When you make news, either by being written about or by issuing optimized press releases, you often find a headline link to your news or press release in the news search results at all the major search engines. This can happen within minutes of the news posting. Everyone gets excited. A keyword search of the news finds you at position one almost instantly. Wow! Tell the client! Hurry! Then, after a couple minutes, or hours, or days, poof! It all goes away. Even if you’re lucky enough to have your news matriculate over the regular web search index, your rankings never hold. News search is all about immediacy. Web search is all about trust over time.
In a world where anyone can issue an "announcement" any time, and where any "source" has the potential to make it into the engine’s news index, is being found in news search results of any tactical value? Is it only useful if people are searching a news engine using those terms during that window of time when your announcement is considered "fresh"?
I’ve seen some announcements hang around Yahoo News or Google News for weeks, due to their not being enough new stories to push them off the page. But some only last a few minutes, like the Britney Spears head shaved story a few weeks back. There was a new article every five seconds, and each one lasted on page one for only a few moments.
So "timeliness" is the single biggest influence on the tactical impact of news search inclusion or coverage. By timeliness, I mean a story about a tax web site during tax season or flu shots during flu season. That’s when writers or reporters or bloggers may be more inclined to be searching for timely content to write about and hence use a news search engine to look for material. The irony of news timeliness is that this is also when competition in the form of press releases and editorial content is likely to peak, making it that much harder to stick around the news search results long enough to matter.
Piggybacking or leeching on timely news is common as well, making it harder still to have any lasting impact. How many companies and web sites announced something related to crocodile hunter Steve Irwin in the weeks following his death? Far more than probably should have. Even one was too many. When it comes to news search, breaking news, good or bad, is a just one more chance for news "leeches" to latch on and grab a few moments of ranking’s glory. Anna Nicole Smith is dead? Announce a travel discount to the Bahamas immediately!
A better example is if an editor at the Wall Street Journal is writing about 529 College Savings Plans and he finds an announcement about your 529 college savings plan web site while he’s doing some research via news search. If that happened, then you have a shot at some really excellent third party coverage that would generate significant traffic, and even a few links. But what are the odds of that scenario happening? Slim.
Since we can’t know exactly who is searching for what type of story at any given moment, we tend to go for the fire hose approach rather than the sprinkler. More is better. Why issue one press release a month when we can issue one every week? We can even announce our announcements! And after we announce our announcements, we can then announce that we have finished making our announcements, until it is time for us to make another announcement. Just make sure those announcements all have deep keyword anchor links, too.
If we are going to be honest about the real impact of news search results, then my take is being highly ranked in news search results only matters if the right person is searching using the right words at the right time. One or two days — or even hours — can be the difference between additional coverage and links or crickets chirping in the dark, which encourages news spam which then encourages even more news spam.
As a long term marketing and link building tactic, for most sites, the news engines are an exercise in futility.
Eric Ward has been in the link building and content publicity game since 1994, providing services ranking from linking strategy to a monthly private newsletters on linking for subscribers, The Ward Report. The Link Week column appears on Mondays at Search Engine Land.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.