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The very basics of SEO for news publishers
In issue 01, we look at the very basics of SEO, why publishers should care, and a fun search pop quiz.
Hey, it’s us - Jessie and Shelby. Thank you so, so much for being here for the first week of this newsletter. When we first discussed this project (via Twitter Messages, which is the only way Jessie will respond to communication [JW note: I want to be mad. But this is accurate.]), it was built out of a genuine frustration with integrating marketing tactics into journalism.
It felt like a sellout. Why are we journalists, learning marketing? Shouldn’t we be focused on being a voice for the voiceless, keeping those of authority accountable and exposing societal injustices?
Of course. That’s why journalism matters. But to ensure that journalism has the full impact it is meant to have, in order to create change, we must reach people and new audiences.
Search can be a powerful listening tool for newsrooms. To that end, let’s look this week at why newsrooms should care about SEO.
Trending this month in 2015: Was it white and gold or black and blue?
What is SEO?
Let's start with the very basics, the 101, a beginner's guide to SEO.
In marketing terms, SEO is a tactic that helps you “increase your website's ranking on the search engines” for terms related to your business.
For newsrooms, SEO can be used to develop content that captures and responds to existing interest. Optimizing for reach is the work of getting more eyeballs in front of your story.
The goal of SEO is to increase your search traffic – the number of page views and site visits that come directly from a search engine.
🔗 Read more: Beginner’s Guide to SEO [Search Engine Optimization] by Moz
Why should a newsroom care about SEO?
We get it. SEO is so often thought of as gaming the system or trying to outwit Google. We have all been on the receiving end of spam emails promising the “number 1 spot on Google” if only we follow “one simple trick.”
There’s this idea that SEO is sometimes sold as a sort of get-rich-quick scheme, something you can troll to get massive page views with little effort. Because of that, SEO doesn’t often feel like something a reporter or an editor should concern themselves with.
So... why does SEO matter for newsrooms?
The short answer: It helps reach more readers.
93 per cent of all online experiences start with a search engine – and 97 per cent of the time, that search engine is Google.
Only 25 per cent of all internet users will scroll past the first page of search results.
As the common phrase goes: if you’re not on the first page of Google, do you even exist? (Answer: no.)
The longer answer: Every day, people on the internet are actively looking for information relevant to their lives and interests. They use Google or Yahoo! Or Duck Duck Go to quickly answer their burning questions. If we’re thinking about people looking at search when writing or posting stories, we can ensure we reach the largest possible audience.
This is what we all want: Readers who are actively interested in the stories we write, and will be willing to pay for your work.
Ignoring search means you are ignoring potential readers and possible new audiences.
Fun fact: People on search become more loyal to a site than people on social – it’s because they trust that someone has said, “this piece of content is authoritative, therefore it should be in front of me.”
Search engine optimization in fact is a misleading term. We don’t optimize stories to fit some checklist provided by Google.
Instead, we should think about “optimizing for search” as a way of listening and responding to people (as people ask Google their questions). We’re responding to and answering questions from the public – one of the most basic tenets of journalism.
And most importantly, we can impact search results. The Globe and Mail’s “Unfounded” investigation by Robyn Doolittle in 2017 changed the way people searched for the query.
Google search volume for the keyword “unfounded” spiked the month The Globe released Doolittle’s investigation. The story is now on the first page of search results.
Every reporter wants their story on A1 or at the top spot on the homepage – to be the most widely read story on a given file. Every editor wants to beat the competition. Every organization wants to have the most authoritative story. Every publisher wants to grow their readership.
The bottom line: Newsrooms must actively seek out new audiences. SEO is a highly effective tool to reach new readers.
So now, how do we do that? We’ll explore using search for research next week.
FUN + GAMES
When was SEO “born”?
Resource of the week:
One of our favourite (free!) tools is the one we used above: Google Trends.
It’s free, open source and uses analysis to look at search interest on a keyword or phrase. Its uses are endless, and very useful particularly for preparing for upcoming events or comparing similar search queries (for example, should you use marijuana or cannabis in your headlines? COVID-19 or coronavirus?)
NEXT WEEK: What is search research?
Have something you want us to explore? Email email@example.com.
FUN + GAMES [Answer]
The answer: 1991.