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Search Engine Optimisation for news


Your news website is one of thousands upon thousands on the internet. Your article on climate change is one of thousands upon thousands upon thousands on the internet.

Let me Google that for you…

How do you get people to not only find your article in the first place, but to then choose to read it?

That’s what search engine optimisation (SEO) is all about.

First, you need to understand how search (and let’s be honest, when we say ‘search’, we mean ‘Google’) works.

So building your website and publishing your article isn’t enough.

You need to make sure those spiders find it. That means it needs to be linked to from elsewhere, and preferably from sites that Google considers authoritative.

Then you need to make sure that once it’s found, it’s presenting itself in its best possible light.

Getting found

If your content is interesting enough, and if your social media strategy is good enough, then Google’s spiders will eventually find your website.

But you can get ahead of the game by using Google Search Console.

As well as submitting your links, which you can do whenever you make any changes or publish a new article, you can also see analytics data which will tell you:

  • what keywords your pages are coming up against in search results
  • which sites are linking to yours
  • how often you appear in search results
  • how many people click through to your site from search results
  • whether your pages are mobile-friendly

And lots more…

Close the deal

So Google’s found your article. Now to get people to click on it.

If you know who your audience is, and write with them in mind, and you write well, then your content should appear against relevant keyword searches, and it should get clicked on. But to help you on your way, here are some guidelines to follow:

Headline: The first 60 characters are what counts – that’s what will appear in search results. Get good keywords in there – that means if you’re writing a story about a business, get the business name into the headline. If you’re writing about a topic, find out what keywords people use when they’re searching for information on that topic (Google Adwords’ keyword planner will tell you this), and use those words.

Body: Your content should be original, up to date, written simply and clearly. If you’re covering a breaking news story then publish quickly, and keep updating – don’t wait until you’ve got 400 words. Google likes to present the user with the most up to date information in its news search results.

Your first couple of lines are the most important – not only will they appear in the search results, but once someone has clicked through, if they don’t find what they’re after in the first couple of seconds they’ll click back and head elsewhere.

Added value: Pictures and videos help – because Google knows that that’s what people what to see, so they prioritise results that have this content. Make sure your images are saved with filenames that include relevant keywords and accurately describe the content in the picture. If you’re embedding a video from YouTube that you’ve created, make sure the headline and description on the video stand alone. You should also add a link to your article in the video description.

Links: Give your audience somewhere to go – related content, links to organisations mentioned in your article. People don’t like reaching a dead end, so Google doesn’t like dead ends either. To infinity and beyond… The guidelines above should be followed every time you publish or update a story, but there are some extra steps you can take when setting up your site to make the most of your appearance in search results.

Metadata: Meta titles and descriptions should be added to the code of each web page that clearly identifies what content is on the page. A CMS can be set up to make the headline of an article the meta title, and the first line the meta description. If Google’s spiders decide your meta description is an accurate representation of the content on the page, then it will appear in search results.

Structured data: Ever done a search and noticed the results are presented in a carousel with images?

That’s done using structured data. I’m not going to go into detail here, but if you’re interested in delving into code, then take a look at Google’s guide.

AMP: AMP is an open-source project to create fast and accessible web pages for mobile.

If an article on your desktop site has lots of resource-hungry graphics and interactions, the AMP version could be completely different.

Google News uses articles published in AMP format where available, so it’s a great way to get your content noticed.