Search Engine Optimization
& what it means for you
What is search engine optimization?
The Wikipedia definition: The process of improving
the volume or quality of traffic to a web
site from search engines via "natural" ("organic" or
"algorithmic") search results.
But basically, search engine optimization (SEO)
refers to tactics to make the content on your Web
site easier for readers to find through search engines
like Google, Bing, Yahoo! and AOL.
What's the point of SEO?
Journalism is in part about sorting through
information and organizing it in ways that help
readers quickly understand what they need to know.
SEO is the next step in that process, helping readers
find that content online.
What does SEO mean to the DTH?
About 1/3 of our traffic comes to dailytarheel.com
from a search engine. Some Web sites bring in half
of their traffic from search engines.
Using SEO (smartly) can help us increase the
number of readers that visit dailytarheel.com. It's
complicated, but essentially more people means
more money from advertising.
What factors into search engine rankings?
Two words or 11 characters
A Nielson study found that readers typically only
scan the first two words (or roughly the first 11
characters) of a headline. That's how much space
you have to convince the reader to keep reading.
BAD: Police arrest two for prostitution, including
BETTER: Police arrest Thorp for prostitution
BEST: Thorp busted in prostitution ring
Make the most of the space
Most search engines will show up to 70 characters of
a headline. That, plus the need to grab readers by
the first 11, means headline words need to be
Use keywords in the headline that the reader
might use if searching for a story on that topic.
Re-use words found in the lede of the story.
Keep it simple, stupid
Print headlines thrive on puns, alliteration,
metaphors and other creative writing styles. But
search engines are literal. A headline that makes
sense on print when placed next to accompanying
photos, graphics and text could fall short online.
Keep headlines straight-forward and simple. Save
the colorful and creative headlines for print.
YES: Steve Irwin killed by Pit alligator
Other headline tips
Don't abbreviate words in headlines or use acronyms
not widely used. "BOE" might be an appropriate
abbreviation in print for the campus Board of
Elections, but online that would compete with
thousands of other boards of elections for attention.
Spelling out "Holden Thorp" online helps search
engines differentiate between which Thorp the article
Don't be sneaky
If the article's not actually about Britney Spears,
porn, sex, drugs, or anything else that drives hits,
don't put it in the headline. If you mislead readers,
they won't trust you.
NO: "Online POKER marketing could spell the
NAKED end of VIAGRA journalism as we LOHAN
*(this is a published headline, but it wasn't serious)
Don't go overboard
Stick to one keyword. Don't try to cram in every
possible variation on that term.
NO: "James Earl Jones Died? Death, Dead, No
*(this is a published headline, and sadly, not a joke)
Why we link
Adding hyperlinks serves two purposes:
It points readers in the direction of useful
It makes your existing content more relevant and
worthwhile to readers.
The quality of both inbound (other sites linking to
you) and outbound (your site linking to outside sites)
links are considered by search engines.
What to link
Externally: Link to Web sites that offer content the
DTH can't provide. As the saying goes, do what you
do best, and link to the rest.
Internally: The DTH tags all content with keywords
related to the article. Each tag has its own page that
collects all the articles about that topic. Link to that
page on first reference to point readers toward
The importance of being linked to
Being linked to by other sites shows that your
content is worth reading. It's evidence of the value
readers can expect to get from the site.
The easiest way of getting linked to is to offer great,
useful content. We can help this process though, by
promoting stories on social networks and online
elsewhere. If a blog we're reading writes about
something we've covered, we can e-mail the writer
and share our content. It could result in a link back.
Linking for search engine optimization
When we put a hyperlink in a story or a blog entry,
we try to be as descriptive as possible with the text
we place the link on. This helps search engines tell
what the link is and the quality of the link.
NO: linking "Read the report here"
YES: linking "Thorp detailed his goals" for the
upcoming year in the e-mail.
Other SEO tactics
We do other things to increase the "rank" of our
pages in search engines:
When we promote links on Facebook, Twitter or
other social networks, we use bit.ly to shorten the
link, which gives our site "credit."
We create and maintain longterm pages that
collect resources on a particular topic over time.
We use keywords in our URLs: /thorp-announces-
plan vs. /breaking/1235453.html
We don't duplicate content on multiple URLs
Whose job is SEO at the DTH?
Everyone's. We all need to be thinking about these
strategies for every article, photo caption, video
description or blog post we write.
Copy editors must write clear, succinct headlines.
Reporters must write informative articles. Editors
must help tag and categorize content. At every level
in the newsroom, SEO tactics can be incorporated.
What does SEO mean for me as a
You want people to read what you write, right?
When you're writing, think the keywords you
would use to search for the story online. Try to
incorporate those into your lede and throughout
the story whenever it makes sense naturally. But
don't force it just to use a keyword.
As you write, keep a list of extra content the final
story could link to for additional information.
SEO Cheat Sheet
Newspapers need to learn SEO for headlines
SEO for journalists
Top 10 SEO tips for online news start-ups
This boring headline is written for Google