictly Come Dancing might be all well and good, but this won’t help your relevant ranking performance targeting ‘cheap holidays’. There has to be a connection between the core theme of your campaigns and the news you’re targeting in order to lead to increased revenue/traffic for the keywords relevant to you.

Newsjacking is a method of PR activity that’s been around for some time and one many people use extremely successfully. The results are usually communicated by a slide or image showcasing the various logos a campaign received coverage on. It’s impactful and something I do too! However, what I’d love to see and so would anyone deciding if it’s a tactic they should invest time into is ‘what happened?’ Recognisable logos are a great hook to demonstrate the power of a digital PR tactic, but you need the results to back it up.

So here I’m going to share how I’ve thought about newsjacking with a case study example to help communicate the story in full.


Know the news

The starting point with any newsjacking opportunity is to know what’s going on in the news. In my experience, you don’t have to get too niche specific with this as any news worth jacking is going to have a ‘general audiences’ element to it, so even someone following mainstream publications will (mostly) still come across news that is relevant. 

The biggest differences and where to train yourself is in looking for what’s missing and the value you can add to the conversation. 

Reddit is my platform of choice. It’s where I see most of the media I consume (dangerous, I know), and it’s where I saw the news of the Sonic the Hedgehog trailer release. I’d seen the backlash from the original trailer and this was now trending news, with publications like the BBC writing about it.

However, this time my thinking was different as we’d recently started work with a video production agency. Although big budget Hollywood style films isn’t their usual area, I knew input from them would carry weight and could offer the hundreds of publications already writing about the new trailer something to work with.


Understand links

Additionally, and critically, this was industry relevant news. It was being covered by film and video focused media or authors who often spoke about such topics, all mostly relevant to my client. Links here carry relevance, which is a key part of any link building strategy and reason why they are going to have an impact on your ability to improve meaningful rankings for any domain. 

As I’ve discussed in a post before on link anatomy, any successful link building activity should focus on the following:

  • Domain relevance
  • Semantic relevance
  • High authority source
  • Prominent placement
  • Provides real value to users/readers
  • On a page with no or few other outbound links

Newsjacking like this ticks all of those boxes and when done correctly, will have an impact on your ability to drive valuable organic traffic. Your value add to the news is attempting to provide follow up articles, where your news is a key part of the coverage, with a strong body copy mention/link, on high authority domains discussing semantically relevant topics.

Separately to what I’d discussed above, it also places you as the authority. This is the whole point of links (to find the voices online worth paying attention to) and that’s exactly what newsjacking should accomplish. 


Adding value to the news

The same day I’d seen the news, I’d messaged the company we work with and although it required a little explanation of what I was thinking, I asked them a key question: “how much did this cost the studio?”

Common sense told me that it would cost a bomb for a major film to reanimate their lead character and this angle wasn’t out there yet. It’s also an area my client knows well so played completely into their role as part of this story and their position as an authority.

Knowing where to add value is where your creative juices can flow. This can range from a video you create to help explain a story or as simple as a quote offered by a specialist. The price of something, an argument for why something isn’t correct, an explanation on why something is happening or quickly sourced data for any of the above are all great starting points and can mostly be created in days.


Impacting rankings

As I said at the start, any link building activity *should* impact organic performance. Therefore, if you’ve spotted the right opportunity that is both relevant and has a large journalistic pool to target, then used your creativity to add value to the story, some solid but fairly straight-forward outreach should result in some links and placements, but we want results. Here’s what we saw via Search Console:

The power of link building and digital PR has never been clearer. Eagle-eyed readers might have seen the date on the BBC article above and the dates in the GSC performance data, but we ran the campaign within 3 days of the news breaking and almost instantly, links were impacting search performance.

Critically, this uplift wasn’t coming from traffic related to ‘sonic trailer’ or the like, instead, this had filtered through to the keyword targeting we’d strategized for. This included keywords like ‘video production’, ‘corporate video’ etc. Being a high profile Hollywood production and discussing the ‘production’ of that movie naturally leads to semantic relevance and features on publications with a like-minded audience or peer group. 

To demonstrate the impact, here’s a quick snapshot of where this client was getting traffic before our involvement (bottom graph) and where their recent traffic was coming from (top graph): 

This is the result of utilising a technical understanding of link building and newsjacking. 

If you’re aiming for brand awareness or AVE, you can open up the amount of news you can jack, but if you’re looking to impact organic performance, it’s imperative you hone in on relevancy and provide value that places you as the authority.

Darren Kingman

Root Digital
Darren Kingman is the Founder of Root Digital, an agency specializing in Digital PR, Content and SEO based in London. His work is multi-award winning for both Content and Search, and now oversees all agency projects for clients across countries including the US, UK and Canada whilst launching resources like the popular Guide to Digital PR.

Disclaimer: The author's views are entirely their own, and don't necessarily reflect the opinions of BuzzStream.

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