What the Press Hates about Your Website

person reads business section of a newspaper

If you run a business, you probably know how powerful press coverage can be — a good review from a newspaper, magazine, TV station or a popular blog can get you lots of great, free press and bring in new customers and more sales.

It feels really good to have the hard work of running a business acknowledged. Getting press coverage for your business isn’t just a game of chance — you can stack the odds in your favor by making your website media-friendly and making sure a reporter will find exactly what they’re looking for when they search your business online.

Why should you make a reporter’s job easier? Simple: Most journalists are working with extremely short timelines and with very limited budgets, and if they can do a lot of the reporting from their desk (or phone) to lay the groundwork for a good story, or get a good idea of your business quickly and easily to figure out if it’s right for them, they’re a lot more likely to cover your business. Yes, many good reporters will do investigative reporting in person or over the phone, but your website can help that make that simpler, too. And if you’re looking for coverage on a BuzzFeed-style list or roundup like “Best Cookies in the Southeast” or “Best Website Design Companies in Birmingham” (we have a really great nominee for that one, by the way), then the writer might be working off of only the information they find on your website.

Want to make your website more attractive to reporters so they’ll do stories on your business? Here’s what reporters hate:

Your About Page Isn’t Informative

Almost everyone’s first draft for their About page falls into two categories: It’s either a long, wordy treatise about the personal life and struggles of the company’s owners, or it’s totally blank — neither is very helpful to a reporter who’s trying to get information about your company.

Keep your website’s About page as succinct as you can, but make sure it contains all the logistical information a reporter might need to write a story: Include the date your company was started, whether or not your company ever had any name changes or merged with other companies, and list your board or officers (or link to a Bios page that lists them). If you have multiple locations, mention them here; it’s a good idea to put your city, state, and possibly your neighborhood into the About page so a reporter is sure they’re looking at the right business (that will help you optimize for local search as well).

You can still be funny and add casual information if you want to — after all, you’re talking to customers and clients more than anything else, so if that tone will help sell your product, then go for it. But keep it as snappy as possible, and be sure you also include important business details, even if you incorporate them near the end of your text or as design elements.

You Don’t Have a Phone Number

As technology changes and lots of people prefer texting to talking on the phone and do business over email, not having a business phone number has become a trend. It’s true that listing a phone number for your business will invite annoying sales calls — you’re probably in for a few daily phone calls from businesses claiming to represent Google and asking you for money to list your business (by the way, Google doesn’t ever solicit money from people this way, so if you get one of these calls, feel free to ignore it).

Not listing a business phone number isn’t necessarily the wrong choice, but it might prevent you from getting press. A good reporter is going to call to get a quote or to confirm details on your website, and not being able to get in contact is frustrating (it can also be quite frustrating to customers and clients who do prefer to call or who can’t get the immediate information they need from your website or social media). You might think adding a contact form to your website solves the problem, but it won’t help a reporter who’s on deadline, since they’ll probably need a response as soon as possible. If you must do business through a contact form, be sure your responses to the form are incredibly prompt; how prompt will depend on your business (sometimes an immediate response is best, but many businesses can get away with replying within the week). But know that if you don’t respond to a reporter’s request immediately, you probably won’t be getting a mention in their article.

You Don’t Have Clear Contact Information on Your Website

Beyond the phone number, you should list your address, locations, email, etc. If you don’t want to list this on the main body of your site, that’s okay; most reporters know that they can scroll down to your site’s footer to get more specific information. Put any contact information and other details that you want to “hide in plain site” in your footer.

Your Information Is Out-of-Date

I know, I know — you put a website together six months ago, and you intended on updating it … but things got busy and that didn’t really happen. Now your website talks about a big exciting change that happened two seasons ago, lists a sale that’s long expired, and has a blog with the most recent entry making obsolete cultural references.

When information on your website is even a little bit out-of-date, it tells the reporter that they can’t really have confidence in the content. That means they’re likely not to use any of it, and they’ll have to get in touch with you to include your business in the story. That doesn’t sound so bad, until you realize that, if they’re on deadline or don’t have much of a budget, that’s probably not going to happen; they’re more likely to move on to a competitor that does have an updated site.

If you can keep your site constantly updated with fresh information, that’s certainly best. But even if you can’t, you can still fix this problem by making sure the content on your website is “evergreen” — that means you don’t put time-sensitive information on the website in the first place. For example, “Our business was established in 1989” is evergreen content — the date you started isn’t going to change. But “All Christmas Items on Sale through November 11” is dated content that you’ll have to keep up with, deleting it on November 12. If you don’t want to update your site, don’t write content that requires updates.

Want Better Press? Make It Easy

Making basic information about your business easy to find can really increase your chances of getting coverage in the media — reporters, fact checkers and even bloggers are more likely to write about you if gathering and double-checking information is simple. Want to take the next step and create content that’s attractive to the media? Create a media kit with a press release and photos of your business and make it downloadable from your website. Be proactive about promoting your business on social media so reporters are aware of what you’re up to. Keep customers happy so positive reviews come up in a Google search. If you need a little assistance, we can help — Infomedia can set you up with a copywriter or ghostwriter to audit your content and be sure your website looks its best to reporters.

woman laughs while looking off camera for Infomedia

Carrie has been copyediting and writing for fifteen years. Her skills were forged in the newsroom at The Birmingham Post-Herald and she’s a huge book nerd (she moonlights as Southern Living’s book reviewer), but a love of paper and ink hasn’t stopped her from mastering the digital world as well: She’s had a blog pretty much since they existed, and she’s run social media for companies big and small. Carrie’s always ready to take on a new communication challenge, lecture us about the proper use of semicolons, or defend the fact that her Instagram account is filled with selfies.


See more articles from Carrie Rollwagen