Between News publishers and news users, there are many intermediaries involved, especially in the digital pipeline. One intermediary that towers over others is Google.
The promise of Google Search Engine thus far has been that if the rules laid down by it are followed, it could reasonably ensure that news articles published can be served to the appropriate user.
The rules or recommendations prescribed for optimising the content and the technology of news publishers is called search engine optimisation (SEO). Although there is nothing like News SEO, it is not difficult to argue that it ought to be a specialisation, since journalism is produced and published in myriad ways.
The need to incorporate SEO techniques is well and truly entrenched in most newsrooms, digital or otherwise. This “surrender” to Google’s SEO dictates, meanwhile, is being either accepted or resisted in newsrooms, but more importantly, it is being debated. Though there are challenges, adopting ever-changing SEO techniques will probably never be a settled matter. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is the latest buzzword to muddy the waters.
The moot point for young journalists is that SEO is becoming a career path within journalism itself. How does one go about being a SEO person on the editorial side of things? A good place to check would be job ads. A recent ad for a senior SEO editor in for newspaper website expected the person to “strong background in search engine optimisation.” This might not be very helpful, but a “senior” person might know what that means. The organisation expects you to have been in SEO teams before applying for this position.
The other requirement is the person should have “experience of working in a newsroom environment.” This is important given the unique needs of a news operation. Experience from other newsrooms and a sense of what journalism is about is an asset. Often the mismatch in the newsroom, even when a good and experienced SEO hand is hired, is the person’s inability to understand the editorial distinction that journalists acquire. Good and experienced in other content operation though is not a bad thing, since newsrooms, especially digital ones, can always do with a new perspective.
SEO best practices
Websites specialising in Search Engine Optimisation have existed from at least before the beginning of the first dot-com boom. Some of those pioneers who ran those sites have gone on to have successful careers with Big Tech, too. But even until now, there is no site that talks exclusively about the challenges and concerns of News SEO.
SEO is now an industry in India, with many organisations offering SEO services alongside other web-related services, such as SEM. The sheer number of SEO professionals active in various forums online shows it is looked as a career by young people. Journalists interested in going beyond Keywords and Descriptions, might not fight specialised articles on News SEO, but have to make do with general SEO articles and chatter online. That’s not all bad. Reading Search Engine Land (and its popular SEO Periodic Table), Search Engine Journal, Google SEO section or following Moz will remain essential even if a specialised News SEO website comes along.
Like there are different kinds of journalism, there will be different kinds of ways to deal with News SEO. If it was the features section of the news operation, the number of stories would be far fewer than stories handled by the breaking news desk. While features gets the advantage of having more time to spend on optimising the content, the search volume for keywords of feature articles might be very little. SEO might prevent the possibility of coming with creative headlines. The teaser text or intro might be there in some cases, but not in all. The template of the article page might prevent great visibility for feature stories.
For breaking news stories, the challenges will be quite the opposite. Sports stories will have their litany of challenges. Can you hear the local reporter bellowing on the phone that she’s got a whopper of an exclusive, but you have to bury it in the Gurgaon page?
The variations of the challenges to run a successful news SEO operation are myriad. The solutions are there, but it is a cinch that the person to deal with these would be a journalist who has risen through the ranks and knows on-page SEO. Technical SEO is not rocket science that a journalist can’t fathom. We at IOJ will explore all the challenges and seek solutions. We invite you to join in that journey.
In the meanwhile, note what is expected of a senior SEO editor in a prestigious news organisation in London:
- Monitor news content for SEO optimisation opportunities.
- Research and analyse keywords to optimise news content for search engine visibility.
- Develop and implement SEO strategies for news content.
- Monitor and analyse website traffic and performance metrics.
- Collaborate with other departments to ensure SEO best practices are followed.
- Stay up-to-date with the latest SEO trends and algorithm changes.
- Create and optimise content for both organic and paid search campaigns.
- Identify and troubleshoot SEO issues.
- Monitor and report on competitor SEO activity.
- Optimise website structure and navigation for SEO.