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Why Photos are Critical to Online News

Posted on Feb 24, 2012 in Future of News, More Visitors: SEO & SEM | 0 comments

As newspapers make the transition from print to online, they need to understand the importance of adjusting their editorial style to fit the new medium. I should quote Marshall McLuhan, but years ago I worked with tech writer and information architect Freda Salatino, who used to say (in her Long Island accent), “When you create an online help system from a user guide, don’t just schlep the book online.” Like McLuhan, her point was that online is used differently from print, and that certainly holds true for news as well. The easiest  and most important lesson is in how you use images. Print papers don’t put a photo with ever story. With online stories, photos should be the rule, not the exception. Online is now a multimedia experience. This  is in part why forward-thinking news executives like John Paton issued Flip video cameras to all his journalists, and why every reporter in the DNAinfo newsroom carries a camera. With smartphones now boasting high-resolution cameras and high-def video, there is no longer an excuse for a journalist not carrying a camera in his or her pocket. Why can’t you ignore putting photos on the bulk of your stories? Here are a few good reasons: Every story is your home page—your front page. Unless you are a hugely trusted brand, up to 90% of your online traffic is coming from search engines. (Don’t believe it? See my previous post about what you can learn from site analytics and go check for yourself.) Even if you are a trusted brand, meaning that you have a huge number of repeat visitors to your home page, it still means that perhaps 50% of your traffic is coming from a search engine. This means that your readers are first seeing your site from the perspective of a story page. Would you ever have a front page with no photos? I don’t think so. There are also significant search engine optimization (SEO) benefits in putting images on every story. Search engines like Google give higher ranking to web pages with photos, as long as the photos are properly tagged with metadata (the title and alt tags...

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How To Do SEO Right

Posted on Feb 19, 2012 in Digital Marketing, More Visitors: SEO & SEM | 0 comments

In two previous posts I wrote about why you need to optimize for search engines and what that means. In this post I give a series of checklists for what editorial, marketing, and technology needs to do to boost readership using SEO. SEO Part 3: How To Do SEO Right SEO is often delegated to the technology team, with the instructions “just optimize the site for SEO.”  There are certainly technology best practices in SEO, but they tend to be easily implemented by any reasonably good dev team. The bulk of SEO work is actually in marketing, content production, reporting, and analysis. You can’t just hand SEO over to developers expecting them to drive more search traffic to the site, or to magically raise the page rank. A lot of the responsibility belongs to marketing and editorial. Since this is a blog and not a book, I’ve broken out the “How to SEO” into three sets of simple checklists, for editorial, marketing, and technology: Editorial SEO Search engines use programs called “crawlers” or “robots” to analyze your site. These crawlers are not very smart; they don’t look for Pulitzer prize-winning stories. They only check for new pages, see what pages have been updated, and most important, they look for keywords and rank content by keyword relevance. Your stories have to be tagged; tags are your search keywords, and are important both for readers, who search using keywords, and for robots, who index you in a  search engine using those same tags. Make sure that tags reflect actual page content. Remember all proper nouns (People, Places, Things, Events), synonyms, and even common permutations. Some clever taggers even include common misspellings (not necessarily a good idea when tags are prominently displayed in a list next to your story, like HuffPo does). Remember that keywords are the words a person might type into a search engine; don’t choose phrases no one would ever actually type, and don’t pick phrases that are popular but would cause them to be dismayed that they linked to you. So if the story isn’t really about Lady Gaga, don’t add her as a tag, even if it might...

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What is SEO?

Posted on Feb 15, 2012 in Digital Marketing, More Visitors: SEO & SEM | 1 comment

In my previous post I discussed why you need to optimize for search. In this next installment of the SEO series, I explain a bit about what SEO really is. SEO Part 2: So what is SEO? Search engine optimization is the art and science of making your web pages rank as high in the natural search rankings as possible. Google is the largest search engine, with Microsoft’s Bing a distant second. Your placement on a search engine, or “page rank,” is a complex algorithm generally based on these attributes: Age of site (time since the site was established) Number of hits to the site (overall site traffic) Popularity (number of unique visitors and repeat visitors) Number of inbound links (links to your site from other sites) Quality of inbound links (high page rank sites will increase your page rank; low page rank sites not so much) Keyword density (based on keyword relevance as discovered by search crawlers, aka robots) Secondary characteristics like media, type, source, and domain Page rank is a measurement of the relative importance of your site according to the search engines. Like the Richter scale, it is a logarithmic scale, meaning that a rank of 5 is ten times higher than a rank of 4. For example, here are the page ranks of several major news sites: The New York Times: 9 The Wall Street Journal: 8 The Guardian: 7 Irish Independent: 7 The top 100 bloggers range from page rank 8 for blogs like The Huffington Post, Gawker, and The Onion (all 3 use a blogging platform for their CMS and are considered blogs) to page rank 6 for today’s #100 spot, a popular fashion blog. These are updated daily on Secondary characteristics are very important, and include: Media: Search engines like rich media, especially video. As we’ll discuss in an upcoming posting, video and images can increase your “Google juice.” Type: News itself gets special treatment in a search engine; blogs and social networking also increase Google juice. Source: Official news agency sites (especially government and community sites) typically get higher rankings as trusted sources. Domain: Your domain name (including your subdomain and...

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SEO and SEM for News

Posted on Feb 12, 2012 in More Visitors: SEO & SEM | 0 comments

In Blogging Writes thus far I have discussed the state of the newspaper industry, and started to present some of the innate strengths that the industry can leverage in order to survive. But I also want to dedicate a good few postings to very practical matters, balancing between those that drive news revenue and those that drive visitor traffic and reader engagement. Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and its paid counterpart, Search Engine Marketing (SEM), are critical for the success of a news site. They are one of the primary drivers of online traffic (circulation). No matter how good the editorial product, word-of-mouth viral growth will always need a boost from SEO. There are many web sites that discuss SEO, and there are many especially bad how-to sites (based more on myths and just plain voodoo than on fact). As an SEO expert it’s tempting to write about SEO generically and try to dispel some of the common misconceptions, but that’s likely to drive some controversy and confuse the point of this blog. Instead, I’m going to focus on the art and science of SEO as it relates specifically to the news industry. This will be a multi-part series, covering the following topics: Why optimize for search? What is SEO? How to SEO The Art of Tagging Photos, Video, and Google Juice Paying for Clicks: Search Engine Marketing Part 1: Why optimize for search? Search, the act of looking something up on a search engine like Google or Bing, ranks second to email use as the most popular activity online. Over 50% of Internet users perform a search on a typical day. In fact, search is well ahead of other popular internet activities, such as checking the news, which 39% of internet users do on a typical day, or checking the weather, which 30% do on a typical day. (source: Jim Jansen, Pew Research/Internet and American Life Project, 2010, based on original research by Deborah Fallows, PhD. ) Why is this relevant to news? Search has become increasingly important as the starting point for news consumption. As early as 2010 the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism reported:  “Younger generations especially begin their...

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