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Writing high-impact internal SEO reports
This week: Writing effect internal reports. We will cover must-haves for meaningful internal news SEO report including key metrics, wins and areas for growth in the future.
Hello, and welcome back. Shelby here, bringing a tardy newsletter to your inboxes. If you were looking yesterday and were disappointed by the lack of SEO knowledge, feel free to send me a strongly worded email and I will return to it in 3-5 business days with some excuse (I am sorry! It’s a busy time!).
This week: Internal reports. Have you ever tried to write a good report for your newsroom on your search findings, but didn’t know where to start? We’ll walk through a few must-haves in your news SEO report and how to make it an effective read.
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Let’s get it.
In this issue:
What is an SEO report?
What to include in an internal SEO report
What is an SEO report?
An SEO report is exactly what it sounds like: a summary of your SEO progress that shows how your publication is performing against your metrics of success. A report can be about the broad SEO strategy or focused on one key event (breaking news, planned or other) or a learning. It typically covers concepts such as organic traffic, conversions, technical site health and areas of opportunity. But you are encouraged – and I mean, really encouraged! – to customize the report to what best encapsulates your site’s progress.
Your report should not be a one-size-fits-all concept. As you’ve surely learned, SEO is multidimensional and extremely complex. Your report should make it easier to understand, not create more work for others in the newsroom. SEO reports should not regurgitate numbers, but rather add to the conversation and provide context.
An SEO report should:
Inform the newsroom about performance, opportunities or potential roadblocks;
Create a space for celebrating wins and experiments;
Encourage feedback and constructive criticism (i.e., where can we do better?);
Foster growth from stakeholders.
You can also have multiple reports where it makes sense. For example, if you want your newsroom to focus on traffic numbers, engagement and areas of opportunity, that can be one report. Another could be focused on site health and technical nitty gritty issues for your engineers. Your report is exactly what you want it to be: a summary of your findings.
Why should I even be creating reports? It’s easy to continue to work on your strategy without reflecting, but it’s important to see where you have seen progress or setbacks. SEO is also its most effective when learnings, both good and bad, are communicated broadly. It’s much easier to get a newsroom onboard with changing a part of their workflow when you have data to back it up.
Forewarning: News SEO reports are unique because they don’t always focus on the bottom line number. That’s okay! Your newsroom just wants to know their efforts are moving the organization forward. Focus on what makes sense for you and your goals, and how it helps your newsroom do this.
Read more: SEMRush’s blog on creating SEO reports
THE HOW TO
What to include in your next news SEO report
The anatomy of your report will be unique based on your company and newsroom’s goals, objectives and KPIs. For example, if you’re a subscription-based publication, your OKRs (objectives and key results) may be very different from the goals of an ads-focused site.
As I mentioned earlier, your report will not be the same as your competitors, and that’s okay. For that reason, we won’t go into detail around exact metrics or components to include, but rather discuss the areas you should be covering in any search-focused report.
An overview of major touchpoints
As with any report, it’s important to give a quick overview of what you will be tackling more in depth in the note. Likely, the report will include a variety of numbers, jargony words and action items.
Make it simple for the reader and highlight the top three to five points you want them to know, without having to read the rest of the note.
Identifying your metric(s) of success
The purpose of a news SEO is to increase traffic from search. So when you’re creating a report, look at your current traffic numbers and how that correlates with other metrics of success for your organization. This is the main component of all reports – what are the numbers that contribute to your publication’s goal?
Numbers should always be explained in relation to your point. Why is the reader looking at 2,000 clicks coming from search? Is that a lot? Little? Always explain why this matters.
Choose success metrics that relate back to the goal of the report. Is the ultimate goal to drive more subscribers for a piece of enterprise journalism? Then potentially include how many page views came from search as well as subscriptions from search. If you’re experimenting with stories for a new vertical, maybe the metric of success is visibility on search as well as engagement rate. Think about what makes sense for you to best prove your point.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but below are a few metrics you can consider for your next search report (and an example of how you can use the metric):
Organic traffic: This is obvious – the traffic coming from search. If your overall report is looking at search in one way or another, having an organic traffic metric (whether it’s clicks, page views, etc.) is compulsory.
Overall traffic: Look at the overall number and then break it out by source. This helps you understand which pieces resonate on which platforms.
