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Content Marketing 38 min read

SEO for Media, Journalists and News Publishers: Best Practices

SEO for Media and News Outlets: from Trends to Evergreens
Анастасия Сотула
Anastasiia Sotula
Blog Editor at Serpstat
SEO is a must-have for media, news outlets, blogs, and all content-based websites.

If you create high-quality content, you'd like users to discover it, right? That’s where it becomes crucial to not only cater to readers but also to search engines.

In this article, we will dive into all the SEO steps you need to take to attract readers from search engines.
Contents

SEO Fundamentals for Content-Based Websites

When working on website promotion for a news website, blog, or online media outlet, it’s vital to pay attention to the content itself and its optimization.

Only a high-quality and search engine-friendly text has a chance to get to the top of Google’s SERPs. Luckily, there’s a list of straightforward optimization techniques aimed at helping search engines quickly find, index, and rank the content pages in search results.

So, what are these techniques exactly? Keep reading.

How To Write Better Blog Posts: 12 Experts Share Their Best Tips

Make Your Website Informative and Helpful

The most crucial requirement for any text content is its quality and value. Pretty obvious, isn't it?

Yet still, the internet is filled with over-optimized texts that lack any substance.

What exactly are they? Low-quality, uninformative, non-unique texts stuffed with keywords to the point where they stop making any logical sense.

While striving for better rankings is understandable, sometimes less optimization is more. Keep in mind that search engines' algorithms are smart and very strict. If the search engine "catches" you using black-hat SEO techniques, it may impose penalties on your website.

So what is the right way to make your content both valuable and optimized?
  • Make sure that your content is well-written, engaging, extensively researched, and comprehensive;
  • Create viral content on trending topics so that your readers are encouraged to share it;
  • Get to know your target audience, learn about their interests, and write your content accordingly;
  • Keep up with your competitors. Research them, borrow their ideas, and make them even better.
  • Optimize content to drive traffic from search engines.

Create a Clear and User-Friendly Website Structure

A clear and organized website structure is vital for both the users and search engines. While users will appreciate better website navigation, search engines will find it easier to crawl the pages.

To create the right website structure, you need to:

Improve Page Load Speed

Search engines tend to rank fast-loading websites higher in search results. Moreover, the latest Google updates were specifically aimed at eliminating slow websites from the top.

By increasing page load speed, you improve user experience, and along with that, your website rankings and conversion rates. To go into further details on how to improve page load speed, we'd need to write a whole separate article. Oh, we already did ;)

Adapt your Website for Mobile Devices

In 2022, the percentage of mobile traffic in the world has exceeded 57%, which means that about half of the users will read your articles from their phones.

Besides, one of the main SEO trends in recent years is the Mobile First approach. Google’s Mobile-First indexing prioritizes mobile website versions for indexing and ranking and uses specific bots for smartphones.

Therefore, it’s vital to have a mobile version of your website and take care of its quality.

Also, to improve the page load speed for mobile, you can use the AMP technology. Google Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is an open-source library that helps you create fast-loading versions of pages for smartphones.

How does it work? It creates a duplicate page using AMP HTML, disables scripts that slow down the loading, and after that, Google processes the page to speed it up as much as possible.

Setting Up Accelerated Mobile Pages On A Website

Fix Technical Issues on the Website

There are plenty of technical mistakes you can make on your website, from missing or duplicate meta tags to server response errors or slow loading.

All these issues get accumulated and as a result, reduce the quality of the website from both the users' and search engines' perspectives.

Therefore, it is necessary to do a regular and thorough check of the website for technical problems: HTTP Status Code issues, expired certificates, corrupt redirects, multiple rel="canonical' tags, broken images, and so on.

You can automate the monitoring and analysis of your website's technical optimization, as well as take timely measures to fix the issues with Serpstat SEO Site Audit Tool.

Just create your project and set up a regular audit schedule. The service will provide you with a list of all the technical errors before they even start affecting the ranking.
Serpstat Site Audit for Media and News websites
Would you like to discover technical SEO issues via the Serpstat Site Audit and improve your rankings?
Click the button below, sign up and get a free 7-day trial!

Collect Keywords

As previously mentioned, a proper keyword list is key for successful website promotion. If you want the readers to discover your article, add in the keywords they use to google your topic.

With Serpstat, you can not only collect a keyword list for your website but also select relevant headings and subheadings.

How? Let's say you want to write an article about tuning a guitar. Type the desired keyword into the search bar of the service, select the database and look at the result.

