SEO can be lucrative not only for e-commerce but also for the media industry. However, conducting an SEO process for news websites is a completely different kettle of fish than doing SEO for a dress shop.
At first it might seem that journalism can’t benefit much from SEO. After all, before users enter a given phrase into the search bar, there needs to be a starting point - people somehow have to find out that something is going on. And this is where the media comes in handy. It’s worth investing in social media, brand recognition and loyalty to ensure that readers will always choose your site to see what’s happening in the world.
But that’s how traditional media works and it shouldn’t be surprising to you that we’re talking about the online world. The loyalty and engagement of readers is expressed by the number of direct visits to the site or people following your profiles in social media. Unfortunately, we’re living in the era of fake news.
An increasing number of people scrutinize the news that reach them in a critical way. The Internet serves as a tool for checking whether information published by your friend on her Facebook profile is bogus or real.
Or to be more precise, it’s not about the Internet in general but about… the search engine!
People get information from various sources: TV, radio, press or friends. Although the Internet provides the most prominent possibilities, your news website won’t always manage to be ranked first. Nevertheless, the right use of SEO will help you make sure that if someone hears about the US president losing his office, they’ll choose your site to find out more details about the situation.
It’s a good idea to make a certain distinction. The classic approach divides journalism into news and views. This will be useful when choosing the right SEO strategy. If your service majors in journalistic commentaries, then the whole SEO process will look very similar to the one of a very sophisticated blog.
Challenges in SEO for news websites
The news websites sector looks completely different for several reasons:
1. Short lifespan of online news articles
If you run a news website, you know it’s characterised by incredibly short lifespan. Doing SEO for an article written a month ago is rather pointless. Google created a separate index for news that collects entries published maximally 48 hours ago which will be automatically deleted after 30 days. Of course, after this time your articles can be found in a regular index and in the search results, however…
News in the search results may be displayed in Top Stories. The robots analyze them with the use of the special index and thanks to it, the text may be shown on Page 1 in Google in less than an hour after it’s been published.
Breaking news always generate a lot of search queries which equals a chance of attracting more valuable traffic. Being included in the news index and in Top Stories enables you to take advantage of this potential. Although your website can still be found later, the number of queries will be noticeably smaller then.
Just to put you in the picture: the Top Stories section is displayed for about 10% of all search queries.
The process which precedes a website being displayed in Google search results include:
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During the crawling phase, the search engine robot analyzes the Internet and searches for quality content. If it finds it, then it adds such texts to the index. When users are looking for specific information, the positions on which the websites are displayed are determined based on the index data.
In most cases the indexing process has two stages. The robot reads only the content of the HTML code during its first visit on the site. Content encoded with Java Script can only be read if it's rendered on the server. The robot will spend more resources to fully render your website while visiting it for the second time.
These two stages can take from a few hours to even a few weeks. And as you can quickly calculate, it’s much longer than the 48 hours we’ve talked about above.
3. The market is oversaturated with content
Investing in top quality content is a key to success when it comes to SEO. However, news websites focus mainly on providing information, therefore this market is oversaturated with content.
4. Links aren’t that important but they still matter
If a freshly published article is ranked at the top of the search results shortly after it’s published, there is no point in trying to find a well-planned linking strategy standing behind that success. In reality, it’s much more important to build website authority and customer trust than to link particular entries. Links aren’t the only constituent of this process, yet they still matter.
A key to success in SEO for news websites
Apart from a separate news index, Google offers a news-focused service: Google News. If you’re a publisher, for the time being your main task is to add your website to Google News. In one of our previous entries you can find out how to do it.
Technical SEO for news websites
Service architecture is one of the most significant areas that need to be taken into consideration when doing SEO for news websites. The general principle focuses on the speed - of both website loading and crawling. Let’s put it into practice:
the sitemap_news.xml file
Sitemaps hugely facilitate the work of crawlers. They enable to add individual subpages to the search engine index much faster and more efficiently. In the case of news websites, it’s a good idea to create a special sitemap_news.xml file with subpages containing freshly published articles.
The file should include only these texts that have been published within the last two days. New ones ought to be automatically added to the file as soon as they’re published and the older ones need to be removed. A single sitemap_news.xml file can contain up to 1000 URLs. However, if it’s not enough, split the URLs into several files and place them in the default sitemap, just as in the case of regular maps.
In addition to the address, the sitemap should include elements such as titles, language code and publication date. If you use Google News, the title must actually appear twice: in the <name> tag, which must be identical to the GN title and in the <title> tag.
Below you can see a properly described exemplary URL:
A lot of internal linking
Internal linking is another way to make your website indexed faster. You’ve a lot of content that you want to attract people to, therefore, you should link other articles in your texts. Remember about captions like “recommended”, “latest”, “most popular”, “most commented” or “related articles”.
Categories, tags and other taxonomies
Categories, tags and other taxonomies, meaning ways of organizing elements on your website, are a very important aspect of both internal linking and management of the site content. They also influence the UX. Apart from categories and tags, you can also implement taxonomies as authors or journalistic genres.
You need to think about a key according to which you’ll be assigning your articles to particular taxonomies. Otherwise, there might be some problems such as duplication of categories and tags which may lead to the creation of duplicate content.
On our blog you can find an article on categories and tags. Although it focuses on blogs, it’s also applicable in the case of news websites: https://delante.co/categories-and-tags-on-the-blog/
The main content of the article should be placed in one coherent block of text, preferably high in the whole page code. Other sections, photo galleries or advertisements should be kept outside the main content.
