Skills for journalists in print and digital media.

SEO for reporters and editors

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Search engine optimization (SEO) — the process of improving the volume or quality of traffic to a web site from search engines — for newsroom folks is about building “site authority” (an ongoing profile of reliable quality) and optimizing content as its posted. For reporters and editors that involves the use of keywords related to the content, keywords people will likely use to search for an article.

Few readers “read” a web site like a newspaper, starting on the homepage and paging back to what they want to read. They search, and most (about 70%) search on Google. So the goal is to have stories appear on the first page of a Google search.

The use of keywords in headlines is probably not a new concept in most newsrooms, as its always been part of good print headline writing as well. After attending some recent training in SEO, I came away with a much better understanding of the power of keywords in stories.

There has long been a sense in news writing that repetition is bad. So typical news stories tend to use a variety of terms about the same thing. Here in Phoenix, we might write about the Phoenix real estate market, or the metropolitan Phoenix home market, or the Valley housing market (off the area’s nickname, Valley of the Sun) — all in the same story. This kind of thing happens in news, sports, business and feature writing all the time.

SEO results are better when there is one consistent term that anchors the headline and appears in the opening paragraphs of the story. And a term that contains words a reader is most likely to use in a search. Hearing this in the SEO program, I realized we needed to discuss keywords central to our primary beats and develop an awareness and discipline in using them in the opening sections of a story (about the first 250 words). And we also need to step away from that conventional approach of not repeating terms.

I’ve always felt repetition is a good thing in long or complex stories when readers need all the help they can get to keep central themes and players straight. And now there seems to be a good reason to apply the same care at the start of a story to help more people find it on the web.

As a training or workflow development exercise, an explanation of how keywords affect searches, followed by a discussion and choices on core keywords, could be a quick, simple way for newsroom staff to play a part in an overall SEO strategy.

And check out Google’s free Keyword Tool that allows you to type in a word or phrase and see what other words are most likely to be used in such a search. Web page managers use it to help design the headings and other labels on a web page. Reporters and editors might find it helps with the brainstorming about the best keyword phrases on their respective beats.


Written by mroberts8

December 4, 2009 at 5:30 pm

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