Lindsay Blair is a journalism graduate currently working as a News Feeds Correspondent at Adfero in Manchester. Find Lindsay tweeting here.
One of the buzz words of the online journalism community these days has to be SEO. Search Engine Optimisation is the key to successful writing for the internet and is what generates the most readership for any site.
When thinking about what SEO can do for you consider the following from a Google study: “Use the standard SEO tactics to increase the number of inbound links to the main domain, create an optimised link architecture, and improve the social feedback on the core domain.”
So how is SEO different to standard news writing?
The techniques of SEO writing have different core principles to writing for print. While the inverted pyramid style of news writing still stands, it all has to revolve around keywords.
Keywords are based around what a person would most likely enter into a search engine, such as Google. A person looking for a job at a newspaper is more likely to type “journalism jobs” into a search than “paid employment in newspapers”. The words that are most important are based on what the average person would search for. Knowing your audience here is key. In essence it is good to remember that you are writing for both humans and the machines at Google – the most obvious words often work best.
Think about when you type “celebrity news” into Google, the first and second options are celebritygossip.net, a popular blog posting all the news of Hollywood’s finest stars, and second is Heat magazine’s website, heatworld.com. Perez Hilton comes up a little further down the page as well as other contenders such as Now magazine and the Sun. These results are pretty predictable and all due to a successful use of SEO.
How can I make SEO most effective?
When keywords are ‘front-loaded’ into a headline they work best. But the headline should still make sense. For example, if like before you searched for journalism jobs, headlines like ‘journalism jobs see major cutbacks’ will fare better than ‘The most competitive career choice is journalism, studies show’.
And the rest of the story?
Just like in the header, you should aim to get your keywords in the first and second paragraphs. To avoid repetition, it is best to think of synonyms or the root version of the word. These will still be recognised in searches but will enable your story to flow better. Too many single versions of a keyword crammed into an article will translate as spam in search engine results.
Aside from all the technical jargon, a study by online marketing firm iProspect shows that 26 per cent of people do not go beyond the second page of search engine results and 23 per cent would only look at the first few matches on the page so it is crucial that your site make it up there to the top.
Five key things to remember when writing for SEO:
1. Get the keyword in as early as possible. It is important to try and think of a headline including the word and put the word at the start of the header if possible.
2. Use the keyword again in the sub-header or first paragraph and apply the same principles of placing it near the start. You can use synonyms and root versions of the keyword to avoid repetition, for example; news/current affairs/events.
3. Don’t insert too many keywords in random places just to get them in as search engines will recognise this as spam and will filter you down the search results.
4. Include links to outside sources if possible. Google likes this; it shows that you are thinking about linking traffic between your site and other relevant ones. If you want to keep traffic within your site, try linking from page to page.
5. Finally, SEO recognises pages that are updated regularly. Frequently updated sites result in a higher relevance in a search (for example, the BBC News site is constantly updated so that’s why it is always so high up in results). Ensure that you update as regularly and as feasibly as possible for the best reader feedback.
SEO is all about generating readers and the competition to get to the top of that all important search result listing. Follow these tips and you’ll be hovering around Perez and the BBC in no time…
Want to read more about SEO? Take a look this interesting article Lindsay recommended to us.