THE BLOG

29
Jan

Gutsy Broads Publishes First Contributor Story

GBSToday I had the pleasure of sharing my first contributor’s story on Gutsy Broads.

I know Lauren because of a gutsy decision she made several years ago: leaving an “Established News Organization” for the smaller, scrappier TheStreet.com.

Lauren was fierce from the get go. It was 2008, and all hell was breaking loose on Wall Street. If she had any doubts about her ability to report on the complicated, messy news of the day, you wouldn’t know it. She fearlessly tackled her beat, developing sources and breaking news with the confidence you’d expect in someone many years her senior. I and the other editors were impressed with this young woman. She had her act together, and she was going places.

I’ve followed Lauren and her career in the years since, and she’s even more of a powerhouse now. I hope that her story will inspire other women, as it has me.

READ: Being Gutsy Means Knowing When To Walk Away

28
Jan

Do You Use Yoast’s SEO Plugin? Don’t Let This Happen To You

Every day I shake my head in wonder that publishers don’t use all of the SEO tools at their disposal. Imagine my horror when I realized the title tags for every page and post on my own site were all the same:

Digital publishing news, commentary and advice | Sam Shaddock

And I was all:

terrifying

This website is young enough that I don’t expect to have much search traffic yet, but I did install Yoast’s fantastic SEO plugin to increase my odds of ranking well. It’s an easy tool to set up and use. Just tell it how you want your title tags to render (the default pulls from the headline), and if you want to overwrite it, do so below the post. I’ve been using it to create search-friendly title tags while striving to maintain more conversational headlines. Or so I thought.

Yoast SEO plugin screen shot

La, la, la. I’m so very clever. … Oh, wait.

In the past, that’s all I’ve had to do. Evidently, though, with some WordPress themes you have to take an extra step: checking the “force rewrite titles” box on the first tab in your SEO settings. (If that doesn’t work, try some of the suggestions in this WordPress forum.)

Screen Shot 2015-01-28 at 8.52.33 AM

Now I’m back in business, but man, that was embarrassing.

 

26
Jan

We Have Reached Peak Photo Tweet

Maybe I’m just feeling grumpy because it’s Monday, but this morning I snapped:

Photo tweets are a great tool for publishers. When Twitter first started showing expanded photos in people’s streams, I couldn’t wait to spread the word to my compadres at The Dallas Morning News. After all, images are known for their magic retweetability powers. That said, a photo tweet is not appropriate in all cases. Everything we know about social media says a mix of post types is best for achieving the Twitter goal trifecta: awareness, engagement and clicks back to your domain.

The worst thing about the recent glut of image tweets in my newsfeed: Many of the stories don’t merit the extra visual emphasis. Here are a few examples of when to use a photo in your tweet and when to let your words alone do the talking:

Good Photos Tweets

This clever tease:

Perfect:

Nothing sexy, but the extra info this image conveys is useful:

Just enough to make me want to see more:

Not So Good Photo Tweets

Not necessary:

Ditto:

Weird:

Maybe a chart would work here. This? Not so much:

Stop cluttering my feed, VentureBeat:

I’m pretty sure we all know what Clinton looks like, kids:

This guy, too:

#SadTrombone:

Remember: Just because you can add a photo to your tweet doesn’t mean you should. Make sure you’re serving all of your goals with a mix of tweet types.

26
Jan

No Guts, No Glory

Gutsy BroadsI’ve resurrected the Gutsy Broads project. To kick things off, here’s a little first-person ditty I wrote about gutsiness.

More details to come!

18
Jan

Puzzlingly Dumb Social Sharing Tool Setting Of The Week

Nearly every day I come across something infuriating about a publisher’s sharing tools (my own included).

Case in point:

Same story (correction: same AWESOME story), two comments settings. The only difference here is the browser.

Viewed in Firefox

FirefoxGigya2
Viewed in Chrome
ChromeGigya2
Why is it even an option to vary comments settings by browser, Gigya? WHY?

rickmantable

08
Jan

Tweet Of The Day: ‘Senior US Official Source’

HAHA. Truth to power.

07
Jan

Another Way To Engage With Readers Is Hiding In Plain Sight

conversation

Source: getamity.com

“Best of Twitter” and other social-media reaction pieces continue to be popular among local-news providers. I think they’re fine — often amusing, occasionally enlightening — no real harm in doing them. I’ve dabbled (here and here).

But what about the great story reactions that occur within a newspaper’s own domain? That’s right, I’m talking about THE COMMENTS, a phrase that causes many journalists, and unfortunately the occasional digital communities manager, to roll their eyes and groan with disgust. Or worse, mock their readers. Descriptions I’ve heard journalists apply to commenters (also known as customers):

  • “Morons”
  • “Lunatics”
  • “Nut jobs”
  • “Racists”

Do readers sometimes spout ugly and hurtful words? Yes. Can they also provide valuable insight and context? Yes.

The last couple of years, it’s been trendy for engagement editors (or their marketing counterparts) to say, “Let’s not be limited to the site. We’ll go where the conversation is already happening! On social media!!” I think that’s a fine idea, but ignoring the comments section is not.