The Keyword Selection report will show all variations of the keyword:
Serpstat Keyword Selection report: the list of keywords for media websites
Next, take a look at the semantically related keywords and synonyms in the Related keywords report:
Media promotion: Related keywords report
When collecting keywords, you should pay special attention to the Volume (search volume) section. Keywords with the highest search volume are perfect for meta tags and headings, as well as the beginning of the text. Keywords with medium and low frequency should be organically added throughout the text.

Keep in mind that more is not always better, so don't ever stuff the text with too many keywords, make sure that they sound natural and make logical sense.

Next, go to the Top Pages report, which lists the pages that already have good rankings for a keyword of interest. Competitors might have good ideas you can borrow. To exclude commercial pages from the results, you can use the dedicated filter (if necessary).
Top Pages report: the list of the most popular competitors' pages
In the Search Questions report, you can find headline ideas, as well as questions your audience frequently asks.
SEO Optimization of News and Media Websites: Headline ideas in Serpstat Search Questions Report

SEO Writing For Newbies: How To Attract Readers And Search Engines

Fill in the Title, Description, Header Tags, and Alt Attributes Correctly

Filling in meta tags is a crucial element of SEO that optimizers pay a lot of attention to, so let's dive into it. Proper metatags give the search engine a clear idea of the content of the page, and Title and Description tags can be used for snippets.

It's a common belief that meta tags must include a certain number of characters, but this is not entirely true. The snippet is formed at the discretion of the search engine and depends on the particular search query. Therefore, the main requirement for meta tags is to make them informative. It's necessary to keep their logic and not reduce or increase the size of the title just for the sake of numbers.

When working with header tags, you should abide by the following rules:

  • A page must include an H1 Header, there shouldn't be more than one H1 per page, and it has to be unique;
  • Use Header tags in texts and focus on the structure;
  • If the title of the text contains a keyword, we recommend using an H2 title;
  • If the title is general, such as "About the product", you can use an H3.

For Alt tags:

  • Create SEO-friendly URLs for images;
  • Avoid spam and keyword stuffing in alt tags;
  • Make the text short and concise;

Follow Search Engine Guidelines for Media Placement and Markup

If you use media content and structured data on your website, make sure to thoroughly read the following Google guidelines:

1. Google Images best practices. Here are some of them in brief:
  • Use relevant images in good context;
  • Don't embed important text into images;
  • Make sure your website is mobile-friendly;
  • Create a good URL structure for your images.

2. Video best practices
  • Make sure that each video is available on a public web page;
  • Use an appropriate HTML tag for your video;
  • Submit a video sitemap to help Google find your videos.
3. Understand how structured data works.

Give Googlebot Access to All Website Elements That Affect the Content Display

To let the page display correctly, you should allow Googlebot correctly recognize all the content on the page. The bot must have full access to all website elements that have any impact on the correct display of content. For instance, these include images, JavaScript files, and CSS files.

Google's indexing algorithm considers all page elements, but it can't always crawl them. If you notice your content rendering incorrectly, make sure there is no crawling issue. To do this, you can use the following tools:

Make Sure the Bot Can Crawl the Pages Created on your CMS

If you use a content management system (CMS) (WordPress, Wix, Weblium, etc.) to create your pages, make sure that search engines can actually crawl them. Otherwise, your content may not get included in the search results.

If you don't know how to check a website for crawling errors, you can find the answers in our guide:

How to Fix Crawl Errors in Google Search Console

Don't Hide Important Information in Collapsible Sections

The most important and valuable content on the page should be visible by default.
It's an essential point, which people often overlook by hiding parts of texts in drop-down lists, etc.
 Collapsible Sections
Why is it important?

Technically, the bot has no problem crawling HTML in collapsible sections. However, the search engine algorithm deems such information less significant. As a result, relevant parts of your content may not get considered for page ranking.

Block Sponsored Links from Indexing

If you add advertising links to your articles, make sure to not let them affect your website rankings. To prevent search robots from following and indexing them, add the rel="nofollow" and rel="sponsored" attributes into your robots.txt file.

Why use the Nofollow tag for search engine optimization?

Would you like to see how Serpstat can help take your website's SEO to the next level?
Click the button below, sign up and get a free 7-day trial!

SEO Tips for Blogs and Media Outlets

Now that we've gotten the general SEO requirements for content out of the way, let's dive into the details. Here we've put together a set of content creation recommendations for media outlets based on both editorial expertise and SEO principles.

Analyze Competitors' Articles

To get to the top of the search engine results, you need to constantly monitor your industry, its leaders, and your direct competitors. You can search for competitors manually by entering keywords you want to rank for into the search engine. However, this method tends to be very time-consuming and inaccurate — search engines personalize the results, and it’s hard to get a clear picture.

