We believe SEO is a must-have skill for all journalists. Our founder, John Shehata, has been presenting at NYU Journalism Institute for so many years training students on News SEO skills. In 2020, John worked with NYU Journalism Institute to select 2 student to mentor and train on SEO for 3 months, then feature their articles on the NewzDash. We are proud to present Caroline Boden to the SEO community and her first published SEO article, Enjoy!!!
Graduated May 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Print Journalism with a minor in Marketing from the University in Houston with an interest in editorial work, marketing, and social media. Seeking a full-time editorial or marketing position to apply my experience. Caroline has a website where you can read about her and find some more of her writing!
Submitted by Caroline Boden 12/28/2020
When you learn to become a journalist, whether you sat in a classroom for four years or you learned on the spot with some YouTube videos and some tips from your buddies (who did sit in that classroom for four years), you’re taught the general guidelines on how to write. You learn the structure, the world of AP style, how to properly quote someone without starting a libel case in court and why writing something from the heart can often lead to some of the best pieces. And these things are what helps build your career as a journalist. But what you’re probably not taught, is the importance of search engine optimization (SEO) and why it’s essential to the growth in your career. In your however-many step process or routine you have when writing a piece, you now have one more step to add on before you hit publish. From thinking of a topic to doing research to getting quotes to simply writing the piece, evaluating your work on how it’ll be optimized by search engines (typically Google) and adjusting accordingly is a necessary step and not a burden. In this guide for journalists, you’ll be introduced to the concept, the importance, the process and key tips of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
What is SEO?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of adjusting a site or landing page to achieve higher rankings in search engines’ organic results page. The higher the site ranks, the more visible it is and will therefore receive more clicks. After you publish your site or article, Google scans (or crawls) your site, with what is called spiders, and reads your content. It looks for any images on your site, what keywords you have and the overall structure compared to other sites and articles on the web that contain similarities to give it a ranking. Your site or article is then indexed and put in the order it was ranked on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP); this is the page that appears when you type any word or phrase into Google. The first couple of links that appear on a SERP with ‘sponsored’ next to them are paid advertisements and are not a part of the search engine’s ranking.
Why is it important to journalists and their careers?
Journalists write for the sole purpose of having their work read. In order to receive recognition for their work or connect with their audience, it needs to be accessible. As of January 2020, there were over 1.74 billion websites on the Internet. Wouldn’t you want your work to stand out? When you optimize your work for search engines, you’re promoting your work and making it visible to not only your family and friends (like you would if you posted your article to social media), but also people around the world who are looking for more information after typing in a handful of words into a search bar. If you notice on Google, or any other search engine, there are multiple pages for anything you search. In a recent study by Ahrefs, 90.63% of all pages indexed get zero traffic from Google, and 5.29% of them get ten visits per month or less. The resources listed further down this article will teach you how to optimize for search engines and give a more in-depth description of SEO and how to index your work. By learning how to optimize your work and obtaining the skills to understand SEO, you can gain leadership in the process when you teach this new information to your coworkers.
Difference in Roles
In your office there are staff writers, editors, assistants, an editor-in-chief, a social media team, those who work in advertising, the art department, photographers and way more individuals who help create your publication. Sometimes within a team, there is a position entitled SEO Specialist. This is someone who doesn’t write for the publication, but rather looks over every piece, like an editor, and ensures it is properly optimized for search engines. When the journalist is writing their article, there are to be considering,
“who is the audience for their piece and is this content breaking news or evergreen?” if they are not fully optimizing their own work. When looking over their work, their editor, on the other hand, is taking into account how this piece differentiates from what’s already out there. If the topic has already been covered, what makes this piece grab the reader’s attention from Google rather than the link that’s right below it? These three positions - the journalist, the editor and the SEO Specialist all benefit from understanding search engine optimization, but they each play a different hand in optimizing the work. If your office does not have a SEO Specialist, their responsibilities should be divided amongst the editor and the journalist for the article to perform well via Google.
