SEO for Journalists: 15 Must-Follow Optimization Rules
By: Shreoshe Ghosh
August 30, 2022
Table of Contents
With the increasing number of fresh content on the web, news producers and journalists are constantly struggling to retain their target audience.
Conventional media like the newspaper is facing the biggest blow as people are shifting to new media that rely on online news stories and videos.
The only way to keep alive the news business today is by creating a robust online presence, which is only possible by implementing the right SEO strategy for news websites.
These days, it is very common to see breaking news getting featured on social media first and then getting published on news portals.
People search for news online and thus billion searches happen every day. Modern day journalists and media houses have to go the extra mile to make their news stories reach a large number of audience and hence, there is a growing interest among journalists and other media persons to learn SEO.
If your news website is struggling to get its news stories visible online, here are a few:
SEO Strategies to Help Journalist Website
1. Getting Featured on Google’s Top Stories
Have you seen the snippets that appear at the top of search results when you look for something online? According to a Hubspot report, content that appears in the featured snippets gets 2x more click-through rate (CTR) than others.
Image Source: Hubspot
Higher CTR also means higher organic traffic. Featured snippets came into existence since 2014. These are also known as ‘Answer Boxes’ or ‘Position 0’ since they appear at the top of the search engine results and usually features the summary of the answer to your query. Here is a typical example of featured snippet below.
The best way to get your news website to appear in the featured snippets of Google search engine results is by targeting question-based keywords instead of generic or long tail keywords.
Focus on writing news stories that start with questions like:
- How to?
- When to?
Another way in which you can improve your chances of getting featured in Position “0” is by looking at the search terms that people are using while looking for current news.
Generally, when you type a search term, the related search terms will also appear below it in the search query. This will provide you an idea about how to optimize your news story for maximum visibility. Here is an example below.
2. Submit Your Website For Google News Publishing Center
Google News is a section of the Google search engine that filters thousands of news websites and displays newsworthy stories to the users.
Google further segregates them based on user’s preferences and interests. You can find Google News by going to https://news.google.com/.
In the Google News section, a user can sort news based on categories. Hence, it is essential that you mark the right category for your published news in order to increase its chances of getting featured.
When you click on the search bar, you can see a list of the ‘Featured Topics’ and ‘In the News’ topics which suggests the trending newsworthy keywords.
In order to get your news website to appear in Google News Publishing Website, you have to raise an online request, then use the search console to verify the ownership of your news website and enter all the details like news section URLs and labels before submitting for a review.
If Google accepts your application, you will find your website as “included” under the Google News section.
In 2016, Google replaced its ‘In the News’ section with ‘Google Top Stories’ that started featuring the most recent news stories of the day in a card-style format.
Google Top Stories is powered by Google search results, which means there is a comparatively higher competition among websites to rank that Google News section.
To increase the chances of your news story appearing on Google’s ‘In the News’ section, you have to have a clear SEO for journalists strategy for your news website in place. You also need to ensure that your news coverage is timely and factually correct.
3. Experiment With AMP ‘Stories’ Format
Google now has a dedicated section for featuring AMP news stories. AMP or Accelerated Mobile Pages are similar to Instagram stories and Facebook stories that are told through multiple cards and comes with an easy tappable interface.
AMP news stories combine videos, texts, and images and are built on the AMP framework. AMP stories can be embedded across various websites and apps, and they are more effective in engaging users than usual news stories.
AMP stories are hosted on the publisher’s website, which means they do not disappear after 24 hours like social media stories.
Usually, AMP stories contain less content and more images and videos, which when clicked, can expand to a full page featured news story.
You should focus on creating AMP stories for your news website because they are optimized for mobile users, have faster loading time, engaging, and can be shared easily across various platforms.
4. Work on Your Website Structure
You should focus on a proper news website structure if you want it to rank in the search engines. Categorize your news sections carefully, making it easier for people to find the news they want to read. When you start a new news website, you want Google to index it at the earliest.
For this, you need to optimize your site speed and work on XML sitemaps. When it comes to news site sitemaps, you need to keep a few things in mind.
- Your sitemap should only contain news from the last 48 hours
- Your sitemap should always be updated as new news stories are published
- You should not create new sitemaps for each article; rather you should update the existing one
As you post regular content, your site’s crawl speed will increase. As Google bot detect new elements on your website every time it crawls, it will keep coming back for more, so optimize your content in such a way that there are no unwanted pages in your website that shows down the crawl speed.
5. Create Valuable Content
An essential element of SEO for a journalist is to create relevant, original content and have category pages for every kind of news. As a news website, your authenticity matters a lot. You have to be careful about what you publish on the website.
Your content headline should not be misleading or offensive. The body of your content should be factually correct and contain detailed information.
Most of the time, new pieces have a short life span, which means they stop getting traffic with time. Content marketing is an evergreen process, you can keep the online traffic flowing to your website, even when the information is a little backdated.
You can make your website content evergreen by optimizing it with relevant keywords, linking them to newly published stories or trending news or redirecting the content to a newer and more relevant news piece.
If you think that your old content cannot be improved using all the above techniques, you may try to refresh it by adding more information, fresh images, and videos.
