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It's the Olympics! Again!
The 2022 Winter Games kick off in four days. Consider this guide a complement to what great work you’ve already done.
Happy Monday, friends, and welcome back. It’s Shelby here for another week of SEO fun after a weekend of buying more plants. The oxygen in my apartment is top level.
Last week, I promised we would go into strategy around paywalls, but then my Google Home reminded me that the 2022 Winter Olympics begin this week. And if you’re like me and are not completely prepared, this newsletter is for you!
We’re going to practise what we preach here (evergreen content!) and revisit our issue on preparing for the Olympics and other live news events.
This is a heavy adaptation of an issue we published in the summer just before the Summer Olympics. But a lot of the same principles apply, and have been modified for the upcoming Games.
Talk SEO with 350 audience editors on our Slack community.
In this issue:
How do audience editors prepare for the Olympics of SEO?
What content will help my team win in search?
How do I communicate efforts and success?
The Olympics are coming: Creating a content inventory
My hope is by the time you’re reading this, you have an Olympics plan started – or are implementing it. (If you’re not, here’s your wake up call to get going! The opening ceremony is four days away!) Consider this a complement to what great work you’ve already done.
The Olympics are also a lot! Your first priority is to establish your capacity.
Can your publication realistically expect to create 5-10 stories a day?
Is it better to prioritize one major story a day with an additional rolling file?
Set that cadence now and adjust your efforts to where your capacity will be spent.
Build an inventory of Olympic-focused search terms
After you know your capacity, build out an inventory of Olympic-focused search terms that you feel your publication should target and their search intent. These are the general terms that should be in your headlines and URLs as part of a consistent search strategy. You can use Google Trends to compare terms that compete to see which works best in your specific region.
Pro tip: Keywords that perform very well for Canada may not work in Toronto, Ontario. What performs well in New York City will not perform the same in Queens. Use the regional filter in Google Trends to see how readers in your province, state, city or borough search for stories around the Olympics. Focus on your region.
Use Google Trends to compare the common search terms for your publication’s coverage area. For example, if I was working for a Canada-wide publication, I’d use Trends to see that Canadians search “olympics 2022” most often. “Olympics 2022” should be the main-focus keyword for an Olympics landing page and used in the majority of coverage.
After you’ve established the main-focus keyword, continue with keyword research. Write down the questions that are already being asked on search – usually around the five W’s of the event – and any additional localized questions.
When building your list of keywords, nothing is out of the question:
The main-focus keywords;
Athletes: What names are relevant to your coverage area? They will be searched – even if it is at a low volume – and especially if they medal;
Your country isn’t necessary, but do keyword research around your country and “olympics” to see what returns on SERPs. You may find a story idea or angel to address later.
Your country’s governing organizations (Curling Canada, British Bobsleigh & Skeleton Association, USA Hockey) are good to include when writing about policies or social issues.
Build this keyword list in a Google Spreadsheet (you can even repurpose our evergreen tracker), or somewhere where it is easily accessible for everyone on your team. Outline the main-focus/overall keywords, and how those phrases are relevant to each component of your coverage.
✔️ Action item: Build your list! What key terms do you need to consider when building your coverage? Remember to get as hyperlocal as possible.
THE KNOW HOW
On your marks: The Olympics on search (and how we win it)
Now that you have the coveted list of search terms that will help drive and inform your coverage, we must build our content pillar.
A content pillar is a topic of news coverage. It’s broader than a single news story (i.e., the iconic Tessa Virtue/Scott Moir lift in Pyeongchang), but more specific than a section page (sports). The pillar page is usually considered a “hub” for a topic before breaking down into further subtopics.
Content pillars are huge for SEO – it is a main page that will be linked to from all of your stories on a particular subject, which builds authority among Google. It is also easier for other websites or organizations to link to a hub, accumulating backlinks, versus various stories of differing angles. And finally, it is a place that answers your readers’ questions in many different ways.
Build out content pillar pages
For subtopics or clusters on the content pillar page, you can break it down by type of content:
Stats: Recaps, medal counts, information about contests, events or matches that are relevant to your audience (for example, don’t write about Norway winning in luge if you’re a small newspaper based out of Las Vegas. This seems silly);
People: Human-interest pieces about athletes or behind-the-scenes folks;
Politics: Hard-hitting analysis or investigative journalism on the scandals among governing bodies;
The ‘magic’ moments: Sisters Justine and Chloe Dufour-Lapointe sharing the podium in Sochi. Sidney Crosby’s golden goal. Jon Montgomery’s beer walk. Canada’s terrible Summer 2020 uniforms (okay, not ‘magic,’ but for sure a moment). These colourful stories all count and can have their own subtopic if it makes sense.
