SEO for news — you might not know everything you should

A month or two back I got roped into going to a happy-hour SEO seminar.

Ugh. Talk about an acronym that doesn’t inspire joy in the typical journalist or even the typical hacker journalist: SEO.

I’d heard it all before, I thought — keywords, links, URLs, metadata, etc. — but I agreed to go, wanting to appease a boss and deciding that at the very least I’d get to meet some folks and talk some shop. Plus, you know, drinks.

Of course a funny thing happened to all my cynicism after I arrived and started to listen. Yes, I’d heard the bits about keywords and metadata before, but that cynicism died when I learned that there was so much I didn’t know: how site architecture affects SEO, for example; how to update and archive stories for maximum clicks; how to game the nuances of Google News.

Brent Payne
A large part of this pleasant surprise came thanks to the fact that Brent D. Payne was the one presenting. Brent’s the founder of Loud Interactive, an SEO consulting firm, but he’s also the former director of SEO for Tribune Company, which means he’s a rare SEO who can speak with authority about SEO for news.

Brent showed us some interesting data from his time at Tribune (during which traffic increased every month to make Tribune Company as a whole the most trafficked news organization in the country) and spoke specifically about SEO for news organizations.

So useful was the seminar that Knight Lab decided to invite Brent to present at Hacks Hackers Chicago. He’ll join us on Wednesday, July 17 at Matilda. You should come. You’ll learn something, perhaps appease a boss, and get to talk some shop. Plus, you know, drinks.

Hope to see you there. RSVP on Meet-up.

Here’s two quick usable tips from Brent if you can’t make it to the seminar on July 17:

Step 1:  Analyze How People Search

The first step in optimizing any site for search engines is doing research on how people actually search for news. There are two tools that make this market research easier: Google Keyword and Google Trends.

The Google Keyword tool allows you to analyze specific story topics. You can plug in different phrases and ideas, and the keyword tool will show you search volume and competition. The competition will be an indication of how hard it will be to rank for a particular phrase, and the volume will tell you how many people are searching for that phrase around the world and in the United States.

The Google Trends tool allows you to take advantage of viral/popular topics. This tool allows you to see what’s being searched at the moment and where those searches often lead. You can then use this information to construct a content strategy. The Keyword tool is best when integrated with a long-term site structure, while the Trends tool is best used for immediate,newsworthy posts.

Step 2: Create a Smarter Content Strategy

The easiest way of explaining the difference between a poor strategy and a SEO-friendly one is through headlines. Let’s take the example of a newsworthy event like the Hudson River plane landing of 2009.

Some news outlets ran the creative headline: “Pilot Takes Icy Plunge,” while others posted the simple “Plane Crashes Into Hudson River.” Even though the former has user experience value and is fun to read, it completely obscures the newsworthiness of the story. It also isn’t relevant to how people actually search. The second headline, meanwhile, caters to relevance and also allows Google to easily see what the article will be about, making it better for SEO.

In addition, a smarter content strategy ensures content is posted properly. Title tags, Htags, meta-descriptions, and proper captioning make a world of difference when it comes to Google. As do proper sitemap creation and navigation. When you build out resource and landing pages, it's important to make sure your content has easy navigation that can be seen accurately in a Google search.

Whether it’s tech-focused usability, journalism-focused info-gathering, or both, you need to guarantee people see your work. A strong SEO strategy can boost readership growth and increase ROI.

Again, learn more about SEO best practices for news and how they can boost traffic at the Hacks/Hackers Chicago SEO for News seminar sponsored by Loud Interactive and Knight Lab on Wednesday, July 17.

About the author

Ryan Graff

Communications and Outreach Manager, 2011-2016

Journalism, revenue, whitewater, former carny. Recently loving some quality time @KelloggSchool.

Latest Posts

  • Building a Community for VR and AR Storytelling

    In 2016 we founded the Device Lab to provide a hub for the exploration of AR/VR storytelling on campus. In addition to providing access to these technologies for Medill and the wider Northwestern community, we’ve also pursued a wide variety of research and experimental content development projects. We’ve built WebVR timelines of feminist history and looked into the inner workings of ambisonic audio. We’ve built virtual coral reefs and prototyped an AR experience setting interviews...

    Continue Reading

  • A Brief Introduction to NewsgamesCan video games be used to tell the news?

    When the Financial Times released The Uber Game in 2017, the game immediately gained widespread popularity with more than 360,000 visits, rising up the ranks as the paper’s most popular interactive piece of the year. David Blood, the game’s lead developer, said that the average time spent on the page was about 20 minutes, which was substantially longer than what most Financial Times interactives tend to receive, according to Blood. The Uber Game was so successful that the Financial...

    Continue Reading

  • With the 25th CAR Conference upon us, let’s recall the first oneWhen the Web was young, data journalism pioneers gathered in Raleigh

    For a few days in October 1993, if you were interested in journalism and technology, Raleigh, North Carolina was the place you had to be. The first Computer-Assisted Reporting Conference offered by Investigative Reporters & Editors brought more than 400 journalists to Raleigh for 3½ days of panels, demos and hands-on lessons in how to use computers to find stories in data. That seminal event will be commemorated this week at the 25th CAR Conference, which...

    Continue Reading

  • Prototyping Augmented Reality

    Something that really frustrates me is that, while I’m excited about the potential AR has for storytelling, I don’t feel like I have really great AR experiences that I can point people to. We know that AR is great for taking a selfie with a Pikachu and it’s pretty good at measuring spaces (as long as your room is really well lit and your phone is fully charged) but beyond that, we’re really still figuring...

    Continue Reading

  • Capturing the Soundfield: Recording Ambisonics for VR

    When building experiences in virtual reality we’re confronted with the challenge of mimicking how sounds hit us in the real world from all directions. One useful tool for us to attempt this mimicry is called a soundfield microphone. We tested one of these microphones to explore how audio plays into building immersive experiences for virtual reality. Approaching ambisonics with the soundfield microphone has become popular in development for VR particularly for 360 videos. With it,...

    Continue Reading

  • Audience Engagement and Onboarding with Hearken Auditing the News Resurrecting History for VR Civic Engagement with City Bureau Automated Fact Checking Conversational Interface for News Creative Co-Author Crowdsourcing for Journalism Environmental Reporting with Sensors Augmented Reality Visualizations Exploring Data Visualization in VR Fact Flow Storytelling with GIFs Historical Census Data Information Spaces in AR/VR Contrasting Forms Of Interactive 3D Storytelling Interactive Audio Juxtapose Legislator Tracker Storytelling with Augmented Reality Music Magazine Navigating Virtual Reality Open Data Reporter Oscillations Personalize My Story Photo Bingo Photojournalism in 3D for VR and Beyond Podcast Discoverability Privacy Mirror Projection Mapping ProPublica Illinois Rethinking Election Coverage SensorGrid API and Dashboard Sidebar Smarter News Exploring Software Defined Radio Story for You Storyline: Charts that tell stories. Storytelling Layers on 360 Video Talking to Data Visual Recipes Watch Me Work Writing and Designing for Chatbots
  • Prototyping Spatial Audio for Movement Art

    One of Oscillations’ technical goals for this quarter’s Knight Lab Studio class was an exploration of spatial audio. Spatial audio is sound that exists in three dimensions. It is a perfect complement to 360 video, because sound sources can be localized to certain parts of the video. Oscillations is especially interested in using spatial audio to enhance the neuroscientific principles of audiovisual synchrony that they aim to emphasize in their productions. Existing work in spatial......

    Continue Reading

Storytelling Tools

We build easy-to-use tools that can help you tell better stories.

View More