When you write a news piece, don’t go for long and boring sentences, try to provide information in bullet points, and use subheadings for different sections. Also, avoid publishing irrelevant content or duplicate information that can lead Google to take down your site.
In journalism, news stories always follow the inverted pyramid structure which means that the vital information comes on top followed by the less important ones in the bottom of the story, but with new content writing styles and techniques, don’t shy away from trying other writing styles as well.
This is something you need to consider when doing SEO for journalists.
6. Get Your On-Page Optimization On-Point
Creating good content and optimizing it with the right keywords do not guarantee high visibility. You need to ensure that your on-page SEO optimization is done correctly as well. The most essential elements of an on-page SEO optimization includes:
Headline writing is a crucial factor that determines the engagement. A headline should be clear, concise, and encourage the audience to click.
Your headline should contain relevant keywords that will help it to rank in the search engine and should be written in a way that piques the audience’s interest to read more.
Try to include the trending keyword at the beginning of your headline rather than placing it at the end.
Avoid using lengthy URLs; keep it short and straightforward. Avoid using connect words like ‘and,’ ‘or.’ etc. in your content URL and make sure to make the URL look relevant to the news piece.
C. Meta Title & Description
Meta title and description show up on the search engine results page when someone enters a particular query. The meta title should be less than 60 characters, and meta description should not exceed 156 characters.
D. Images and Alt Text
When you add images to your news website, don’t forget to credit your photographer and add alt tags for the images. Alt texts are used to describe images, and they are essential for image optimization across various websites.
As Google cannot detect images, they consider the alt texts added to images to identify them, so make sure to name your images correctly. Don’t name your images as ‘IMG001,’ ‘IMG002,’ etc.
E. Tagging and Categories
For your news website, you should add your content into proper categories and tags to segregate them properly. This will also help Google to detect the right news from appropriate categories.
7. Get Social
If you really want to increase your website traffic rapidly, blend in SEO and SMO. Create social media profiles and share your latest news and content there.
Social media can help you to interact with your audience and understand what your readers want to see on your news website.
As a journalist, your news stories should be able to influence and educate your audience. Social media can also help you in increasing brand awareness and brand reputation. Given below is a comparison of most news focused users across various social media sites in 2017 vs. 2018
Image Source: journalism.org
If you have a WordPress website, you can enable social sharing easily using free plugins. This will allow people to share your content with their friends and family across various platforms.
Social sharing is an essential part of SEO for journalists strategy. Social media has revolutionized the way people read the news today. Unless you utilize these channels to reach your audience, you will not be able to maximize your reach.
8. Make Your Website Mobile Friendly
According to Statista, in 2018, more than 50% of all the existing websites on the web were optimized for mobile users.
Unless your news website is mobile-friendly, you will lose out on the maximum traffic that comes to your site. Given below is the percentage of all global web pages served to mobile phones from 2009 to 2018
Image Source: statista.com
You can also go ahead and create a custom mobile URL parallel to your website URL by using an ’m’ subdomain. This way, you’ll be able to create completely customized content for users that visit your mobile site.
9. Produce More than News Stories
As a journalist, you have to constantly modify and add new features to your content to make it interesting for your readers.
Along with producing written news pieces, you can also focus on modern content ideas like vlogs, podcasts, and live interviews to bring fresh content to the readers.
Media houses and journalists can no longer expect people to discover their website and get direct traffic; instead, they need to work on various SEO for journalists strategies to redirect traffic to their website.
It is a constant process and requires dedication and hard work.
10. Measure Your SEO Efforts
Finally, it is essential to measure your SEO for journalists efforts from time to time using analytical tools online like Google Analytics.
Analytics will help you understand which SEO and content strategy are giving you maximum results so that you can modify your effort accordingly.
You have to utilize various KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to measure the effectiveness of different SEO techniques. Here are 6 KPIs that can help any journalist measure the success of their SEO strategies.
11. Organic Search Traffic
Organic search traffic gives you the count of people who visit your website through organic search engine results. Organic search results come up naturally in the search engine without the need to make an ad placement with the search term.
12. Keyword Rankings
Keyword ranking helps you to determine where your website ranks for a particular search term. The lower the rank, the better are your chances of getting ranked for the specific keyword. Hence, keyword research is important.
13. Social Shares
Social shares help you to determine how many times your content has been shared across various social media platforms.
Social shares are an important factor SEO for journalists that influences the increase of traffic to your website.
14. Conversion Rate
Conversion happens when the traffic that visits your website converts to successful leads by performing a particular action that you are aiming for.
So, for example, if you are a journalist and you have a news portal, you might want your readers to subscribe to your newsletter. When someone coming to your website acts accordingly, they are converted to successful leads.
When another news website mentions your website’s name in their news or a classified website links your business to their directory, you get inbound links to your website.
Backlinks help to improve your visibility and drives traffic to your website from various sources.
Journalism is no longer limited to covering the latest news and publishing them online. Mainstream media is now blending itself with social media to reach out to a broader audience and break news faster and more effectively.
Ensure that you implement the best SEO techniques for your news website and stay ahead of the competition.