Search impressions: Are you being seen a ton for a specific keyword? Highlight how much you are showing up for something and how to improve the click-through rate.
Engagement rate/time: How long do people from search spend on your piece? Is it higher or lower than, say, social?
Subscriptions/reader revenue/sales: An easy way to connect to the bottom line. How did this piece drive subscriptions/sales?
New/returning users: Are the readers familiar with the site? Does this mean we can drive new subscriptions?
Mobile/desktop users: Knowing which device drove the most traffic can help explain user behaviour.
Visibility on search: How much did you show up on SERPs and was it more or less than your competitors? What can you do better? (Tools can help with this).
Keywords ranked for: Did a story show up for 10 different keywords?
Positioning/keyword ranking movements: How your site shows up for certain keyword groups may help explain search intent, or impact the type of content you’re producing.
Top pages (by metric): Are there a group of pages doing really well for a reason?
Backlinks: Is being linked to in a ton of other publications important? Probably. Include this to show authority and impact across enterprise pieces.
Site health: Is there something technically contributing to this topic? Did you uncover a technical issue because something didn’t do as well as expected? Include how this affects the numbers you’re including.
In my experience, one of the best ways to reinforce good SEO behaviour in a newsroom is by acknowledging and celebrating wins. It seems very simple, but it’s true! Journalists always want to hear they’ve done something well, and are more likely to repeat a behaviour that is rewarded. We all have egos.
Outline one or two examples of what you would consider good SEO practices happening by your team already. Communicate what’s great about the effort and explain why it’s a good example of implementing a tactic.
Scenario: You recently asked your breaking news team to start creating, “10 things we know about X” files for major news events. After Queen Elizabeth II passed away, your team approached it with a really clean article that outlined the ten major things to know and it ranked really well in SERPs. You saw that 93 per cent of the traffic was from search.
Start by explaining that the team responsible used the tactic effectively and how it directly impacts your metrics of success, including how the traffic came from search. Show visuals – the piece showing up on SERPs, ranking in Top Stories, etc. – and how it got in front of even more eyeballs because the team took the approach they did. Finally, reinforce how this is a great example of what you’re trying to convey and that you should continue to do this.
On the flip side, you also want to communicate where you can do better to get closer to your overall strategy. Your publication can always do something better – that’s why news SEO is so fun!
Sandwich the criticism or opportunity you’re trying to highlight. What is the vertical already doing well? Can the desk add something to their coverage, or format it just a bit differently? What contributed to a piece’s less-than-stellar success, and how can we do better next time?
Don’t shy away from acknowledging the bad. This is how it improves.
If you’re part of the audience/SEO team, encourage feedback, too. You’re asking the newsroom to do something you want them to do, so ask how it impacts their workflow and if, editorially, it makes sense for them. The opportunity is to make the journalism better, but it is always their choice at the end.
Always return to the overall goal of the newsroom. Journalists want their reporting to end up in front of as many people as possible. This shows how SEO helps do just that, and how you’re trying to help them get there.
BONUS: How to actually get change
If you made it this far, congrats! I talk a lot. But I did want to share one last tidbit of advice. I say this humbly, but also as someone who has helped some sites grow by as much as 93 per cent in organic traffic – and it was with this tip.
I realize that may be the most cliche thing I could ever say, but it really is true. You only achieve change by consistently doing the above – sharing wins on a regular (daily, if not weekly) basis, highlighting changemakers in the newsroom who have done what you have asked and, well, being annoying.
Search can sometimes be an afterthought. Our job as audience editors is to make it at the forefront of every person’s mind by showing how much of an impact it can really have. Show it regularly. Be annoying!
The bottom line: The internal report you decide to create should benefit your efforts and publication’s overall goals. Focus on creating a report that advances your agenda, while teaching the organization why what you’re doing is important.
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.
Axios is hiring two Audience Editors. (Remote)
SEO for Journalism Slack: Are you going to ONA this week in L.A.? Use this Slack post to find a conference pal.
Sistrix: September Core Update – First Data Set
Adam Gent: Why SEO is a language problem
Crystal Carter for Moz: A look at visual search optimization (Whiteboard Friday)
Search Engine Journal: 5 sitemap examples that show best practices in action