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Ask a News SEO: Edward Hyatt
The WSJ’s Edward Hyatt joins to chat about SEO for live news, building audience teams and more.
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Hello, and welcome back. Jessie and Shelby here with another collab issue. Jessie is back from the Aberfoyle Antique Market, having spent — well, let’s just say, she spent enough money that it's going to be chickpeas and toast until payday. Meanwhile, Shelby returns from a weekend full of friendship, fall walks, bacon waffles and dogs. The perfect fall weekend.
This week: We’re thrilled to have Edward Hyatt, Director of Newsroom SEO at The Wall Street Journal, join us for another excellent Ask a News SEO interview. We talked about building audience teams in the newsroom, live news SEO and much, much more.
Join our community of almost 1,500 news SEOs on Slack to chat any time.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
WTF is SEO?: What's your background, and how did you get started in your current role? More broadly, what is the structure of your team?
Edward Hyatt: I'd like to say my path hasn't been entirely straightforward. I studied film for my bachelor’s and my masters degrees at Kingston University, London. But, it was there that I really discovered my passion for journalism. So I changed my career pretty quickly. After graduating, I pivoted to my first role in journalism. I was at the Daily Mail where I was an SEO executive and then I joined the London Evening Standard as their SEO editor, followed by The Sun where I was promoted to deputy SEO manager. In the spring of 2019, I relocated to New York and I joined the Wall Street Journal where I'm now the Director of Newsroom SEO.
I've led the Journal's SEO efforts for more than four years now. Essentially, I currently lead a team of two fantastic SEO, editors Shalom Goodman and Will Flannigan, and we work closely on coverage with reporters, editors and bureau chiefs, as well as our data science team, our audience teams, engineering, product and more.
We work across the full breadth of the Wall Street Journal. And I have to say, the Journal has been the most fulfilling and rewarding experience of my career so far. There's so much more talent here that it makes my life so much easier.
WTF is SEO?: Does your team sit within a wider audience group? How do you interact with the rest of the newsroom?
Edward Hyatt: There is a broad audience team at the Journal that’s undergoing a few structural changes since our EIC Emma Tucker joined earlier this year. But we work really closely with the audience team. We meet every day, we’re in the newsroom and we're in the office communicating with each other, physically proximal to each other. It's been good to be able to engage with my team that is focused on SEO, and as part of that broader audience strategy where we really connect on the daily tactics as well as the long-term strategy.
WTF is SEO?: How does your team work with other desks?
Edward Hyatt: I initially joined a newsroom at the Journal that was pretty unfamiliar with SEO. When I began my career, I was empowered to make change and that was what I was going to do. But this is where I've had the greatest impact when it comes to getting buy-in.
I said — and this is something that won't sound particularly unique — but I said, “you need to really understand what different stakeholders need.” And understanding what KPIs or projects that might be. How can you engender yourself into that? Get into the workflow and get projects towards the finish line.
One example I wanted to bring up was our live coverage platform. We worked really closely with product and engineering to create a product that could compete in the 2020 election.That meant understanding those key objectives across product, engineering, coverage and SEO. I found that my role was to be the glue that held all of those things together. We ended up with a product that was incredibly successful and continues to be successful.
You really need to find your allies. You need to build a pool with those allies and show that you can build and develop success.
Also, find good partners in the newsroom. When I started, I wanted everyone to know who I was but I didn't want to be known as the SEO guy. I wanted to be Ed Hyatt, the SEO guy essentially.
My first big success happened within the first week of me joining. It's a sad story, but when Notre Dame of Paris caught fire. I worked really quickly with our publishing desk and with our photo team to make sure that that article was optimized effectively and that we were able to capture some emotion.
We were the first publication to show the spire collapsing in search results. That article became one of the biggest for the Journal.
It really is about making sure that you're feeding back to the newsroom, too. Not only do you want to find success, you need to keep repeating that success and telling the newsroom how they're doing with your guidance. It’s really important to provide that feedback to the teams executing your strategy. That's the strongest way to build allies.
WTF is SEO?: What has been your biggest success so far and where have you had to pivot tactically? How have your approaches changed over time?
Edward Hyatt: At the Journal, I've been deeply involved from the news side as well as the product and engineering side. When I joined, the live product was behind when it came to search engine optimization and functionality. Working directly with senior stakeholders, we turned the live coverage platform into something that has been an incredible success. One of my biggest focuses was building relationships to engender change.
You'll notice that our blog does things slightly differently to other news publishers, and I believe that strategy is paying off. Whether it's for breaking news or tentpole news, we can anticipate and plan for the live coverage. The tool has been a really great way for us to expand our visibility and search for major news topics. For example, our live stock market coverage. It's been one of our most exciting projects at the Journal. It represents one of my team's greatest collaborations with coverage teams, both in terms of developing and carrying out a comprehensive content strategy that works every single day, as well as furthering our goals to be the most user-friendly product on the market.
Our keyword strategy was so strong that a lot of our competitors quickly adopted it as their own. We've had to try and build upon that success and differentiate our product from the competition in the market and in the search results page. I think we're at that point now where the Journal really is the place where readers go when they want these stock market updates.
WTF is SEO?: Live coverage of the stock market sounds very interesting. How did you approach this and how did you get buy-in?
Edward Hyatt: It wasn't hard to get buy-in. Since we’re the Wall Street Journal, known for market coverage, we cover the markets. In fact, a lot of our senior newsroom leaders were incredibly behind the idea and even wanted this as a product themselves. Within a couple weeks, we saw others launch their own live markets blogs.
We also have a pretty unique live coverage page where all of our live coverage updates are actually their own unique URLs as well. Any live coverage update we produce is its own unique piece of content. So the page doesn’t compete for basic or general stock market keywords. Every single update we publish is competing for the topic that it's focused on. It's a super comprehensive, live coverage platform.
WTF is SEO?: What do you wish you would have known earlier in your SEO career?
Edward Hyatt: I debated all of my answers, but on this one, I've been really debating what I should say. I was trying to think back to my early career days at the Daily Mail and the Evening Standard. And my philosophy is that you can't know everything at any point. I would go back and tell myself that I really need to understand the audience better.
In my earlier positions, I think I took some things too much to heart. What keyword has the highest volume? What stories are in Google Trends? What is trending in Google News or what's on Facebook? How can we get at that from a search perspective? But the truth is that the search audience is complex. Your brand's audience is even more complex. To find the greatest success, both in terms of engendering yourself to your newsroom partners as well as success in the search results, you really need to figure out what your audience needs are and how to meet them where they are. You can't live in an SEO bubble. You have to be a complete strategist.
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Google news and updates
🤖 Google Search Central: What's new in structured data and Google Search rankings? [video]
🤖 The Keyword Blog: There are three new ways to verify images and sources online.
🤖 Google Search Liaison on Twitter: “Unhelpful content is content that's generally written for search engine rankings and not for a human audience.”
🤖 Barry Schwartz: A spotting of Google testing the Perspectives filter on desktop.
🤖 Also Barry: SGE adds "supportive" links in the AI-generated description of the source.
More news SEO and audience updates
🔍 Search Engine Journal: Google says it’s acceptable to mix two kinds of Schema.org structured data formats.
📈 Lily Ray on Twitter: A mini case study on organic search traffic vs. Discover traffic for publisher sites.
✏️ Marie Haynes: Hit by the Helpful Content Update and wondering why? Maybe it’s because your content is structured like this.
💻 The New Yorker: Why isn’t the internet fun anymore?
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