The ultimate Seo guide for journalists and online content editors

by | Dec 27, 2020 | Featured, Seo

Home 9 Featured 9 The ultimate Seo guide for journalists and online content editors

Increasing views and sessions is what is increasingly being asked of journalists by editors. Today, Google is the primary traffic source for most news sites struggling to improve rankings in Search and especially in Discover and Top Stories.

This guide explains what are the main aspects that any journalist or editor should consider to improve the performance of his or her articles, increase views and consequently generate profit for the online journal. In the first part we analyze what traffic sources are and how they work; in the second part we will go on to explore what the most important elements are and how we can optimize them.

Traffic sources

Google Discover and Top Stories are the main source of traffic for a news site, but organic search becomes important for evergreen articles that can continue to bring traffic over time, net of new content production. Social can be important in terms of brand awareness and, along with referrals, can boost content on Discover.

Therefore, it becomes important to know how to read data on traffic sources (from Google Analytics and Search Console) and understand how to optimize content.

Google Discover and Top Stories

Getting into Google Discover and staying there is the great challenge of every online journalist. The weight this source has on the total site performance is clearly visible from Google Search Console. Discover is a push tool that shows users content it deems related to their interests.

Once you enter Google Discover feeds, it becomes critical to get clicks: only then does Google continue to show that article and expand the audience of users reached. To do this, you need to work well on the preview image and the Open Graph title (in many cases this coincides with the H1 title).

Organic research

Unlike Discover, Google’s organic search is pull: the user searches for information and clicks on one of the results they see in Serp. It is very important for evergreen articles such as guides, general explanations, or other useful information. It is usually used more for blogs or corporate sites, but more and more news sites are devoting a portion of their production to this type of article because their long-term benefit is assured.

In this case, work on the Seo meta tags (title and description) is very important, but also on the content and structure of the article.

Social

Investing in social for an online newspaper means strengthening the brand and increasing authority, as well as directly increasing traffic. If traffic from social increases, indirectly Google Discover also gets a major boost.

As with Google Discover, image and Open Graph (og title and og description) are important for Facebook. The headline and image must be able to attract the user and push them toward the click.

Seo optimization of online content

After seeing what are the most important traffic sources for a news site, we focus on the elements of onsite Seo and content that can enhance the article.

Article Title (H1) and Open Graph

The Open Graph title was initially used for Facebook shares, but Google Discover also uses it to show articles in the feed. There are some plugins (e.g. Yoast on WordPress) that allow you to edit it, but it usually coincides with the H1 title which is the main title of the article. The length must be a maximum of 70/75 characters, otherwise it is cut off by Google.

This H1 or OG title should not be too different from the Seo title, otherwise we risk confusing Google. Compared to the Seo title, it can be more winking and imaginative. However, we are still on an online journal, so the main concept must be clear and overly complex puns are discouraged.

Meta title and meta description Seo

Seo title and description are important for organic search. In the case of news that will run out in a short time (for example, the result of a soccer match), the Seo title can also coincide with the H1 title. In the case of evergreen items, however, it becomes a very important detail.

The Seo meta title is maximum 65/70 characters long. This length depends on the visual limit in Google Serp which is 512 pixels. This title should be clear and should contain all the elements and keywords we think are important. For example, for a local news story it might be important to indicate the location in addition to other entities related to the news story.

Meta decription is not for indexing, but it is an important element for improving CTR (click-to-impression ratio). It is not activated all the time, but only if Google considers it relevant to the user’s query, otherwise it fishes out the most consistent text within the page. Therefore, the description must contain the keywords that users search for most frequently and must have text that invites the user to click-that is its goal. The meta description is between 120 and 155 characters long.

Url

The Url should be speaking, but concise and should not contain stop words such as articles, prepositions and conjunctions. Each word must be separated by a hyphen. If the title is long and contains two or more pieces of information, we can choose to consider only part of the title and choose only one of the two pieces of information, the one that is most important and contains the keywords we are interested in. The important thing is to center the main theme of the article and not dwell on it.

Keywords and text

A thorough keyword analysis is essential for an evergreen article, and this is the job of the people in the editorial office who are in charge of Seo. For a news story, it is sufficient to clearly include in the article the entities relevant to the subject matter and the people involved. For example, in an article about the Colosseum I expect to find the entities Rome, Italy, Ancient Romans, monument, amphitheater. Bolds are used to highlight highlights and main elements. However, the reader is our reference: if a piece of content is readable for him, it is usually readable for Google as well.

