Contrary to popular belief, quality editorial does not need to be compromised in order to improve your SEO rankings. In fact, quality content is key, says Sefiso Hlongwane.
It’s no secret that journalism has an unhappy history with SEO. Frankly, all online content has an unhappy history with SEO. Its practitioners have sucked the life out of much online content – for whatever reason many writers have ended up having to concentrate on what is popular in search engines rather than what is interesting or important.
Let’s be honest, it really makes the job a little harder; try writing an eloquent piece of dialogue about something that’s probably way over your head, all the while trying to throw in a bunch of hot keywords in the specific ‘F-pattern’ placement the lazy-eyed reader will typically use to scan.
I have gone from being a journalist and blogger, to a content marketer, and more recently, re-joined the rapidly-evolving world of online journalism. So I come bearing copious amounts of evidence that editors, journalists and reporters are not very well-versed in how search engines work, or how important keywords can play a role in headlines and tags. But to cut it short, they don’t like it. In fact, you may even call them openly resentful. Because they are.
However, contrary to popular belief, quality editorial does not need to be compromised in order to improve your SEO rankings. In fact, quality content is key.
Profitability may mean that these two pressures never go away. But as a journalist, SEO doesn’t have to mean you compromise what you do. It is just a way to make sure that your content has the best chance of being found by new readers.
So, instead of trying to avoid it, rather acquaint yourself with these guidelines to make your job a whole lot easier.
First things first, it is worth noting that a keyword is not always a single word. These are the various words and phrases that are typed into search engines by people, ranging from “local government elections” to “Kim Kardashian bum” – both of which are trending on Google as I write this.
There was a time when stuffing as many instances of a chosen keyword into a page was effective, but those days are long gone. Writers need to reiterate their article’s subject to the search engines by covering all the various terms and expressions that people may use when searching for a topic or event.
The best way to do this is by avoiding complicated language and jargon, using people’s full names, and spelling out abbreviations in full at least once, such as using both First National Bank and FNB.
Writing headlines has always been a difficult art to master in both print and online journalism. When it comes to SEO, the challenge is no different.
The most effective way to optimise headlines is by thinking of a catchy title that includes your targeted keywords at the beginning, also known as ‘front-loading’. For example, “SEO for journalists: All you need to know” is a much better headline for this article than “Important things to consider when writing for online”, even though both are relevant.
As a journalist, you should know how to prioritise information in a news story, starting with the ‘who, when, where, what and how’ aspects in the introduction.
This is crucial when writing for online as you not only need to entice readers, you must also tell the various search engine robots what the rest of your page is about. To do this, include plenty of relevant keywords in the headline and introduction, while coherently summarising the whole story.
There is a lot more to SEO than simply including keywords in headlines, as a number of user experiences and technical aspects also affect how websites perform in search engine results.
This includes formatting articles correctly, optimising pictures and photos, adding appropriate categories and tags, as well as including Meta descriptions and page titles.
Although the journalist or sub-editor may be responsible for these, they are usually forgotten about or not fully optimised. For example, most news websites automatically use the story’s headline as the page URL and title tag, the latter of which is text that appears at the top of your browser window. However, it’s extremely important to spend time rewriting and optimising both of these before publication as they are places that search engines look to assess how relevant your article is to a specific search term.
So whether journalists like it or not, writing for digital and SEO go hand in hand. The more you apply these techniques and adapt your way of thinking, the better chance you stand of finding more people online to read and share your articles, which is the ultimate aim of news dissemination, after all.