Searching for competitors can also be automated by using specialized tools. For instance, with Serpstat you can find direct competitors of a website that rank for the same keywords in just a couple of clicks.

Let's take the TechCrunch website as an example. In the Competitors report we get the following list of websites:
searching for online competitors with Serpstat Keyword research tool
For instance, there's The Verge on the list of competitors. Let's see what keywords the website ranks for. Among the popular competitors' keywords we can collect good ideas for writing our content:
competitor keywords
What pages drive the most traffic to our competitors? Why are users interested in these articles? Perhaps, the authors jumped onto a trend or wrote a brilliant comprehensive piece on some topic? Anyway, there’s always room for improvement, so you can do it better than them ;)
most popular competitor pages
Also, compare your keywords with competitors'. Is there something you're missing?
Analyze the list of keywords your 2-3 direct competitors rank for, and you don't. If several industry leaders use them, then most likely so should you.
Serpstat domain comparison: Domain vs. Domain Report (lists of keywords)
By constantly analyzing your industry and competitors, you will be able to keep us with the trends and skyrocket your website in search results.

Create a Content Plan and Write Relevant Articles

When working with content, the most fundamental rule is simple: write articles people will actually want to read. Pretty obvious, isn't it? If your content is not in demand among the audience, you might want to reconsider your topic choices.

You have to make sure your content answers your audience's questions. As an expert, you know the industry inside and out, however, your area of interest might not be the same as your audience's. If you want to win readers over, you must satisfy their informational needs.

How can you find topics your audience cares about? No, it's not about intuition. You need to rely on objective data. Let's say you want to blog about digital marketing.

  1. Pick a basic keyword to start. For instance, “digital marketing”.
  2. Type it in the search bar, select the database and click "Search".
  3. Go to the Competitors report and see what the competitors write about on their websites. Evaluate the popularity of the articles and collect ideas.
keyword competitors
4. Next, take a look at the pages that have the highest rankings for a keyword. In this section, you can find great article examples and use them for writing content on your website.
analysis of popular pages by keywords
5. Next, you can analyze Search Suggestions on the topic. The data in this report is collected in real-time, so here you can find the latest data on your topic and determine what your audience is interested in.
keyword search suggestions
6. Then, let's check out the Search Questions. This report is one of the most relevant for this goal. Search questions are interrogative forms of search suggestions. Basically, these are the questions your audience wants you to answer on your website.

You can write dedicated texts on these topics or use them as subheadings in your articles. This will help you attract more website visitors (only if you write high-quality and interesting content, of course).
search questions by a keyword
7. Also, research the Keyword trends in the region for which you create your content.
That way, you can discover a topic that is just starting to spread in the media and publish an article before your competitors do.
google trends alternative: keyword trends by Serpstat
Based on the collected ideas, create a content plan for a month, a quarter, or a year. And start gradually capturing the SERPs! You might want to read TripMyDream's case on how to create a content strategy.

Re-optimize your Content

If you created a high-quality article using all the best SEO practices, your article is ready to get to the top of Google search results. However, it doesn’t end there.

Re-optimizing your existing content is an excellent source of traffic that is often overlooked. It's especially vital for evergreen articles, so don't forget to improve and update them from time to time. Check how they perform in search results, analyze the keywords, and expand them.

To quickly find the keywords that are missing on your page, just enter the page URL into the Serpstat search bar and go to the Missing Keywords section:
how to find out which keywords are missing on a page
In this report, you will get a list of keywords the pages rank for in the top 10 Google search results yet you don't use them in your content.

Take Care of Internal Linking

Internal linking is an essential part of website optimization. To simplify the navigation for users and encourage them to spend more time on the website, you should base your internal linking on topical relevance.

Internal links on the website improve its usability and help users quickly find useful information on the website while visiting the maximum number of pages per visit. Consequently, it improves such user behavior factors as Pages Per Session and Average Session Duration. In turn, improvements in user behavior increase the website's position in the search results.

An additional advantage of internal linking is that it helps search bots index new content more efficiently since they also follow the internal links of the website.

Build External Links

Backlinks are just as important for website rankings as the quality of content, if not more. If the search engine detects that you receive links from high-quality trustworthy websites, it automatically increases your website rankings. That's why link building is so essential.

Of course, your website can get links naturally. For instance, if you published an excellent piece of content and people started sharing it. However, it doesn't always work out that way. Therefore, to expand your backlink profile, you need to draw up a linkbuilding strategy and regularly work on implementing it.

