Newspaper SEO

A photo of newspapers

Photo by faungg

In preparation for my presentation on Search Engine Optimization for Newspapers before the Minnesota Newspaper Association conference today, I compiled a few tips, in no particular order, for newspapers to keep in mind when optimizing their sites:

  • URL Optimization: Include keywords in the URL structure:
    • Use keywords for category sections: e.g.
    • Use title keywords for individual story pages: e.g. See above
    • Use hyphens to separate keywords
    • Include a unique numeric story ID of at least three digits in order to satisfy Google News
    • Avoid session IDs
    • Ensure the URL is stable, regardless of whether it is on the front page or has been relegated to the archives
      • This ensures that once search engines have found the page once, it will remain in their index
      • It is also good practice to maintain links that have been created to that page from other sites, blogs, and aggregators.
  • Optimize your TITLE TAGS: Article Title | Site Category | Newspaper Name | Geographic Location.
  • DESCRIPTION TAGS: Write unique, keyword-rich Meta Description tags for each page. It is this text that search engines draw from for the description below the link in search engine results pages.
  • Heading Tags: Use H1 tags for article titles and the H2 and H3 (and H4 and H5, if needed) tags for subheads.
  • Template Optimization: The HTML code for page templates should present content first, then navigation.
  • Use valid, proper HTML: The code for your site should be clean, valid and used properly. e.g. Use <p> tags for paragraphs of text, not line breaks (<br />).
  • Consolidate code: Move all your JavaScript and CSS code to external, linked files. Makes it easier for search engines to read the pages and faster loading for visitors.
  • Tags: Implement a tagging system so that stories can be aggregated according to keywords in order to capture topical search traffic.
  • Profile Pages: Create profile pages of people and organizations that are frequently in the news to which stories can be added as they are published. Link to these pages within stories whenever the person and/or organization is mentioned.
  • Categorization: Create a categorization system for types of content (e.g. Most newspaper sites already have this implemented but most are not search optimized.
  • Prevent duplicate content: Take measures to prevent search engines from indexing duplicate content. If the same story appears in more than one place on a site, search engines should only be allowed to index one copy. Search engines do not like duplicate content.
  • Avoid breaking stories into multiple pages: If a story is long and must be broken up, try and optimize each page. Ideally, though, keep one story  per page.
  • Avoid forced registration: If you require visitors to register with the site before they can view content, you’re also blocking out search engines from indexing your site, and search engines can’t fill out forms. If you must enforce registration, consider a more search-friendly “first-click free” system.
  • XML Sitemap: Create an XML sitemap and submit it to the major search engines.
  • Google News XML Sitemap: Implement an XML sitemap for Google News. (Google News XML sitemaps are different than XML sitemaps.)
  • Optimize your photos: Make them search-engine friendly.
  • Open your archives: Make them available to and easy to index by the search engines. This is the long-tail search effect. These pages may not get a lot of volume of traffic individually, but collectively they can turn into a ton of page views.
  • Write keyword-rich, descriptive titles: This is one of the biggest shifts traditional news people have to navigate by trading in those clever, snappy headlines for boring keywordy ones. You should be artful with it; first and foremost, you should be writing for your readers, while keeping search engine traffic in mind.
  • Link text: Use logical, descriptive text in your internal hyperlinks. If you’re linking to the sports section, use the word “sports” for your link.
  • Study keyword analytics: Understand what search terms people are using to get to your site, how people search generally, and keep on top of search trends, but:
  • Don’t obsess over keywords either.
  • Capture internal search queries: This will tell you a lot about your content and your visitors, what they can’t find and what they want.
  • Socialize your content: Allow people to link to, email, Tweet, Facebook and embed your content. You’ll give yourself far more opportunities for people to visit your site–referred by a trusted source, by the way–and the links to your site can become a factor in your search rankings.

The e-Strategy Academy covers all aspects of digital marketing including search optimization & marketing, email marketing, social media marketing, video marketing, mobile marketing & public relations.