Remember to make the topics relevant to what your readers want to know.
Keyword research should help inform your clusters (or topics) underneath your content pillar.
If your outlet focuses on climate and the environment, a cluster could be the environmental impact of the Olympics (are the beds made of cardboard again?)
If your publication is a local or regional site, a cluster could focus on hometown heroes: “Jasper, Arkansas’ Olympic Athletes.”
Technical SEO considerations: Make sure the section includes top-referring keywords in the title tag, <h1> tag and in the URL. Use appropriate <h2> tags for your subtopics.
Get set: The live coverage
The Olympics is a two-week-long live event. Even when it is overnight in Beijing, there’s still going to be interest across the world – which means your live files need to be at their best at all times.
Whether you choose to do a live file is up to your team’s capacity and strategy, but a rolling, updated story should be simple if you’re expecting the Olympics to be a large portion of your job.
A rolling file:
Compiles all of the day’s events in one place;
Provides easy links to that day’s coverage as well as links to the broader coverage;
Links to your content hub, which houses all of the information someone may need.
Pro tip: While a rolling file will link out to many pieces of more in-depth reporting, the file itself should still serve some kind of reader intent. The content should be easily digestible and readers should be able to get all the information they need so they can continue on with their day. Keep it concise.
Technical SEO tip: Look into how live Schema can work on your page. Structured data can help indicate to Google that this piece of content is actually a live event and is being updated regularly.
When to publish: Publishing times for live files are up for debate, but I’ve found having them in line with the Olympics’ days has worked well for continuity (i.e., publish your Day 1 of the 2022 Olympics file at 8:00 a.m. Beijing local time and update for 24 hours). This may mean that you are running a file over two days in your local time zone, but this will help keep them organized and structured based on the Olympics’ schedule.
Go: On-page SEO considerations for Olympics reporting
The best practices for optimizing a live or rolling file follows our on-page SEO checklist:
A good keyword-focused headline/title tag;
A reader-friendly deck/meta description;
A URL that matches the content and search intent;
A strong internal linking structure;
Content that provides a service to the readers.
Remember: Your URL should be keyword-focused (for example: /day-one-live-olympics-2022/) and not changed more than twice.
Post-game conference: Measuring success and communication
Before you begin, you should have some understanding of what the objective is for your coverage. Success is measured based on the key performance metrics that you set for your team.
Success metrics to consider:
Did we reach a certain threshold of unique page views that is higher than last Olympics? (This should be easy to check since the Summer Games were … five minutes ago?)
Is the time spent or engagement rate higher than average?
How many subscribers did you convert from Olympics-related coverage?
How much traffic arrived from search as a percentage of overall visits? Did you set that as a goal?
These will help you interpret what success means when it comes to day-to-day traffic and coverage of an event as big as the Olympics.
Success for planned news events happens when newsrooms over-communicate. With search, it’s important that as audience editors, we reinforce what we’re working on and how it helps our coverage.
Make a Slack channel for all Olympics stakeholders to ensure you can communicate any quick changes to headlines, decks or URLs. This can also help you share insights or potential story ideas.
Share a daily “wins and opportunities” note with the newsroom. Recap the work audience editors did to contribute to a story’s success (i.e., search insights led to a story assignment; keyword research informed an on-page change for a piece that over-performed in search) and outline an example where competitors beat you (ie., they ranked higher for your keywords) – and how you could improve in the future.
Each day at the Olympics is truly different. It’s important to flag any trending searches or breakout terms as early as possible.
Build your keyword inventory
Create and optimize your content pillar
Have great live coverage
✔️ Action item: Take a look at your current Olympics stories. Can we optimize any headlines? Add some subtitles to the content? Is the URL keyword focused?
The bottom line: Big planned news events like this are audience editors’ Olympics. We’ll be in the story more than many people. Make it count to serve your audience what they want to know as your country plays for glory.
And hopefully the next time we revisit this topic, it has actually been two full years (fingers crossed).
THE JOBS LIST
These are roles across the globe we see that are audience positions in journalism. Want to include a position for promotion? Email us.
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