SEO for online publications

Content and SEO are the Same Thing!

Get That Into Your Head Already!

content and SEO

An interesting problem that we run into regularly is that a client hires us to do business communications, such as press releases, blog posts, web content etc. That's great, but what the client also does is hire an SEO firm to do whatever it is they need to do. It's a problem because there are now two competing entities to do the same thing. Search engine optimization and content creation are the same thing! You only need one to accomplish both!

Without Content, What Will People Find on the Search Engines?

Perhaps there are technical aspects that the SEO firm emphasizes, like server capability, load times, and 301 redirects. Google's latest algorithm change, Google Hummingbird, emphasizes mobile search and the use of voice to conduct searches. Although we can provide the content, we wouldn't have anything to do with creating the mobile site and making sure that site works correctly. In those cases, an SEO firm might be best.

However, as we found with our problem, the SEO firm hired is tasked to do original content as well. Even though more quality, original content is better than less, there's no good reason to have both if all you want is original content. After all, if you don't spend time creating content, then what's going to come up under the keywords for which you want to rank? Yes, factors like domain name, meta description, backlinks, and social media matter, but even optimizing those aspects won't help with your search engine rankings if your content is thin, irrelevant, or just horrible. Businesses engaging in content marketing and business blogging need to understand that getting found online is only half of the story. You also need to think about what people will find when they do find you online, and that's when you need to think about the content.

It's the latter half of getting found online that's so difficult to get into the heads of small business owners and marketers who want to rank high on the search engines. Part of the importance in understanding this is that content marketing will get you there if you do it right. Search engine optimization isn't about gaming the search engines, and focusing on SEO without thinking about the content can get you into trouble. There are many SEO practices that may have been good at one point, but will now get you into trouble. These include keyword stuffing, overloaded keyword density, and cloaked pages. One of the newest "black hat techniques" is to add fake positive reviews on sites like Google+ and Yelp. Reviews on both sites show up on search engine rankings, so there's an incentive to do what it takes to get the positive ones. However, paying someone to write reviews or to add positive reviews of your own does violate the ethics guidelines of both sites.

The Two Aren't Competing. They Work Together.

Because they work together, hiring both a content marketing company (or writers, bloggers, content creators) and an SEO firm/consultant is redundant and a waste of money. Although it's obvious we're going to say that the money should be put on the content creators, the decision is ultimately up to you. The main point is that they work together, and that content is SEO because it's content that's showing up in the search engine rankings and it's content that people will find when they type in search terms. It's possible to create content that's search-engine friendly but also engaging and entertaining, so figure out how to do that and everything will fall into place.

How News Websites and Online Publications Can Do SEO

SEO for news websitesSearch engine optimization isn't just for businesses. If you want your content to get found online (which would include news websites and online publications, then you do need to think about SEO practices. Although you won't be implementing the exact same tactics as a company website, there are ways you can do SEO as well so that your articles show up on Google News and in general search engine rankings. Here's how news websites and online publications can do SEO:

In the Title, Put the Keyword First

Search engines actually give preference to pages with a page title that starts with the keyword of phrase. For example, if you're writing an article about a cookie dough recipe, then you have more SEO potential if the title is something like, "Cookie Dough Recipe: 10 Easy Steps", or "Cookie Dough Recipe: A Christmas Must-Have".

It's also important to make sure that your article titles are clear and specific. This actually helps SEO, rather than hurting it, because you can then target a much more specific keyword (one that has less traffic, but could generate higher quality traffic). So, even though "cookie dough recipe" is search-engine friendly, it's not all that specific and isn't enough to generate interest in potential readers. Using an example like one of those above, or finding a way to expand it so that it is more specific, is much more beneficial.

Think About All Aspects of SEO

SEO is much more than keywords within the article or title, but it's also about the user experience and some of the technical aspects. This includes proper formatting, optimizing photos, including meta descriptions, and writing long, quality content (200-word posts don't quite cut it anymore, in case you didn't know). Those tend to be aspects that news websites and online publications can miss because the emphasis on creating content, but not thinking about proper formatting, or not optimizing pictures and photos, can hurt an article's chances for ranking. SEO best practices are changing regularly, so if you intend on using search engines and/or Google News as a way to bring traffic to your site, then keeping up with them would be wise.

Don't Forget Categories and Tags

This is something online publications and news websites sometimes forget about since they are too focused on creating content on a regular pace. That's a good thing, but you do want to label each article with appropriate and search-friendly categories and tags as well. There are a few reasons for this:

  1. Every time you create a new category or tag, a new page is created that indexes everything with that category or tag. So, if you create a category or tag that is a keyword or phrase, it's something that can rank on the search engines.
  2. Keeping these organized and fresh shows that you, as a news website or online publication, is paying attention and understands their value. This will set you apart from those that don't pay attention.
  3. Besides a search bar, categories and tags are the only other way for visitors to find articles on your site about a particular topic. Improve the user experience of your site by having clear and organized categories and tags.

Don't go overboard with these on an article either. We recommend no more than three categories per article, and no more than eight or 10 tags. Keep categories in check as well. There's no need to have hundreds

Related Links:

How to Determine What Your Audience Needs to Know

3 Big Principles for Media Creators

Why Bloggers Can't Say Whatever They Want, Whenever They Want