Increasing views and sessions is what publishers are increasingly requiring editors and journalists to do. Today Google is the main source of traffic for most news websites struggling to improve ranking in Search and especially in Discover and Top Stories.
This guide explains what are the main aspects that every journalist or editor have to consider to improve the performance of his articles, increase views and consequently generate profit for the online newspaper. In the first part we analyze what are the sources of traffic and how they work; in the second part we are going to explore what are the most important elements and how we can optimize them.
Google Discover and Top Stories are the main source of traffic for a news website, but organic search becomes important for evergreen articles that can continue to bring traffic over time, net of new content production. Social media can be important from a brand awareness perspective and, along with referrals, can boost content on Discover.
Google Discover and Top Stories
Get into Google Discover and staying there is every online journalist’s big challenge. The weight that this source has on the overall performance of the website is clearly visible from Google Search Console. Discover is a push tool that shows users content that it thinks is similar to their interests.
Once you get into Google Discover feeds, it becomes critical to gain clicks: only then does Google continue to show that article and expand the coverage of users. To do so, you have to work well on the preview image and the Open Graph title (in many cases this coincides with H1 title).
Unlike Discover, Google’s organic search is pull: user seek for information and then clicks on one of the results he sees in Serp. It is very important for evergreen articles such as guides, general explanations or other useful information. It’s usually used more for blogs or corporate websites, but more and more news websites are dedicating a part of their production to these kinds of articles because their long-term benefit is assured.
In this case, it is very important working on Seo meta tags (title and description) , but also on contents and structure of the article.
Investing in social media for an online newspaper means strengthening the brand and increasing authority, as well as directly increasing traffic. If social media traffic increases, indirectly Google Discover also receives a signigicant boost.
As with Google Discover, image and Open Graph (og title and og description) are also important for Facebook. Title and image must be able to attract user and push him towards click.
Online content Seo optimization
After seeing what are the most important traffic sources for a news website, we focus on the elements of Seo on site and content that can enhance the article.
Title of article (H1) and Open Graph
The Open Graph title was initially used for Facebook sharing, but Google Discover also uses it to show articles in the feed. There are some plugins (e.g. Yoast for WordPress) that allow you to edit it, but it usually matches with H1 title which is the main title of the article. Length must be a maximum of 70/75 characters, otherwise it is cut by Google.
This H1 or OG title doesn’t have to be too different from the Seo title, otherwise we risk confusing Google. Compared to the Seo title, it can be more winking and fancy. However, we are always in an online newspaper, so the main concept must be clear and too complex puns are not recommended.
Seo meta title and meta description
Seo title and description are important for organic research. In the case of news that will run out in a short time (e.g. the result of a football match), Seo title can also match with H1 title. In the case of evergreen articles, rather, it becomes a very important detail.
The Seo meta title is a maximum of 65/70 characters long. This length depends on the visual limit in Google’s Serp which is 512 pixels. This title must be clear and must contain all the elements and keywords that we consider relevant. For example, for a local news story it might be important to indicate the location in addition to other entities related to the news.
Meta decription is not used for indexing, but is an important element to improve the CTR (clicks to impressions ratio). It’s not always turned on, but only if Google considers it relevant to the user’s query, otherwise it draws the most consistent text within the page. For this reason, the description have to contain keywords that users seek for most frequently and must have a text that in encourages user to click: this is its goal. Meta description is between 120 and 155 characters long.
Url should speak itself, but it should be brief, and it have not to contain stop words such as articles, prepositions, and conjunctions. Each word have to be separated by a hyphen. If the title is long and contains two or more information, we can choose to consider only a part of the title and choose only one of the two information, the most important one and that contains the keywords that are relevant for us. The important thing is to focus on the main theme of the article, without going into length.
Keywords and text
An in-depth analysis of keywords is crucial for an evergreen article and this is the task of those in the editorial staff who deal with Seo. For a news it is enough to clearly include in the article the entities relevant to the covered topic and the involved subjects. For example, in an article about the Colosseum I expect to find the entities Rome, Italy, Ancient Romans, monument, amphitheater. Bold serves to highlight key points and main elements. Reader is still our benchmark: if a content is readable for him, it is usually also readable for Google.
