With the number of people consuming news online at an impressive 73% according to a recent Ofcom report and the number consuming print newspapers in decline (-3 percentage points for 2020/21), it’s more important than ever for newsrooms to ensure their content is performing well on Google. Here’s a five-step guide to conquering news SEO.
Many news publishers – especially smaller, local newspaper editors – aren’t as well-versed in how search engines work, or how important keywords can play a role in headlines and tags as they could be. But editors, journalists and newsrooms everywhere can up their game when it comes to news SEO by keeping some simple tips in mind when developing and writing news stories.
Follow these five key steps (and tick off each checklist along the way) to make sure your content is performing as well as it could be in Google’s search.
1. First, tidy up your website structure
Simplicity is key here. Remember, just like readers, Googlebots need to quickly understand how your articles and website pages relate to one another. Think of it as much like carving out a clear path for search engines to follow across your website, a breaded trail so to speak.
You’ll want to aim for clearly categorised and tagged content that’s linked together well to create a clear user journey. Keep your content well structured and you’ll be rewarded for it.
- Look at pagination. This is the process of splitting up content across multiple pages – commonly used by news publishers with large content archives. The problem is Google no longer uses “Previous” and “Next” as a signal to index. Make sure you consider each page as its own page and optimise it accordingly.
- Add internal links. Internal linking is key for navigation and creating a solid flow of information from page to page. Not only do internal links add context to articles, they reduce exit rates which signals to Google that your website is valuable to readers as they want to read more. You can use LOYAL to search your archives as you write to find the most relevant linking opportunities. Dive deep into your content repositories to retrieve the most related articles so you can add links to signpost to Google that your articles are connected.
Read more about why you need to focus on internal linking to boost SEO.
- Categorise and tag content. Use categories and tags to broadly group your articles and tags to describe what’s covered in each piece more specifically. This helps to organise your content in a logical and accessible way that can be easily understood by both readers and search engines.
Building out topic clusters is another key strategy for publishers to consider for news SEO. Read our piece on how to structure your content around topic clusters and build authority.
Did you know LOYAL uses artificial intelligence to identify the key topics within articles? Hover over the “Topics” button to see a list of tags for each piece and use these suggestions to tag your articles.
2. Optimise each article for search
Now you’ve tidied up the structure of your site, let’s get a bit more granular. What key things should you be doing to optimise each article?
- Crack your keywords. News SEO is all about understanding the answers your readers are looking for. Therefore knowing what they’re typing into the Google search bar is key. Tools like SEMRush and AnswerThePublic can help you decide on keywords you’d like each article to rank for.
Pssst…! Don’t forget about synonyms. Google’s search engine is a clever machine that will take related words into account. Make sure you fully describe the keyword you’re hoping to rank for and set it well within context.
- Get your title right. Make sure your title is eye-catching, clickable and ideally contains the keywords you’re looking to rank for. If you want to dig a little deeper, here’s a great article from Yoast on how to write a strong title for SEO and more on HTML title tags.
- Optimise your meta description. These add more information to your title. They should be just as eye-catching, the correct length and include your keywords.
- Page URLS. Most content management systems automatically generate these, but you can write your own clear and concise URL.
- H1-H4 headings. These are key signposts to Google about what your article covers so make sure each heading is clear and informative, and you include plenty throughout your piece.
- Links. As we’ve mentioned, internal links are key to SEO. Make sure you add enough to each article to help readers develop a deeper understanding of a specific topic.
- Anchor text of links. Aim to be as descriptive in your anchor text as possible rather than simply writing “click here.” This will help Googlebots understand the page it’s linking to.
- Formatting. As digital journalists will know, writing for the web is a completely different ball game to writing for print. Readers on the internet tend to prefer shorter sentences, bullet points, subheadings, and clear tone. Essentially, they want to find information quickly
3. Ensure all your content is mobile-friendly
In order to stay competitive in this mobile-first era, news publishers need to be sure their content is mobile-friendly. This goes beyond being simply mobile responsive. Publishers should think about using AMP pages which work quickly on mobile so readers can consume content easily on the go.
4. Don’t forget to optimise images
It’s not just words that need optimising. Make sure your article images are compressed and resized to avoid lengthy load times. You’ll also want to add a descriptive and unique alt attribute to each image so Google understands what it’s depicting. This way you’ll build up the bigger picture.
5. Keep it speedy: up your crawl speed
When it comes to breaking news, you want your pages crawled and indexed quickly by Google. Site crawling is a major SEO factor, especially for news sites that host a lot of pages. When Googlebots experience issues with moving across your websites, pages don’t get properly indexed so make sure your pages are optimised, linked correctly and free from page errors.
Follow these simple steps to structure your news SEO strategy to reach new audiences and deliver quality content that, not only Google, but your readers will love.