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Ask a news SEO: How do you convince your newsroom search is worth the effort?
In issue no. 26, WTF is SEO? chats with fellow Canadian Lindsey Wiebe about search for international readers, her favourite SEO tools and why search is about understanding how readers find news.
Hello and welcome back! We hope you are enjoying the last few weeks of the summer months in the northern hemisphere, where both halves of WTF is SEO? spent almost all weekend outside. A thrill! A dream!
Today, we’re switching things up. A few weeks ago, we reached out to fellow Canadian Lindsey Wiebe, the Manager of International SEO for The New York Times, asking if she’d be interested in doing an SEO-focused Q&A. And despite being inundated by a flurry of questions from us, she agreed. Today, we share her answers.
Below, you’ll find Lindsey’s opinion and analysis on SEO for journalism. She shares some really great insight into how to be a self-taught SEO and how to foster a welcoming SEO culture in your newsrooms. AND! She shares a pile of SEO tools you need to check out.
Do you want to participate, or have someone you think we should reach out to? Let us know! We like friends.
Next week, we’ll be back with more actionable search items, looking at election coverage (because there’s one right now in Canada!).
Q&A with Lindsey Wiebe, Manager of International SEO for The New York Times
The following answers have been edited for clarity and conciseness. Follow Lindsey on Twitter.
How did you first get started in SEO?
I think SEO is something a lot of audience editors pick up ambiently — at least, the basics. Working as an online editor at Maclean’s is where I started to really grasp the importance of search audiences.I got more involved while supporting Today’s Parent on evergreen SEO research and planning, and implementing technical audit recommendations. That led to some SEO projects at The New York Times as part of a broader audience role for Canada, which led to my current position as our international SEO manager.
What is something you wish you knew when you first started in SEO?
I wish I’d had a better sense of the scope and importance of technical SEO. As someone with an editorial background, it was a little daunting, but now that it’s such a large part of my work, it’s clear that editorial and technical SEO really need to function in tandem for news organizations to succeed.
What does international SEO look like?
At The Times, my work on international SEO is about understanding our international search audiences, helping those audiences find our coverage, and better positioning us to reach them. I spend way too much time thinking about hreflang tags and canonical URLs, but I’m also involved in performance tracking, longer-term technical projects, international SERP research and monitoring and optimizing content for international readers.
Global readers aren’t monolithic, and neither are international SERPs: The same query can produce very different results in different countries, and a highly competitive news site in one market might be virtually invisible in another. My international efforts are about navigating and understanding these variations to better connect with international readers.
How do you convince people in your newsroom that SEO is worth your attention, both after stories are published and as part of the content creation process?
I’m fortunate that The Times newsroom is very supportive of our SEO efforts, and has built up an amazing team focused on search. The journalists I've worked with have all been really receptive and understanding of the role that search plays. That said, it’s inevitable that at some point in your career you’ll run up against friction.
I like to emphasize that optimizing for search at all stages is, at its core, about understanding people and how they find news. There used to be a tendency in media to think of search audiences as fickle, compared to, say, loyal homepage visitors. But that’s not a great comparison.
Motivation, curiosity, openness — aren’t those some of the best qualities to have in an audience?
You can think of search another way: Here is a group of readers who are driven and curious enough to hunt through a range of search results, perhaps tailoring or shifting their initial query, trying to find the best coverage on a subject that interests them, in an environment where they’ll encounter both familiar and unfamiliar publishers. Motivation, curiosity, openness — aren’t those some of the best qualities to have in an audience? If you’re producing high-value journalism, don’t you want to do everything you can to make sure these extra-interested readers will find it? And if you had tools that could tell you what specifically these readers wanted to know on a topic, before your story was written and edited, wouldn’t that be amazing? (You do! And it is!)
What are your top 3 favourite SEO tools? (Bonus for any international tools)
I love a good tool list, so I hope it's okay that this is more than 3!
Trisolute, Botify, SEMRush and SimilarWeb are all great for different reasons. We have a terrific suite of internally developed tools at The Times, including Maya and Maelstrom, which we use for things like backlink and optimization tracking.
For international work, I rely on VPNs to monitor SERPs globally: IVPN and NordVPN are two I use often. I recently found out about the (free) Search Laboratory Regional SERP Selector during the BrightonSEO conference and am enthusiastically trying it out.
Speaking of free, while many of us are very familiar with Google Trends, not everyone knows how helpful it can be for understanding differences in search language/framing by country, or for comparing interest in the same topic across different countries or regions.
🔗 Read more: How The New York Times wins at SEO
Technical SEO is important for editorial SEO. They need to function in tandem for news to succeed.
Global readers are not monolithic, and every country will be different. Try, test and learn for your international audiences.
Motivation, curiosity, openness — the best qualities of an audience, and they’re all found in your search audience.
FUN + GAMES
What are considered the three “building blocks” of SEO?
Content, Technical, Authority (link building)
Technical SEO, Link Building, Black Hat SEO
White Hat SEO, Content, Technical
The website migration guide you need to read (no, really)
15 tips for getting the most out of Google Trends (#8 blew our minds)
NEXT WEEK: How to prepare for an election. (Have an election SEO questions? Email us!)
FUN + GAMES
The answer: 1. Content, Technical, Authority (link building)