In some cases, bulleted or numbered lists can be very useful to show a roster of items or the steps in a process. Similarly, we can use a table to show a series of data neatly. Google recognizes this type of formatting and uses it to respond to very specific queries, thus bringing our article to the top of the Serp, in the coveted zero position.
Titles of paragraphs (H2 and H3)
Splitting text into paragraphs with titles helps readability. There are several levels of headers (H1, H2, H3, H4, …). Considering that H1 title is the main one, it starts at H2 and I recommend stopping at H3. When you choose titles, you give text a structure, according to a hierarchy of containing and content that organizes paragraphs.
There is no specific length (it is more a visual constraint that depends on the formatting of the website), but I recommend respecting the length of the other titles and not making them too long. You don’t need to repeat the words of the top title because Google can figure out the connection. For example, if the H2 is “The new iPhone”, the H3 can be “Features” and not “Features of the new iPhone”.
Links are the lifeblood of the web. All in all they are mentions,recommendations, so the linked page is considered authoritative by the author of the article and Google takes note of all this to assign points.
Google uses links to create routes for its spiders that scan the internet every day. This way it is able to create connections. By inserting a link 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 connected to the linked page. For this reason, entering a link is not a trivial activity at all.
Link have to be relevant and add value to reader who can deepen a concept on the landing page or complete the action described in the text. If possible, it is advisable to write explicitly why I entered that link (for example “on this page you can complete the subscription to the service”).
For an external link,it is recommended to use the attribute “open in a new tab”, otherwise we avoid reader leaveing our website. There are also nofollow links that should be used for pages that we think are less reliable or that could be removed, for example. There are also sponsored links, used for commercial or affiliation reasons.
Preview photos and images
Open Graph image (usually on WordPress is thepreview image)is very important for social media and Google Discover. It should be relevant, appealing and it have to be at least 1200 px wide. The best format is jpg, but for drawings or other types of more detailed content the png may be better. Before uploading the photo, it is always better to rename the file with a short and clear name that can match with the title of the photo that we find on some Cms like WordPress.
One of the most important fields in Seo perspective is alternative text (or alt text) that is displayed by screen readers used by blind people, Google spiders and users when for any reason the image is not uploaded. Alt text have to be descriptive and explain the content of the image. Google is usually able to recognize the content of the image, but in some cases it can make confusion, but we can help it. On the other hand, Google is not human, and even our human brain can sometimes get confused.
Image caption is no less important for photos that are placed inside the article and not just as a preview. As with alt text, description must be descriptive. The photo becomes an important part of the story and description must add information and tell why it has been included in that context.
If we have the ability to make a video, upload it to YouTube and embed itin the article, this could be a great solution to create valuable content that can better index itself on Google Discover, generate action, and increase elapsed time. These are all signals of interest in our article and can help increase organic sessions. In some cases a video allows the article to get in a video carousel and then overcome other competitors in the Serp, but it can also end up on Discover instead of the article that contains it.
The author field is very important for a news website because it adds expertise, authoritativness and trustworthiness to the article. It is instead crucial for Your Money Your Life articles that deal with very sensitive topics such as finances or health. Let consider a local news website that has journalists following cronicle, city politics, sports or entertainment: having authors specialized in each of these areas helps Google trust our online newspaper more.
Author field is usually set up and managed by publisher or webmaster. Journalist can make sure that information about him and links to his profiles are correct.
How to increase views and sessions on a news website
This Seo guide is addressed primarily at journalists and online newspaper editors. I started my professional career as a journalist and then I have dedicated myself to marketing and Seo, so I know what the needs of an online journalist are and I tried to gather some ideas. These are general indications, then each CMS has its own peculiarities and it is always recomended to deal with the publisher to optimize the articles in the best way and to comply with all policies.
If you area journalist, I recommend saving this article and adding it to your bookmarks so you can try to follow all these points every time 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 apublisher, you can contact me, so we can study together the best strategy to optimize your online newspaper and get the most out of Google Discover and organic search.