Interestingly, according to the Polemic Digital portal, Google has a weight limit for the HTML file, which is between 100 and 450 KB for a single file. It’s all because of the situation concerning one of the websites for which an old Search Console report showed a large number of "Extraction Failed" errors. These errors occurred on websites where the HTML code weighing more than 450 KB ended up above the place with the main content.
Mobile friendliness matters
As Google implemented Mobile-First Index some time ago, being mobile friendly became one of the ranking factors. And it’s especially relevant in the case of news websites as users generally check what’s going on in the world while commuting to work and school or standing in line. Apart from that, you should also consider implementing AMP.
The website loading and crawling speed
The website loading time affects not only user experience, it’s also one of the Google ranking factors. So it’s not enough to be the first to publish breaking news, the crawler also needs to notice this article before finding similar ones on the websites of your competition. Here, internal linking and the speed of your website server are keys to success.
Pagination / Infinite scroll
Your website is full of content and you publish new articles every day. Therefore, you need a solution that will help you keep on the home page as many entries as possible. However, a heavy homepage will take a long time to load. Although pagination and infinite scroll have both advantages and disadvantages, you have to apply one of them.
Creating and optimizing content
A technically well optimized website is not enough. If you want search engines to appreciate your news website, you should do everything in your power to meet users’ expectations.
The choice of keywords
Keywords are essential to succeed in SEO. When it comes to doing SEO for a news website, the analysis of traffic data won’t be as useful as in the case of SEO for e-commerce. Nevertheless, it’s still worth conducting such an analysis because thanks to it, you'll be able to see which subjects attracted more traffic and which elements of your site require more work.
You constantly need to keep your eyes open and try to predict which topics are of potential interest to users. Remember about cyclical events like the Olympic Games or elections. However, there are situations you can’t predict (economic crises, accidents or celebrity gossip). The use of social media, especially Twitter, and observation of Google Trends will help you establish current hot button issues.
Owners of news website have little time for typical onsite work on their content. It has to happen on an ongoing basis. The author of the entry should ensure that the post, titles and headings are properly formatted, keywords are highlighted and alternative photo descriptions are completed. If it’s necessary, it’s worth spending some time to train your editorial team.
If you publish plenty of articles every day, it’s virtually impossible to manually optimize all of them. Therefore, it’s advisable to automate the editorial process as much as possible. Examine your content management system to ensure that it’s convenient to edit and optimize.
Work on your CTR
Implement all solutions that can potentially improve your CTR. On the one hand, it’s about proper title formulation, on the other it’s about the deployment of structured data whose large part is dedicated to the media!
Regular, every day publication
Let crawlers know that on your website they can expect fresh news every day. Then, they’ll regularly visit your site which will be beneficial when something really groundbreaking happens.
The application of multimedia
Apart from illustrating the article and making it more appealing, photos can attract people who use Google Images. As a news editorial office, you shouldn’t have any major problems with obtaining accreditation for interesting events and you can benefit from it by publishing valuable and engaging photo reports and galleries. Make sure that you run SEO for your photographs and that they’re well-optimized, especially if you’ve exclusive rights to them.
Usually people visit those websites which first write about a given issue and provide the latest information. Therefore, if new circumstances and facts are brought out into the open, it’s better to update the existing entry rather than create a new one. Then, you should also update the title and the article needs to include not only the date of publication but also the date of update (including the exact time).
Obviously, this applies to situations when new pieces of information are discovered some time after the text is published, for example after a few days.
Taking care of evergreens!
Even if you run a news website, it’s always a good idea to devote some time and space to evergreens meaning all kinds of guides. Sometimes, the current affairs aren’t particularly fascinating and the content that is relevant all year round will help you improve traffic to your website during the silly season.
There is also the other side of the coin, organic search results are personalized for individual users. And one of the factors taken into account during this personalization is the browsing history. That’s why you need to ensure that users always have something to click on.
Being unique and finding a niche in the market
Although relying on the news provided by press agencies is much more affordable than employing your own reporters who would explore the topic, such a solution won’t make your content valuable. After all, the same news can be found on many other websites.
It’s also important to be careful if you’re inspired by another entry and want to create your own text based on it. Even if you mark the sources, quotes and authors or links to the original article, your content still won’t be one-of-a-kind and Google will probably find it unworthy of showing to other users. After all, it can provide them with the original text.
Nevertheless, it doesn’t mean that you mustn’t create such content at all. But if you’re to publish an article based on the content taken from press agencies or other websites, try to make it as unique and characteristic of your style as possible. Paraphrase, remember about proper titles, meta descriptions or headings.
Consider finding a niche in the market and gradually position yourself as an expert in the field. Even though the search volumes which equal potential traffic might be smaller, it’ll be easier to attract extra traffic to the site.
Optimizing news websites is slightly different from the classic SEO. However, the substance is the same - Google appreciates websites which are valuable for users, provide unique and substantive content and are convenient to use by being, for example, mobile-friendly.
Today, in the era of fake news, users are also more aware of the information they come across. This is a chance for your news website. Take advantage of SEO and implement thought-out activities that will allow your editorial team to seize the opportunity.
R&D specialist in SEO and web analytics. He feels most comfortable in the area of technical SEO, and his main task is to ensure that websites are optimized for search engines and achieve high rankings in search results.
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