Tag: SEO


Why Journalists Like Me Thank God For Content Marketing

A few years ago, when I was still a digital financial-news manager, it wasn’t uncommon for me to edit 15 pieces in one day. And write two myself. And manage the homepage. And work on SEO. And edit the day’s headlines. And put out the various fires that were bound to spring up no matter how well we’d planned our coverage.

When I first made the leap into corporate editing, I couldn’t believe how much slower-paced it was. It made me twitchy.

I needed to type — type fast and type long. For those of us who grew up in a newsroom, the manpower-to-output ratio in today’s marketing departments defies reason. It shouldn’t take a whole week to write a banner headline. It shouldn’t take a whole month to create a landing page.

Thankfully, as this year-old-but-still-relevant piece from The Guardian points out, copywriting has evolved to require quite a bit of typing. Nowadays, copywriters get to create blog posts, video scripts, emails,  banner ads, social media posts and more. And what more companies are starting to discover is that a journalist can do all of this in a day — and still have time for more creative work.

What a glorious turn of events for journalists like me.

Content marketing has brought new talent into the advertising industry, but these are different beasts to the traditional copywriter

Source: Copywriting is dead? Don’t tell the journalists | Media Network | The Guardian


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:


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.



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!



Google Plus For Journalists: A Newspaper SEO’s Mandate

Google+ Icons

No minuses here: Google+ A journalist’s secret weapon

Google Plus For Journalists

A Newspaper SEO’s Mandate (And Challenge)

One of my main objectives for the current quarter is to get every author on staff at my publication signed up for Google+ and Google Authorship. The reasons for doing so are well-documented, but it’s still a challenge convincing people it’s worth their while to commit to yet another social media site. “Everyone uses Facebook, and no one is on Google+, and I only have so many hours in the day to devote to this stuff” — I hear that a lot.

It’s true that everyone and their dogs are on Facebook, but as it so happens, Google+ is now the No. 2 social media site by active users, outranking Twitter (incidentally, YouTube is No. 3, yet another compelling reason to have a presence there).

Read more about Google Plus for journalists and G+’s role in breaking news

I think the problem in persuading people to use Google+  is the false notion that it’s just Google’s version of Facebook. While the two have similarities, their purposes are, in my mind, quite different. Facebook is a place to engage with people you already know. Google+ is where you interact with new people and plant your content for others to find. Perhaps I’ll be proved wrong about this, but I think Google+ is an essential part of long-term strategy. You’re investing time and effort there now to reap solid search results in the future. (The same goes for YouTube.)