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Optimising your site for the media

Posted by Danny Whatmough on 27th January 2009

Chances are, the first place you look to find out about something new that comes along, is the web and, more precisely, Google.

Well, journalists are no different. I remember a national newspaper journo once telling me that he thoroughly Googles every company and spokesperson he comes across before even starting to consider writing about them.

So if a journalist Googles you or your company, what are they likely to find? It’s certainly worth checking out.

And once they are on their website – will they be able to easily find what they want?

Website usability and optimisation is nothing new. We work with a number of clients who have sophisticated skills and technologies to help you push your online visitors towards a conversion point.

The way you treat journalists on your site should be no different.

Usability-guru ‘Jakob Nielsen has written a great post on ‘Press Area Usability‘, looking at some of the key considerations you need to remember when optimising your website for visiting journalists.

For example:

  • “Websites must be painfully clear about a company’s purpose, products, and services”
  • Avoid buzz-language, marketing-spiel and overly technical jargon
  • Don’t use plugins and avoid forcing downloads in order to view specific information
  • Don’t use PDFs
  • Keep the site ‘clean’ with a clearly defined press or media section
  • Make sure search engines know you and know where you are (read: SEO)
  • Press section should include: links to supporting (independent) evidence, links to coverage, PR contact information, financial information, images, logos,
  • Write in language journalists themselves use – it helps them to imagine how you would ‘fit’ in their publication
  • Embrace multi-media (video, webcasts, podcasts), but make it easy to use

As we all know (PRs especially) and as Jakob states, journalists work to very tight-deadlines so making life easy for them is likely to benefit you and your relationship:

“If journalists can’t find what they’re looking for on a website, they might not include that company in their story. Journalists repeatedly said that poor website usability could reduce or completely eliminate their press coverage of a company.”

Jakob concludes:

“Ultimately, PR-related usability comes down to a simple question: Why spend a fortune on outbound PR (trying to pitch journalists) when you neglect simple steps to increase the effectiveness of inbound PR (satisfying journalists who visit your website)?”

The 287-page report on Designing Websites to Maximize Press Relations (3rd edition) is also available for download.

Danny Whatmough