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Our top WTFisSEO newsletters from 2022
This week, we look back at our top-performing newsletter editions. Google surfaces, SEO for breaking news, search intent and much, much more.
Hello, and welcome back. It’s both of us, back with another collab issue. Shelby has returned from a sunny vacation in San Diego while Jessie is very full from a cozy, snowy weekend brunch. It’s officially crunch time on year-end work, but the szn of holiday sweaters, cozy knits and unwinding is within reach.
This week: Our second-annual best of issue. We scoured our most-read newsletters to find our 10 best editions from 2022. Find our tips on everything from understanding Google surfaces, the best tools for news SEO, using keyword research to deliver high-value content, paywall considerations and much much more.
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We’re collecting end-of-the-year predictions for news SEO in 2023! We want you to contribute! Have a theory about technical SEO? Do you expect AMP to finally go away? Share your predictions here.
What is it? First introduced in 2018, Google Discover is a feed of content that appears on Google’s iOS and Android apps and on Google.com exclusively on mobile. The purpose is to “surface relevant content to you, even when you’re not searching,” according to Google.
Google Discover is based on a person’s interests, hobbies and past search queries. It is entirely querlyless, meaning there is no “search” functionality. In this way, it’s similar to a social feed. It is based on the reader’s activity in their Google account.
Don’t rely on Google Discover for consistent traffic. It is unpredictable and can be hard to optimize directly for. Instead, rely on SEO best practices while also considering:
E.A.T signals such as topical authority or a trustworthy author;
Having a mobile-friendly site that loads quickly;
High-quality images and engaging videos.
Discover offers a big, albeit unpredictable, audience. Prioritize your efforts around having a solid technical foundation, building out your evergreen strategy as well as focusing on your best practices. These will help you on a volatile surface.
Preparing for breaking news sounds counterintuitive. How can you plan for news that is, by definition, unexpected? Preparing for breaking news is really about laying the groundwork. That way, when news breaks, you’re putting best practices into play, quickly.
After handling the initial breaking news files with your SEO best practices in mind, consider the rest of your coverage. That might include a live blog, breakout stories or using search to inform other content types (timelines, maps or galleries), explanatory reporting or evergreen content.
Create a hub or topic/tag page (where necessary) to collect stories and use internal links to connect all your coverage. Internal links are the unsung hero of SEO. Effective internal linking builds topical authority (see more on this below!).
Ensure news files link to the topic page, related stories and live coverage, as well as evergreen or service content, and vice versa.
Check that coverage is indexed quickly using Google Search Console and Google itself.
There tends to be a lag in GSC identifying if a story is actually indexed. If you see this, Google the headline or URL to see if it shows up. If yes, then it is indexed – even if it’s not ranking.
Breaking news requires audience and SEO editors to put best practices into action quickly. Start with keyword research to understand the questions readers are asking, and to inform the content type or format that best serves user intent. Review your technical SEO to make sure pages load quickly and are readily indexed.
Search intent is the why behind a query. It is used to describe the purpose of the search, shapes whatGoogle returns in SERPs and is widely considered a ranking factor.
There are four types of search intent: navigational, commercial, transactional and informational.
Informational: Readers are actively trying to learn new information on a given topic or have a question answered (e.g., “Where will the 2026 Winter Olympics be held?”).
Navigational: Readers are trying to go somewhere on the internet. They are looking for a specific website or landing page (e.g., “ezra klein nyt,” “messenger,” or “Twitter login”).
Commercial: Readers are weighing the value of their potential purchase, or are shopping for a product (e.g., “Is a dyson vacuum worth it?” or “Which are the best stocks to buy now?” or “What’s the best humidifier for a baby?”).
Transactional: Readers who are ready to make a purchase now (e.g., “buy dyson vacuum,” “nyt subscription,” or “order humidifier”).
Informational searches are readers trying to fill a knowledge gap. Google’s purpose is to find readers the best, most useful information for their query. Aligning your stories to the search intent better positions you to fulfill that interest.
Many SEO platforms will indicate the intent within their keyword research tools. Without a tool, you can also monitor the SERPs to indicate the intent. Also consider modifiers – words that are added to a base keyword – for signals of what readers are looking for.
