Editorial SEO Tactics for the Newsroom

By now most editorial sites are employing basic SEO best practices in the newsroom but how many are taking full advantage of every opportunity?

To be successful an editorial staff needs to do more do more than just optimize headlines and title tags; there are a wide range of editorial SEO tactics that need to be employed.

Here are some of the key areas to address:

editorial SEO tactics

To be clear this is not meant to encompass the full spectrum of technical, editorial and marketing components in a comprehensive SEO program. The aim is to highlight the fundamental tactics that an editorial staff should incorporate into its daily workflow.

  • Optimize for relevant, popular keywords – this is the tactic that most newsrooms focus on, typically in a reactive manner. First content is created then the key page elements (title tag, headline, URL, image attributes, etc.) are optimized to improve keyword focus. Keyword research tools like the Google AdWords Keyword Tool or WordTracker are used to determine the best terms to optimize for. It is a fundamental part of editorial SEO but it is only the beginning.
  • Take advantage of trending topics and hot searches – regularly monitoring search and social media trends provides insight into what users are looking for, discussing and sharing right now. There are a variety of free search and social trend tools available and the data is useful both for keyword targeting and for discovering content opportunities. While this tactic is most applicable to sites that cover breaking news and popular topics like sports and entertainment it works in other areas too (see Search Trend Optimization for Evergreen Content).
  • Integrate with social media efforts – social media is having an increasing impact on search engine visibility as the engines incorporate more social signals into their ranking algorithms. A spike in social activity around a particular piece of content will directly and indirectly lead to greater exposure in search, so it is important to coordinate editorial production and content promotion through social media. As I covered in my post on Twitter tips for publishers the goal is have new content surface in news search, real-time search and social search all around the same time, all of which helps with regular Web search visibility too.
  • Use tools for content ideas and planning – Keyword and research and trend tools are not just for optimizing content that has already been created; they are also a good resource for new content ideas. An editorial staff can map out the keyword universe around a particular topic or story and make sure that all aspects are being effectively covered by the site. This can then be blended into both short and long-term editorial planning. There are a number of free and paid tools that are helpful in this area such as Google Insights for Search and SEMRush as well as enterprise-level options like Hitwise and ComScore Marketer. Other sources include looking at Google Instant results and even the Google Wonder Wheel. A site’s own analytics reporting and the search queries data in Google Webmaster Tools will provide further insight into current coverage and performance as well as opportunities for expansion and improvement.
  • Package content to maximize ranking potential – it doesn’t matter how compelling or keyword-focused a piece of content is if its format is not conducive to SEO success. Articles and blog posts are fairly straightforward but other types of content can create challenges. Over-use of galleries is a common issue as this can result in pages with too little content to be effective search landing pages, or content buried too deep to attract inbound links. Conversely covering too many topics in a single page format splits keyword focus and makes it difficult to compete for any of the targets. And graphic-intensive or interactive formats may leave the engines with little to use in understanding what the content is about. When it comes to content packaging there is a balancing act that needs to be achieved between business objectives, user experience and search-friendliness. Editors and producers should evaluate format options on a case-by-case basis.
  • Make effective use of linking – most publishers aren’t shy about internal and cross-networking linking. Go to any content site and you’ll see plenty of navigation, tout, related and recirc links in a variety of forms and locations. But many sites are not making good use of inline editorial links, which tend to have greater SEO value (see #5 in All Links are Not Created Equal from SEOmoz). That’s where the editorial staff comes in; their ability to incorporate useful, appropriate links within content is a powerful tool. This kind of curated approach is much more effective than automating the process. Building some form of suggested link functionality into the CMS is a good idea but the editorial staff should decide what links to include and where.

At the center of all this is quality content; without that none of these tactics matter. However it is equally true that simply creating quality content is not enough. To succeed today content needs to be effectively targeted and optimized for search and social.

What other SEO tactics should newsrooms employ?


  1. says

    Thanks for showing and telling people how to do such important work. The content is great. I think a barrier worth further discussion is finding the process needed to create such change. News crews are under constant deadline; professional development and plan execution can be difficult.

    I would love to talk further offline about this if interested.

  2. says

    Thanks Dan. I agree, even when an editorial staff recognizes the benefits of these tactics it’s not always easy to get them to implement them consistently. It takes ongoing training and collaboration to develop an internal process that’s going to work. I’d be happy to discuss it further some time – you can use my contact form to continue offline.

  3. says

    oooh, just sent a link to my brother in law – he’s always bugging me for SEO advice for his work (he’s a journalist working for a local paper and one of his duties is to look after the paper’s site).

    This has saved me hours! Thanks! :) :)

  4. says

    Great tips. It’s true that content is key. If the content isn’t interesting or relevant there is really no use in employing the above tactics. It’s always important to keep up with industry trends because they could alter the ways people search and the terms that they use.

  5. Drew says

    How do they implement this for local news:

    “Granny’s cat gets stuck up tree shocker”

    Or is it just applicable to larger trending stories and topics with more volume?

  6. says

    Drew – The same general principles apply to local news as well. The potential audience and/or search volume may be smaller but you still want to optimize your key page elements (title tag, headline, URL, etc.) and support the content through social media and other channels as possible.

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