"Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime." – Ernest Hemingway.
While I am writing this, Russia has started a military invasion of Ukraine. War, natural disasters, and other similar events are media companies' bread and butter. There is a crisis; a great opportunity lies because people are hungry for information, updated reports, and more context to understand. That means higher audiences, more eyeballs, and more advertising revenue.
I got a few timid emails from people working on media asking me for some advice to increase visits during this conflict. They were very cautious about not being "profiting from war" (indirectly, they are) but trying to "help people to know and understand what is going on."
Note: Several of the following tips applies to a media website at any given time, not just in wartime. However, the increase of potential audience is the proper incentive to make things happen.
"Bad news is good news."
How to increase organic traffic and SEO value for an online newspaper in the middle of a military conflict
Your newspaper relies on the same sources as your competitors (social media, agencies, big news networks), so it is complicated to "be first." Even if you can publish something before anyone else -or anyone else in your country-the, the information will spread quickly. So, instead of being first, try to be better.
What does it mean to be best?
I assume you want to have more presence in Google News, Google Discovery, and the regular Search Engine. In that case, those are some good practices that you should implement.
Keyword Research. Feed your writers with enough keywords, ideas, and content clusters to keep them busy. If you do not know how to do this at scale, it is late to start, so consider hiring an SEO consultant for a few weeks to create a basic workflow to maximize the reach of your content.
Keep the same URLs and update the content often. Most of the time, you will use some taxonomies for your content. This is fine, but some of the URLs will increase their value quickly (for the natural sharing/link acquisition), so you should keep at least some of them intact.
For instance, in website.com/war-russia-ukraine you should publish a big content hub and update internal links as needed. This will make that specific URL more valuable. It will be crawled often (which helps to index other URLs present on that page). Also, it will likely gain some links, increasing the authority of that URL and the domain as a whole.
Context is vital. Besides basic information, people need context. Use the interlink and tooltips as there is no tomorrow.
Become (more) trustable. Debunk inaccurate information and fake news. This is one of the best ways to serve the public interest and increase your brand and reputation. Create a section for debunking phony images/videos/rumors and update it often.
Get real experts. No offense, but most journalists are generalists with almost no specific knowledge. Search for real experts (in military strategy, economics, international affairs, history). Interview them constantly and create content around their expertise.
Interactive maps, timelines and animated infographics. They are link magnets, hard to copy, and pretty helpful to explain what is going on. You will need a few good web UI developers and reliable data sources to create them, but I can assure you that they are worth the cost.
Widgets for showing information. Good old-fashioned widgets can be great for expanding your influence and obtaining links. There are fewer small websites that can use them than years before, but there are still many opportunities. Just be sure that your widgets work properly and show something interesting. In other words, add some value.
Image Galleries. Based on your keyword research, create image galleries. Remember that the same image can be in more than one gallery (if relevant to the main topic).
Performance. I shouldn't even mention this. Make sure your website loads fast. Faster.
Keep an eye on the ads. Be careful not to put ads close to sensitive content. It is bad taste and can make users and advertisers angry.
Of course, this is a basic list of SEO advice. Your team can deploy different types of content according to the keyword research and the capabilities they have to create them.
The following are some engaging topics that I've found about this specific conflict that can be translated into different types and pieces of content :
- How other countries are taking a stand regarding the war.
- The details of the military operation. What equipment and vehicles are in use.
- How digital warfare is another part of the conflict. Hackers and security experts are part of the military efforts.
- Social media propaganda and how different players are trying to win the public support for their causes.
- Leaders biographies.
- How this war can affect the entire world and reshape the international landscape.
You know who's going to inherit the earth? Arms dealers. Because everyone else is too busy killing each other. That's the secret to survival. Never go to war, especially with yourself.
On a personal note, I recommend the game This War of Mine. It is a fantastic game (and board game) that puts you in the role of a group of civilians in the middle of a war. They are collecting funds to support victims of war in Ukraine.