For example, readers often add the following modifiers to informational intents: how, what, where, why, guide, tutorial or ideas. These are all indications of desired content format or structure.
Search intent matters. Understanding intent and keyword modifiers can help align your articles more closely with reader interest and ultimately, gain a loyal audience.
What is it? A news SEO favourite, Google Trends is a real-time dataset of what people are searching for on Google. It provides an anonymized sample of Google’s search data.
Google Trends is free, accessible to anyone and provides real-time data for gauging audience interest in topics. There are two specific views you can use to look at trending terms:
Daily search trends: The most popular search trends for the day. This shows you which topics were searched the most in that region for the day, with a link to a related news item. You can also look at recently trending, which shows keywords that are trending in your region, along with their search volume. These recently trending terms are a useful signal of overall search interest at the current time.
Real-time search trends: Google provides you with a list of search terms and topics that are trending at the current moment. These are updated in real time to show what is most popular on Google’s surfaces. You can click into each of these to see the trend line over a particular period of time.
Google Trends lets you search topics or terms, which you can utilize whichever way you feel depending on the breadth of research you’re doing. Terms provide data on a specific keyword you’re looking at in its native form, while topics provide data on a collection of search terms related to the topic. Explore the tool to find new content opportunities or see what keywords you should target in breaking news situations.
Evergreen refers to content that is timeless, doesn't go out of date, often answers a question or helps someone live their life better.
A topic is considered evergreen if it has consistent reader interest and search volume.
The content is considered evergreen if it covers an evergreen topic and the story, blog post, or explainer can be easily updated without changing the purpose or search intent of the piece.
For news publishers, the appeal of evergreen is continuous traffic to content for little ongoing effort. Evergreen can drive traffic to high-impact work all year – often new, top-of-the-funnel readers.
To find evergreen content: Use an SEO tool like Botify, Screaming Frog, SEMRush or Google Analytics to generate a list of URLs that were published more than 90 days ago that are still seeing clicks. Add those URLs to a tracking spreadsheet, then consider how to use keyword research to update the content to be 10x content – or ten times better than the highest ranking result (more on 10x later). That’s your best bet to guarantee consistent, evergreen content.
When republishing and recirculating content, review on the on-page elements (headlines, meta description, subheadings, images and on-page navigation like a table of contents) and update as needed.
What is an internal link? An internal link is a link that connects page A (article) to page B (related article) on one domain (news website). Internal linking helps create a connection between two pieces for readers and search engines alike to understand. Internal links help search engines understand which pages are the most important by having more links to it, too.
Internal links should be added throughout the site to connect articles that are related to a storyline, provide more information to the reader or link to big bets or valuable pieces.
Links from the homepage are the most important as your homepage will always be crawled as a priority. Think about how you can use related links or trending widgets.
What is a backlink? A backlink is a link that connects publisher A (another news outlet) to publisher B (your site) across multiple domains. Search engines consider relevance and authority when looking at backlinks and how many come from big, authoritative websites.
The bigger, more authoritative a website, the more “power” the backlink is awarded. A backlink to a story on bbc.com from nytimes.com is much more powerful than a backlink from JessiesRandomVeganBlog.com (a low-traffic personal blog).
Publish great journalism that people want to read, and therefore will link to. Share it widely across social feeds, newsletters and your homepage.
What is topical authority? Topical authority is a signal that shows subject matter expertise. The more you write on a specific topic and link appropriately within those stories, the more likely you are to have strong topical authority and be ranked higher for this topic.
How are they connected? Linking, both internally and externally, can help search engines and readers comprehend what you are an expert in, what stories are the most important and what relevant information can help them understand a topic.
What are the SERP features? Any result on a search engine results page (SERP) that is not a traditional organic result (your standard set of blue links) is considered a feature. SERP features take up a ton of real estate on Google and are becoming increasingly competitive. The higher you rank, likely the better your click-through rate will be.
Here are four SERP features relevant to publishers:
Top Stories are the newsiest of the news features (sometimes called the News Box). The area is often located at the top of the SERP for a keyword that has trending news. It features recently published news stories related to your search term. This is where most of your SERP feature traffic will originate.
