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Breaking news SEO (pt. 2): How to use structured data for live events
In issue no. 15, we look at the technical SEO efforts publishers should consider for breaking news. Next week: our third and final instalment will look at how to evaluate success.
Happy Tuesday, friends!
This is the second part of our series on breaking news.
We looked at how to optimize breaking news content for search and best practices.
And what search metrics to look at after a breaking news event to evaluate success.
Speaking of Jessie, we were recently planning a work session for this newsletter (we have big, big plans!), and this interaction took place. Let’s all attack her and tell her to get her driver’s licence.
Programming note: Expect us popping into your inbox on Tuesday next week so we can enjoy a nice long Victoria Day weekend here in Canada.
In this issue:
Why is technical SEO important for breaking news?
Technical SEO for breaking news: 5 things to look for
Why is tech SEO important for breaking news?
Last week, we went through a step-by-step guide for using search for breaking news. That’s a perfect method for helping your content reach your audience that is looking for information now – immediate and fresh.
But there are a few things we can do on the tech side to help complement that great storytelling.
Technical SEO helps your site during breaking news situations by sending signals to search engines that Story XYZ is a breaking news story with consistent updates. It also ensures that you are optimized for page speed, mobile-first indexing, and avoiding any issues around duplicate content or page errors.
Warning: Technical SEO can be complicated – we get into the nitty gritty of a lot of systems and integrations. If something doesn’t make sense, email me and we can chat it through further.
🔗 Read more: Moz’s archives on technical SEO
THE KNOW HOW
Technical SEO for breaking news: 5 things to look for
When breaking news is happening, and you have a surge of traffic to your site, you want to make sure that everything will work according to plan. Here’s a checklist of the five key things you should monitor and check consistently.
The URL should not change more than two times. Once you know the story, use keyword research to decide which keywords will best fit this story, and stick to it.
Make sure the URL is easy to read, and can be indexed by the robots.
An easy way to check if a URL has been indexed is by searching the URL directly on Google. Or, you can search the main-focus keyword and your brand name.
Google is much more granular these days with how quickly it re-crawls content, but sometimes it needs a little help. If a URL is extremely new and about to enter the internet, you want to make sure it is indexed.
Whether you have one breaking news file or four, you want to make sure they can actually be found on Google.
Once you’ve published the URL, use Search Console’s URL inspection tool to analyze what Google sees. Add the URL in the crawler and it will give you a report similar to the one below.
Also make sure your pages are indexing for Google News. If your site is not already optimized for Google News, start with this great guide (we’ll go more into Google News optimization in the future – send us any questions!).
Page speed can be affected by any additional content put onto a page. A page with just the story is going to load faster than a page with text, a gallery, a map, pullquotes and a video. Be selective about your additional reporting as to not slow the page down.
Check the speed of a page using Google’s PageSpeed Insights checker.
Optimal page load time for news pages is around two seconds, but Google has said under half a second is their threshold.
Bonus tip: Page speed is a large part of the Core Web Vitals update coming to Google’s algorithm. Certainly something to focus on for your team.
Schema and Structured Data
My personal favourite! Structured data is an addition to your page to help search engines quickly understand the contents of your page, and provide the best user experience to your audience.
Caution: Structured data should be what you do after taking care of the above. If we do not have the fundamentals of indexing with good page speed, it doesn’t matter if you have the best structured data.
A few weeks ago, I went over the types of structured data that you can put on web pages, and some of the best practices to follow, which include:
Aim to have a NewsMediaOrganization markup on all pages.
But, since we’re dealing with breaking news – which is always rapidly changing – our most important piece of data here is the date published and date modified.
The structured data on your page should have datePublished or dateModified markups to help search engines better understand the freshness of your content.
Publishing a different version of the article
If you are part of a wire service, or had a quick hit right after the news broke, and are planning on publishing an update, publish the new story to a new URL and then 301 redirect the old URL to the new URL to keep any link equity built throughout the event.
If most of the content is staying the same (including the author), with a few additional paragraphs or updates for colour, overwrite the current story and republish.
Pro tip: If the nutgraf, author or sources change, it’s a good sign that you need to publish the article separately and redirect the old one to the new one.
Do not let both stories live as separate articles if they form the same purpose. An explainer and a news story do two different things, but a news story written three hours ago has the same purpose of your update.
✔️ Action item: Run your most recent breaking news article through Search Console’s URL inspection tool. Are they recommending any changes?
The bottom line: Content is king. But content can’t be king if no one finds it. Use these technical tips to boost your breaking news content.
FUN + GAMES
What percentage of searches including “near me” are done from mobile devices?
Under 10 per cent
Over 90 per cent
Over 80 per cent
Over 45 per cent
NEXT WEEK: Part THREE of our breaking news series focusing on what to do after a news event passes. We will cover:
Post-mortem analysis: How did our coverage perform in search? What opportunities did we miss?
How to use Google’s Search Console to review analytics and how to know if you hit the mark.
How to find your top referring keywords for breaking news (and how to use that to prepare for future news).
What to do with breaking news coverage when the news cycle moves on
FUN + GAMES
The answer: 3. Over 80 per cent of searches with “near me” are from mobile devices. These searches are growing at 146 per cent year-over-year.