What is Newsjacking: SEO, Content Marketing or Something Else?

Andrea Fryrear on Content Marketing

One of our main goals here at MarketerGizmo is to get to the bottom of marketing buzzwords.

There can be a lot of hype around particular terms, but it’s not always clear whether or not these ideas are inconsequential fads or fabulous ideas.

A term that’s getting thrown around a lot lately is “newsjacking,” but some people are holding it up as a great way to do SEO, while others want to claim it as the latest and greatest content marketing strategy.

So who gets to newsjack? Search engine pros, content marketers, or some combination of the two? I polled the internet and also asked the originator of the term, David Meerman Scott, to weigh in.

What is Newsjacking: A Refresher

After an awesome breakout session at MarketingProfs B2B Marketing Forum in 2015 I wrote this article about how to newsjack, which you can check out if you need a primer.

And the original source of the term, Mr. Meerman Scott, offered me this up-to-the-moment definition just a couple of weeks ago:

Newsjacking is the art and science of injecting your ideas into a breaking news story to generate tons of media coverage, gets sales leads, and grow business.

For the visual learners in the crowd, it looks like this:


He goes on to elaborate on the various ways that he’s seen people use the tactic since he coined the term:

When I first wrote about newsjacking more than five years ago, I focused on using it as a PR tool — a way to get into mainstream media stories…At my talks and via social [media] I meet people who have been successful at newsjacking. Many tell me how they generate sales leads and grow business as a result. So now I see it as much more than just PR. It is a marketing tool, a sales tool, and a PR tool.

Newsjacking as an SEO Tactic

Newsjacking can get you a ton of backlinks when it works well, which kind of makes it sound like a get-rich-quick, create-as-many-backlinks-as-possible SEO strategy from ten years ago.

But the appeal is definitely there. You get nearly instant links, instant rankings boosts, and an instant win instead of a linkbuilding slog that can take weeks, months, or even years to bear fruit.

A Few Drawbacks to SEO via Newsjacking

The issue with this deluge of backlinks is that if you’re newsjacking something that’s relatively unrelated to your website’s theme then those links may not actually help your overall domain authority in the long run.

For example, if MarketerGizmo newsjacked a political event and got coverage on a bunch of political sites, we probably wouldn’t get as strong of a long-term SEO benefit as if we got a ton of coverage from other marketing websites.

(This is likely true even if we did it by putting a marketing-related spin on a political story.)

No doubt this is why David Meerman Scott recommends, “your immediate sphere of business activities” as one of the main sources of newsjacking opportunities. If SEO is your ultimate goal, sticking to this source is probably best.

Along these lines, your best tools are going to be things like Google News and Google alerts on industry-specific keywords.

The Case for Newsjacking for Content Marketing

If we’re talking about content marketing as creating customer-focused resources that deliver value consistently over time, it doesn’t sound much like newsjacking.

Emily Everett of the Online Marketing Institute makes a good point about the possible disconnect between content strategy and latching on to in-the-moment- news stories:

Timely content is something that often falls through the gaps in a content marketing strategy, for many reasons. Think about it – even the best editorial calendar can’t predict big news stories, and often pre-planned content means that you’re not keeping an eye out for current ideas that could translate to blogs, social media posts, etc. I’m a big believer in strong editorial planning, so this isn’t a critique; it’s just a fact of life for content marketers.

Meerman Scott has similar take on using newsjacking to create content that’s relevant to what’s happening in your audience’s world right now:

I see newsjacking as content creation when the moment is right and the market is ready. It’s marketing and sales at the right time not just when you happen to want to do your marketing and sales. It’s not a campaign and it’s not about editorial calendars. It’s about harnessing the wind, embracing serendipity, and being there at the right moment with something valuable.

Long Term Newsjacking With Content is Actually a Thing

Getting out in front of breaking news by becoming a go-to authority in your industry is like setting yourself up for newsjacking success in advance, and the only way to do this is with a strong content marketing approach.

If journalists become accustomed to following your blog as a source of good information about what’s happening in your industry, you’re well position to be cited when new stories come up.

You’ll have to do some leg work up front (services like Help a Reporter Out (HARO) make this a lot easier than it once was), but if you can establish yourself as a trusted resource you can lay the foundation for a successful newsjack before a story ever breaks.

The problem with having newsjacking as your primary (or only) content strategy is that most content produced around emerging news isn’t going to be evergreen. Once the story fades out of the news your content’s relevance will fade as well.

Conclusion: Newsjacking is For Everyone

If you’re looking for a step-by-step guide to making all of this work for you, David has a new online course running that will give you everything you need. The course is based on the longstanding approach that journalists take in order to flesh out emerging news stories:

As journalists scramble to cover breaking news, the basic facts — who/what/when/where — are often fairly easy to find, either on a corporate website or in competitors’ copy. That’s what goes in the first paragraph of any news story.

The challenge for reporters is to get the “why” and the implications of the event.

All this is what goes in the second paragraph and subsequent paragraphs. That’s why the newsjacker’s goal is to own the second paragraph.

You need a strong online presence already in place to be seen as a reputable source for journalists (SEO), but you’ve also got to be able to produce relevant content that provides value and good information in real time (content marketing).

So, it sounds like newsjacking can work for search engine optimization AND content marketing, it all depends on where your strengths lie and what your ultimate goals are.

How Do You Newsjack?

Are you using newsjacking for content marketing, SEO, or a little bit of both?

Weigh in on the debate in the comments!