The FAQs and People Also Ask are thematically, if not officially, related. The feature includes questions – usually four to start – that Google’s algorithms have determined are related to your query. This is a place for question-and-answer-style content.
The Featured Snippet or Instant Answer is sometimes referred to as “position zero” because it shows up before the list of organic results.
The Video feature will show a YouTube/Vimeo video or link to a page with embedded video, while the Image Pack will show a carousel of photos when Google thinks that’s the best response to the query.
If you’re developing new content, always look at the SERPs for your keywords to see which features might be available. The click-through rate for featured snippets is often much higher than traditional organic results.
What is it? 10x content is 10 times better than the highest ranking result for a specific keyword. In a highly competitive, saturated search results page, having 10x content can be the difference maker between ranking within the top three positions and not making an impact.
According to Rand Fishkin, who coined the term, there are a few pillars of 10x content:
The site must: Have great UX and UI on all devices (mobile and desktop). The page should load quickly and be devoid of spammy ads or links.
The content must: Be well-written, interesting and considerably different from other pieces serving the same audience. It should create some kind of emotional response. The piece could also solve a problem or answer a question with a comprehensive answer.
The experience should: Encourage social shares or engagement (i.e., be linked to from other sites). To earn links, content needs to be information, helpful and engaging.
When creating 10x content, think about:
What is the competition currently doing? What do you see on their social platforms?
What is the unique angle your newsroom and reporters can bring?
The presentation of the story. Is there a specific format that will stand out?
In the context of news, this could mean:
Creating a story (text article, video, interactive or another format) that is highly engaging;
Ensuring there is a clear takeaway for the piece (what is the question you will answer for the reader?);
Thinking about the experience a reader will remember from this piece of journalism.
The key to 10x content is finding a great story and making it significantly better than the competition – in a way that hasn't been done before.
A paywall is a method used to restrict access to content on a website. They add a level of complexity to the job of SEO, but can be adopted into a comprehensive strategy for a news publication.
Having a paywall puts more emphasis on user experience and the user journey. Here’s how to approach your SEO strategy if your site has a paywall:
Identify/choose your paywall: A hard paywall (subscribe to access any content), a soft paywall (some content before a request to subscribe) or a combination of the above.
Communicate to Google which content is not free. Google has comprehensive guidelines, including regular structured data and technical instructions for appearing in search results. For paywalled stories, the “isAccessibleForFree” value will be “false.” This will signal to Google that part – or all – of the story is gated.
Extra optimize your paywalled content: Google does not ignore E.A.T signals on paywalled content. The algorithm will still serve your story to the reader when it is relevant, even if it’s behind a paywall. Optimize your on-page elements (headline, meta description, URL, subheadings, images and internal links).
Link between gated and free content. Linking gated content out to free content (up high in the article) and vice versa forces Google to crawl the paywalled story and index it from multiple entry points. The more the paywalled story is linked to, the more Google will identify the story as an important piece of content that needs to be ranked appropriately.
Promotion: The time of publishing is important here. Paywalled content can be included in Top Stories, so you want to publish your piece at a time where you feel traffic will be the highest.
Good SEO practices don’t change whether your content is in front of or behind the wall. Focus your strategy on good, quality content and you’ll see results.
We’ve all had the discussion with our newsroom: what’s the best tool to do our job the best? In this issue, we went through the best tools for your publication depending on your needs (and budget!).
There are the Google-owned tools:
Google Search Console;
Trends newsletter by Google.
News-focused SEO tools:
SEO browser extensions:
There are many, many, many more tools on the market that could work for what you need, too. Our hope in 2023 is to use and review more that can help news SEO’s really fill our toolbox.
The bottom line: We went through a ton of concepts in 2022, and we can’t wait to explore even more ideas, thoughts and strategies in 2023. Stay tuned for the next year of great work in the news SEO industry.
Marie Haynes: SEO Google’s December Helpful Content Update.
Alice Roussel: How to do log file analysis with Search Console data.
Yes, and Marketing: Lily Ray on SEO, EAT, and What Google's Up To