SEO Tips for Journalist and Editors
There are some ways to increase the quality of a site to help improve a search engine ranking through the structure of the article. By breaking up the article with headlines, it becomes easier for readers to scroll to find more specific information they may have been looking for. Adding internal links to other parts of the article, pictures, videos and statistics are also extra pieces that add to the overall quality of the page. By keeping it simple and clear, search engines will reward the site with a higher ranking.
When you finish writing up your work, think of some of the general terms relevant to it. Make a list of phrases or words that are featured in your article. The goal is to guess what someone may type into the search bar for your article to appear. Keep in mind, Google now processes over 7 billion search queries every day worldwide (though some say it could be as high as 10 billion per day). 15% of those queries have never been searched for on Google before. Keyword research is pertinent to this step and can be easily done by searching on Google for articles similar to your own. What keywords did they use? How specific did they get? A good rule of thumb is to make the keyword not only as specific as possible, but also unique. For example, let’s say you write for the food section of a magazine and your newest article has recipes for a maple donut perfect for fall. Some keywords to consider would be “maple donut recipe for fall” or “best maple donut 2020,” and not just “donut” or simply “recipe for fall.” You can also use many of the SEO Keyword tools available online (short link to SEO tools).
A couple things to keep in mind when writing your headline is to include your keywords and keep it concise. The keywords you have picked out from your research should be close to the front of your headline; this way when Google crawls your article and headline after it has been indexed, it can rank higher because of the frequency of keywords. In some cases your headline might be too wordy and long. If it is, the headline might be cut off on the search engine results page and readers will not be able to understand what your article is about. Headlines should be kept under 70 characters. It’s also common to write a different headline for social media versus search engines.
On a SERP, you’ll find the headline of the article with a description underneath it. This is the first impression readers have on your work and ultimately why they decide to click. Depending on the search engine, this may be automatically generated for you based on what was found on your page. You may be able to edit and write up your own description. Make sure you include your keywords clear in the description and ensure it accurately reads like a summary of your work.
7 Easy News SEO Steps
- Write the article- Think about why you’re writing and giving your content purpose. This will come in handy when you’re optimizing your work for search engines. Are you looking to grow your audience? Drive revenue? Be influential? Build a relationship or even an experiment?
- Identify your content, is it news, evergreen or tentpole?
- Research and identify your keywords - how will users search for this story
- Conduct competitive research - look up articles similar in topic to your own to grasp an idea of how your article might compare in keywords, length and content. This will help you differentiate your work and make it unique.
- Place keywords throughout content- in headlines, description, body, graphics
- Link to related stories, slideshows or topic pages, add anchor links to different sections of the article
- Promote your content to draw in readers via platforms like Twitter, Facebook or Google+
Where to Learn SEO
- This site offers search engine optimization software and includes tools and analytics for any variety of sites. There are hands-on courses and training available to learn the ins and outs of search engine optimization.
- Google Search Console Help:
- The Search Console is a feature a part of Google Analytics that provides reports with information about the performance of your organic-search traffic. You can see data like user queries and the number of times your site URLs appear in search results (impressions), along with post-click data about site engagement like bounce rate and ecommerce conversion rate. This combination of data helps you optimize your site for the most profitable traffic.
- SEMrush Blog:
- Created and updated by IT and SEO Specialists, SEMrush has data that enables discovery of growth opportunities, while workflow and tracking solutions help users measure more accurate results. Their community has created a blog across a variety of topics such as SEM, SEM, PPC, social media, brand management, content marketing, and more.
- Yoast SEO Blog:
- With a mission of ‘SEO for Everyone’, Yoast offers online training to learn SEO, a blog with guides and tips for even beginners with optimization, and a deep-dive into the technical side of SEO.
- NewzDash Guides
- NewzDash offers latest insights and analysis focused mainly on News SEO. They also have a monthly newsletter
- SEO Tools
- There is no shortage when it comes to SEO tools, but very few when it comes to News SEO Tools.