Journalism & SEO

You may have heard the term ‘search engine optimisation’ before, but do you have any idea what that actually means? Before I looked into it, I didn’t really know either.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is the process of maximising the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine.

In simple terms, it’s websites fighting to get their content to the top of the google search page.

Now, google isn’t the only search engine, of course. Yahoo exists, Bing exists, Ask Jeeves… Although I haven’t seen anybody use Ask Jeeves since 2007. However, Google hold a staggering 91% of the UK search market share. In fact, the most searched word on Bing is – wait for it – Google. Ironic.

So, how does SEO have an effect in the world of journalism?

Well, it’s no longer all about drawing in your audience with catchy headlines and interesting cover stories. Years ago it used to be about coming up with a clever, catchy headline that may have been a play on words or a double entendre. But Google can’t link a user’s search using keywords to a quirky or unique headline. It’s all about keywords!

It’s all about getting your article to pop up at the top of the search results, and there a number of things you need to do in order to optimise for google. It’s no longer just about creating something worth reading. You article could be the best article in your publication, but without decent SEO, you simply can’t rely on good content. So what do you need to focus on to get higher up on those search results?

The most important thing you can do is answer all the questions. This is a tip I got whilst chatting with the head of SEO at The Telegraph offices in London. If you’re writing about one specific topic, or a specific news story, make sure you’re answering all the questions that the public have about it. If you’re writing about the recent Royal Wedding, then you want people to come to your article instead of the Guardian’s or the Sun’s, right?

In order to do that, go onto Google Trends, type in royal wedding and see what questions people are asking about the Royal Wedding. What are people searching for? Then make sure you tick off each one in your article.

You need to make sure your headlines tell people exactly what the story is. And if your headline misses anything out, it goes into your tag line. You need all that information in a combination of the two in order for Google to recognise your article as a result for the searcher.

So unfortunately, with the shift from print to online journalism taking over, it’s no longer about your catchy headlines, interesting content and unique angles; you need to be giving people exactly what they’re searching for.

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