I’m proud to have worked at a company that early on decided to make engaging with readers in the comments not just a goal, but a job requirement. News sites that do this can be richly rewarded, in measurable terms (e.g. return visitors and time on site), and also in less measurable ways (increased credibility for journalists, greater rapport with customers, fodder for future stories). Not to get too marketing-speaky, but the comments are an opportunity to build a relationship with an audience, and newspapers are squandering it by hiding these sections, neglecting them or doing away with them altogether.

I’d love to see news sites make comments more visible on their article pages, not less so. Pull them up higher, give them some eye-catching graphical treatment. Not only could this add value to stories, but it would provide readers incentive to contribute more thoughtful remarks. And, frankly, showing a meaningful conversation between a reporter and a reader right there on the page would make the news organization look good.

My advice to community managers: Go forth into new territories, find and convert new readers there, but don’t abandon the customers who are already in your store.

04
Jan

How ‘Bout Them Cowboys? A Gameday SEO Sniff Test

This morning I wanted to know whether the spousal unit and I had time to whip up a batch of Chex mix before the Dallas Cowboys-Detroit Lions game, so I Googled the term “Cowboys game.” Shockingly I found no local-news sources on the first page of results, general or news, logged in or out.

What the heck, I wondered? My alma mater is chock full of Dallas Cowboys coverage, some of it expert-level analysis as good as any you’ll find on the Internet. Why did none of it appear for me in search?

Search engine optimization is tricky for any company, especially so in the crowded world of news. Sadly, there is no magic prescription for ranking No. 1 all the time, but there are a few factors within a publisher’s control. I took a quick gander at the DallasNews.com homepage story labeled “Cowboys GameDay: Keys to victory vs. Lions, predictions, more.”

First, let me say that this page is gorgeous. The design team at the News is doing a heck of a job with these special pages. They’re truly a breath of fresh air.

Good sense suggests this story should be near the top of the results for my “Cowboys game” query, but it’s not. So, what gives? Let’s take a look under the hood:

Title tag

Most of the content management systems that newsrooms use are set up so that the title tag pulls from a story’s headline by default. If a publisher doesn’t have (and use, natch) a tool to override the default, then editors are wise to include good keywords in their headlines. The actual H1 headline on the story in question is “Detroit Lions at Cowboys.” It looks great on the page, but it’s a bit spare. Let’s see what the title tag, which is pulling from the page label, is:

cowboys title

Also spare, but at least it contains “Cowboys.”

Now let’s look at the headlines on the search engine results page (SERP) for my query:

Cowboys game search engine results

Ah, now we’re getting somewhere. Google, creepily prescient as always, somehow knew that I was looking for Who-What-When-Where type of information, so it returned hits that satisfy that need. The headlines above have something else in common: They aren’t ambiguous. Google rewards specificity. In this example, it’s not enough to have “Cowboys” in a title tag and “Detroit” in the H1. All of the top-results headlines contain both “Cowboys” and “Lions.” I’d love to see if changing the title tag on the News’ story would bump it up in the SERPs.

Title tags are extremely important, but they aren’t everything. Other factors at play that are beyond an editor’s control include page load time, social signals, inbound links and more. However, a savvy producer does have some other tricks up his or her sleeve. This particular page may benefit from a few other enhancements:

Canonical URL: This tells the search engine “This URL is the definitive source for the content it holds.” Standard SEO stuff.

Google news keywords tag: You’ve probably heard that Google discounts keywords because so many people abused them in the early days of SEO. It makes an exception for publishers, who with a bit of code and discipline can increase their chances of rising above the fray. The News has this code (I know this because I led its implementation). Let’s take another peek at the source code to see how it’s being used:

Cowboys game Google news keywords

Right. So, the good news is “Dallas Cowboys” and “Detroit Lions” made the cut. The bad news? So did 18 other terms. Google’s limit for this tag is 10.

Google news standout tag: This tool for calling out a publisher’s strongest pieces works, but only if you use it. Does this story qualify as standout? Not my call, but if I were a publisher who hadn’t exceeded my quota for the week, I might give it a whirl here. (Side note: If newsroom SEO interests you — and I guess it does if you’ve made it this far into my post — follow Adam Sherk. I’ve learned a lot from him.)

Image alt tags: Some experts will say this is too nitty-gritty to worry about. I say why not use every tool at your disposal?

The takeaway: You can have the most beautiful page in the world, but if you whiff on the details, you’ll lose on game day.

P.S. — Go Cowboys!

 

01
Jan

It’s 2015: Do You Know Where Your 2014 New Year’s Eve Guide Is?

New Years Eve clock‘Twas the first day of 2015, and all across the Internet, news organizations still had holiday-specific posts on their homepages.

A quick sweep this afternoon revealed the following on the World Wide Web’s front pages:

  • New Year’s Eve party guides
  • New Year’s Eve drinking games
  • Quirky New Year’s Eve traditions
  • New Year’s Eve weather posts
  • New Year’s Eve deals and steals
  • 5 things to know about New Year’s Eve
  • Christmas cookie posts
  • Posts about how to decorate for the holidays?!?

Retrospectives are fine. Predictions are fine. “Where to ring in the new year?” Not fine.

Article pages and other “side doors” are the new darlings of the digital space because of search and social medial referrals, but publishers that neglect their homepage are doing themselves and their audiences a disservice. The homepage is a brand’s front door, and if the wreath is still up well past the holidays, readers will wonder if anyone’s home.