What kinds of linkbuilding strategies are there? We have collected 9 of the most popular ones:

  1. Replicating competitor’s backlinks;
  2. Guest posting;
  3. Skyscraper technique and creating linkbait content;
  4. Broken link building;
  5. Turning unlinked brand mentions into backlinks;
  6. Industry-related ratings and lists;
  7. Crowd links;
  8. Collaborations with influencers and industry experts;
  9. Social media links.
There’s also a fascinating linkbuilding story that Fery Kaszoni shared on his LinkedIn:
Checkout page
You can also write articles on hot topics in your region or in the world, send them to the media, and get backlinks in return. This is where Serpstat Keyword Trends tool we've previously mentioned also comes in handy.
There's another way to find websites that are the right fit for you: search for common link donors of your competitors. This becomes easy with the Serpstat Links Intersect tool. All you need to do is enter 2-3 competitor domains and you will see all the websites that link to each of them, as well as the common link donors:
link donors of competitors that intersect
After all, if several competitors work with a certain link donor website, it's most likely high-quality and trustworthy. Get in contact with such websites and discuss your linkbuilding options, whether it's paid link placement, guest posting, outreach, etc. As a result, your website will get an increase in backlink profile and authority.

Also, don't forget to thoroughly analyze backlink profiles, as bad link donors can be very harmful to your website:
Backlink profile analysis

Serpstat Backlink Analysis Tool: A Comprehensive Guide

Add Videos

Using video content in articles is definitely one of the current trends in content marketing. About 80-85% of users find it easier to perceive visual information.

So if you have an opportunity to add a video to the article, do it!
It's an effective tool for both conveying information and website promotion. If the crawler detects that your page has relevant video content besides text, it may find it more useful than competitor pages without videos.

Distribute Content

You shouldn't expect maximum performance from your content if it stays just within your website. Distribute it.

Create social media accounts - Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. where you can share your new content, post interesting facts, and grow your audience.
Don't forget about emails. Add a newsletter subscription form to your blog and offer your readers to stay up to date with the news.
An example of an newsletter subscription form
Also, share your content with other platforms. Let's say you published an article that might interest the audience of a similar media outlet. Reach out to them and offer some form of collaboration, such as a social media placement (paid, free, cross-promotion), a press release with a link to your original article, or a mention.

Track Progress

When working on content, it's crucial to focus on the result and adjust the strategy accordingly. To monitor the progress across website pages, you need to track their positions in search results for the target keywords.

If your pages don't rank at the top of search results or your rankings suddenly dropped, it's a clear sign you need to change your approach.
For instance, you haven't managed to get an article to the top of the SERPs by just doing text optimization. It means you should also try working on backlinks or internal linking. Page promotion is never a one-way process, you should always adjust it.

To monitor the website's positions in search results, you can use the Serpstat Rank Tracker tool. Once you've published your evergreen content, add the keywords to the rank tracking project to check how your articles are performing.
tracking of website positions in Google by a keyword
While you're at it, you should also pay special attention to SERP features, as featured snippets are a great way to improve the website's visibility in the search results and increase CTR.

Within the same Rank Tracker tool you can check if there are any featured snippets available in search results for your keywords:
SERP features appearance by a keyword
Optimization for SERP Features can help you outperform your strongest competitors in search results. For some snippets, you just need to structure your content in a specific way, while others are more demanding, and require you to create specific blocks. Also, there's good news: in Google's Help Center you can find clear instructions about featured snippets.

A Complete Visual Guide of Google SERP Features in 2022: What Keywords to Use And How to Get Featured

SEO Tips For News Publishers

We already spoke about the important aspects of SEO for content-based websites. They are just as valid for the promotion of news outlets. However, news websites have some features worth mentioning separately.

Optimize your Website for Google News

Google News is a news aggregator that collects news articles from various sources and presents them in its own feed. For users, it's a convenient way to consume information, and for the website owner, it's great traffic flow.
Google News snippets
Your website has to meet specific technical requirements to get listed on Google News. For instance, it needs to have persistent URLs for the main website sections and unique URLs for each article, only have texts in one language and articles published on one domain. To familiarize yourself with all the requirements, you can read the official guidelines in Google Publisher Center.

Create an XML sitemap for news

An XML sitemap is aimed at helping the Googlebot crawl all the pages of a website. For a news section on a website, you can create a dedicated sitemap to make sure it gets regularly crawled and included in the Google News index.

Sitemaps provide metadata on the content of the website to search engines. At the same time, a news sitemap gives an SEO specialist control over the content that is submitted to Google News.

By using the map of news URLs, Google News is able to quickly search for news that has been published. The search engine receives a direct URL for each news article, which improves reach.