In some cases, bulleted or numbered lists can be very useful to show a list of items or the steps in a process. Similarly, we can use a table to display a set of data in an orderly manner. Google recognizes this type of formatting and uses it to answer very specific queries, consequently bringing our article to the top of the Serp, in the coveted zero position.

Paragraph headings (H2 and H3)

Dividing the text into paragraphs with headings helps readability. There are different levels of headings (H1, H2, H3, H4, …). Considering that H1 is the main title, we start from H2 and I recommend stopping at H3. By choosing titles, a structure is given to the text, according to a hierarchy of containing and content organizing paragraphs.

There is no specific length (it is more of a visual constraint depending on the formatting of the site), but I recommend respecting the length of other titles and not making them too long. There is no need to repeat the words of the top title because Google can figure out what the link is. For example, if H2 is “The new iPhone,” H3 can be “Features” and not “Features of the new iPhone.”

Internal and external links

Links are the lifeblood of the Web. They are for all intents and purposes mentions, recommendations, so the linked page is considered authoritative by the author of the article, and Google takes note of this to award points.

Google uses links to create paths for its spiders that scan the Internet every day. This allows you to create links. By linking to a page (internal or external) I am not only giving value to the landing page, but I am declaring to Google that my article is conceptually linked to the linked page. For this reason, adding a link is by no means a trivial activity.

The link must be relevant and must offer added value to the reader, who on the landing page can expand on a concept or can complete the action described in the text. If possible, it is advisable to write explicitly why I included that link (e.g., “on this page you can complete the service registration”).

If it is an external link, it is recommended to use the “open in a new tab” attribute, otherwise this way we prevent the reader from leaving our site. Then there are nofollow links that should be used for pages that we consider less trustworthy or that might be removed, for example. There are also sponsored links, used for commercial or affiliation reasons.

Preview photos and images

TheOpen Graph image (usually on WordPress it is thepreview image) is most important for social and Google Discover. It must be relevant, eye-catching, and at least 1200 px wide. The best format is jpg, but for drawings or other types of more detailed content, png may be better. Before uploading the photo, it is always better to rename the file with a short and clear name that can coincide with the title of the photo that we find on some Cms like WordPress.

One of the most important fields from a Seo perspective is the alternative text (or alt text) that is displayed by screen readers used by blind people, Google spiders and users when for some reason the image does not load. The alt text should be descriptive and explain the content of the image. Usually Google can recognize the content of the image, but in some cases it can be confusing, but we can help. Then again, Google is not human, and even our human brains can sometimes get confused.

Image captioning is equally important regarding photos that are included within the article and not just as a preview. As with alt text, the description must be descriptive. The photo becomes an integral part of the story, and the description must add information and tell why it was placed in that very context.

Video

If we have the ability to make a video, upload it to YouTube and embed it in the article, this can be a great way to create valuable content that succeeds in indexing better on Google Discover, generating action and increasing time spent. These are all signs of interest in our article and can help increase organic sessions. In some cases the video allows the article to enter a video carousel and thus bypass other competitors in the Serp, but it can also end up on Discover instead of the article containing it.

Author

The author field is very important for a news site because it adds experience, authority, and reliability to the article. On the other hand, it is essential for Your Money Your Life articles that deal with very sensitive topics such as finances or health. Think of a local news site that has reporters who follow news, city politics, sports, or entertainment: having writers who specialize in each of these areas helps Google trust our online newspaper more.

The author field is usually set and managed by the publisher or webmaster. The reporter can make sure that the information about him and the links to his profiles are correct.

How to increase views and sessions on a news site

This Seo guide is mainly aimed at journalists and editors of online newspapers. I started my professional career as a journalist and then went into marketing and Seo, so I know what the needs of an online journalist are and I tried to gather some ideas. These are general guidelines, then each Cms has its own specifics and you should always consult with your publisher to best optimize your articles and to comply with all policies.

If you are a journalist, I recommend that you save this article and add it to your bookmarks so that you will try to follow all these points whenever you write a new article. After a short time they will become automatic and the articles will be able to get more views.

If you are a publisher, you can contact me, so we can study together the best strategy to optimize your online journal and get the most out of Google Discover and organic search.

Luigi Nervo

Luigi Nervo

Digital Marketing Manager

Marketing, Seo and content expert (read the bio).

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Luigi Nervo

Luigi Nervo

Digital Marketing Manager

Marketing, Seo and content expert (read the bio).