The Hearst Corporation’s San Francisco Chronicle has found a way to make money from its news service web site which I’m recommending to my clients. Here’s the program and why I like it.
First, let’s remember how Google looks at the universe of Internet sites . Google knows that the Chronicle has developed one of the most popular news websites, SFGate.com. Because that site is very popular and contains a lot of quickly updated news, Google crawls the site frequently and considers it an authority.
An authoritative site’s pages generally are put above those of non-authoritative sites in search results. So, the pages of domain sfgate.com are likely to show up high on Google result pages. Google will check sfgate.com pages frequently because the contain changing news. Finally, links from an authoritative site to your web pages result in your pages showing up higher in Google search results. After all, Google figures, an authoritative site thinks your web pages are valuable.
Now, the Chron has created way for businesses to appear on sfgate.com. They’ve created a sub domain, local.sfgate.com. The homepage there is a directory of businesses, and you’re able to buy a page for your business in the directory.
I doubt that many people will search this directory to find their accountant, lawyer, or care repair service. Maybe some people will interrupt their reading of news to click on tiny link at the bottom of the front page of SF Gate that says : “Advertising services…. Local Business Directory”. But, not many. And, that’s the only way I see to get at this directory.
That’s the problem with directories (online Yellowpages and their ilk): no human uses them.
In the case of SF Gate, though, I don’t care. Google reads the SF Gate directory and loves the pages in it. Each business gets its own page in the sub domain local.sfgate.com with search engine optimized text and other unique content, and Google eats it up. Google is placing pages in SF Gate’s local business directory at the top of web sites in search results.
The example search SF Gate’s sales staff is telling people to run is “San Francisco auto smog”. One of their pages shows up in Google’s results right after the map pages. Pretty good.
In addition to showing up in Google results, each business’ page has a link to the company’s own web site. This means Google is being told by an authoritative site that there’s something important going on on that web site. This vouching will help the main web site’s pages to rank more highly in search results.
But, wait! There’s more!
One package of services which the Hearst folks are selling includes the writing and distributing of of press releases for your business via PRWeb. That’s another news source read by Google, and properly written press releases are both search engine optimized AND have links back to pages in your main site. Both good things in helping your main web site gain visitors.
I am recommend a trial of the Hearst Corporation’s services to my clients.
Of course we’ll need to watch the ROI and we’ll also need to watch for material changes in the program. Google could decide suddenly to treat the “local.sfgate.com” sub domain as worthless instead of treating it as part of the valuable news site. Too many businesses could crowd into a directory category making the too much competition for attention. Or, the Hearst folks may prove impossible to deal with.
We’ll see… I’ll report more in a couple months after a client goes live.