In sitemaps you can:

  • include the title and publishing date of each article;
  • indicate the type of content;
  • identify the content of the article by using descriptions and relevant keywords.

То get a better understanding of how to create a news sitemap, feel free to read our How to create an XML sitemap for news article and the Google News Sitemaps section of the Google Search Central Documentation.

Use Structured Data

Markup helps search engines discover the content on the website faster and interpret it correctly. Implementing structured data means using tags and attributes for structuring the information. Make sure to read Google’s official documentation on how structured data works.

You can use markup for the following:
  • Contact information;
  • Logos;
  • Recipes;
  • Ratings;
  • Authorship;
  • Event/movie posters;
  • Courses;
  • Job openings;
  • Breadcrumbs, etc.

You can find all available data for markups in Google Search Gallery. Also, you can read our articles on how to implement structured data and how to get into SERP features on Google:

How To Implement Schema.org Microdata And Why It Is Useful

A Complete Visual Guide of Google SERP Features in 2022: What Keywords to Use And How to Get Featured

Would you like to see how Serpstat can help take your website's SEO to the next level?
Click the button below, sign up and get a free 7-day trial!

Get Traffic from Google Discover

Google Discover is a personalized Google Feed for users. With this feature, users don't need to use any search queries, as the feed displays news and relevant content that matches their interests. News is shown to users on mobile devices in the Google app and Chrome browser.
Google Discover feed
Google Discover [Source]
The Google Search Center notes that the content that gets to Google Discover recommendations is randomized, so traffic from this feature is unpredictable and may be considered additional.

Content Performance Analysis

Last but not least, let's talk about the content performance metrics. In order to identify whether your content marketing efforts are effective, you need to determine your main KPIs.

It is crucial to understand that some indicators and methods of data collection and evaluation might slightly differ for various types of content and distribution channels.
However, in this section, we will talk about the most common format - the text content of the website.

General Website Traffic

In Google Analytics, take the following steps Acquisition→ All Traffic → Source/Medium. In this report, we will see the dynamics of traffic for the selected period.

This indicator can and should be analyzed in dynamics. If we regularly update the blog with new articles, we should expect a steady increase in traffic. And if the overall blog traffic is growing, then the efforts are justified:
Website traffic dynamics in Google Analytics
In this report, we should pay attention to:
  • Users
  • New Users
  • Sessions
For the media, it's crucial to have a constant flow of users. However, even the blog traffic can have seasonal drops, so the longer the period for analysis, the more objective it becomes.

You can also compare equivalent periods of the past and current year. If there is no growth in traffic, it is dropping or the growth has slowed down, then something in your content marketing has gone wrong, and your approaches to content creation should be reconsidered.

User Engagement

Let's analyze the Average Session Duration and the number of Pages Per Session. This is especially important for content aggregators, which often make money from advertising, so they need users to stay and finish reading the article.
 Average Session Duration and Pages Per Session in Google Analytics

Traffic Sources

In the same report, you can determine where exactly the traffic comes from:
Traffic Sources/Mediums in Google Analytics
You should also analyze the traffic sources in the context of time. The main goal in analyzing this metric is to understand the dynamics of traffic channels and determine whether they're growing or have dipped and require special attention.

Pages that Drive the Most Traffic

With this metric, you can identify successful pages that drove the most traffic in a given timeframe. Being aware of the most high-performing content allows you to pinpoint the reasons for its success and repeat it in the future.

Select a timeframe in Google Analytics, and generate the following report: Behavior → Site Content → Content Drilldown:
traffic analysis in Google Analytics

Geo

With this indicator, you can find out where your readers come from. Get the map of traffic distribution and regions in the following Google Analytics report Audience → Geo → Location.
Google Analytics: Audience Geo map
This metric is especially significant for regional media aimed at an audience in a specific region.

Demographics

You can analyze such audience characteristics as age and gender in the following Google Analytics report Audience → Demographics.
Google Analytics: Demographics by age and gender
For many industries, demographics is one of the most crucial indicators. For instance, if your website is dedicated to skincare and makeup, you're most likely looking a solvent female audience. With this report, you can determine if your actual audience corresponds with your target. If not, you need to reconsider the strategy and reorient the content to the right segment.

Conclusion

As you can see, optimizing content-based websites is not an easy task. To achieve great results, it is vital to set a strategy, stick to it, then analyze the results and adjust it. That's the only way to success. Read more articles on content marketing, tips and tricks, and cases in our blog.
To keep up with all the news from the Serpstat blog, subscribe to our newsletter. Also, follows us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter ;)

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The opinion of the guest post authors may not coincide with the opinion of the Serpstat editorial staff and specialists.

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