What is vertical search?
This week: vertical search. There's (search) life outside Google. Here’s what to know about optimizing for other search engines (YouTube and Pinterest).
Hello, and welcome back. It’s Jessie, back from a weekend of brunch, long walks and a trip to the thrift store (I am extremely predictable in my weekend habits). Add a splurge at the bookstore and we’re in Peak Jessie territory.
This week: A quick look at vertical search – that is, a search engine dedicated to a specific focus area.
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In this issue:
What is vertical search?
Can you optimize for vertical search?
What is vertical search?
A vertical search engine – or specialty or topical search engine – is one with a dedicated area of focus. Unlike Google or Microsoft Bing, which provide all different types of content, vertical search engines will only return search results for its area of focus.
Pinterest can be considered its own search platform, specifically for mostly lifestyle content (include recipes, home/style tips, fashion and travel). Pinterest describes itself as a “visual discovery engine.”
YouTube is considered a search engine. In fact, it is second only to Google in market share.
Indeed is a search engine that allows users to seek out jobs, or for recruiters to find potential hires.
For context, here’s the list of overall search engines by market share, according to Search Engine Journal:
Google remains the queen of the search engines, accounting for more than 86 per cent of the entire search market. On average, there are 40,000 Google search queries every second.
It’s tempting to focus exclusively on the biggest source of the audience and ignore other platforms. But that leaves a huge opportunity – an audience with dedicated and active interest in a topic – on the table.
In this newsletter, we’re going to look specifically at YouTube and Pinterest, as they have the most obvious overlap with news SEO (we will cover Bing and other search engines in the future. Amazon and Facebook, while big platforms, are less relevant to news SEO, but let us know in the comments if your publication has strategy for those platforms).
THE KNOW HOW
SEO for vertical search
Just like optimizing for Google search requires a specific set of tactics, SEO for YouTube and Pinterest has unique considerations. This is by no means an exhaustive look at search for either platform.
YouTube is a video platform, first introduced in 2005 and acquired by Google in 2006. It now sees 122 million daily active users. It’s expected that video will make up more than 82 per cent of all consumer internet traffic sometime in 2022, according to Search Engine Journal.
This is a major area of opportunity. Users are actively searching for information via video and it’s likely your outlet is already producing high quality video content. But an amazing piece of visual journalism is a wasted effort if it cannot be found by the potential audience.
Optimizing for YouTube:
Here’s what YouTube says about its ranking algorithm: “Videos are ranked based on a variety of factors including how well the title, description and video content match the viewer’s query. Beyond that, we look at which videos have driven the most engagement for a query, and make sure it’s easy for viewers to find those.”
As such, your primary areas of focus to optimize for YouTube are on-page efforts (title, description and video content), and driving engagement on a video.
For on-page optimization, start with keyword research to understand what viewers are looking for. Make sure you’re going after keywords or topics with sufficient volume. Consult Ahrefs or Google Trends (using the YouTube search filter option) to spot ideas. Ensure content fits within your editorial objective and matches search internet (you’ll notice the majority of top overall terms are specific, non-news channels).
On-page SEO: This is all about writing great titles, video descriptions, adding relevant tags and using a compelling thumbnail image.
Your title should be about 60 characters with your keyword near the front.
Akin to the in-story image on your website, the thumbnail image should be compelling and fit with the title.
Write lively and engaging to create “searchable” descriptions that include relevant key terms.
YouTube will suggest tags to include on the video, but a tool like Google Trends or Keywords Everywhere can help create this list, too.
Include a link to subscribe to the channel, related channels and relevant content on your website. Now that readers are hooked by your visual journalism, push them further through the audience funnel.
Use closed captions or include a transcript for each video (for both accessibility purposes and to allow YouTube to crawl and read it).
For user engagement: First, ensure you’re uploading quality content. YouTube considers “long-term viewer engagement and satisfaction” – so the 15-second wire video that makes sense in the context of a news story might not make sense as a standalone video on your YouTube channel.
Consider including prompts in a video to encourage viewers to comment or discuss the piece. Try having a video producer comment on the piece and be available to answer reader questions in the chat.
Keywords Everywhere, the Google Chrome extension, provides video insights (including its own optimization and engagement scores, along with data for the number of views to a piece and channel subscribers).
Pinterest is a visual-first platform that acts as a search engine for primarily lifestyle content (think home DIY projects, recipes, fitness advice, etc.). The site boasts a monthly audience of more than 400 million people.
Optimizing for Pinterest
Here’s what Pinterest’s algorithm considers: domain quality, pin quality, pinner quality (the account that is posting) and the relevance of the topic.
Translation: E-A-T, but for Pinterest.
Before thinking about SEO, create a Business account (not a Personal account; the functionality differs) on Pinterest. Verify your website, and apply for Rich Pins (this tells readers they’re navigating to a page with original content).
Rich Pin types include Article, Product and Recipes. Ensure your Business name, profile and description contains the keywords potential readers might use to find your content.
Next, create boards (curated collections of content) that include relevant keywords in the title and description of the board. Populate these boards with your existing content (this is a great opportunity to resurface lifestyle evergreen content).
Like YouTube and your website, make sure these pins are quality – there’s no sense generating lousy visuals that reach no audience.
According to Ahrefs, Pinterest search is not as advanced as Google (or YouTube), so it is possible to – carefully! – keyword stuff the posts with key terms.
In regular SEO, keyword stuffing – the act of overloading a page with keywords to trick Google and rank higher – is a no-no. In Pinterest, it is possible to include a less-than-organic set of terms in your description. But, again, people will see this text. Keyword stuffing is bad user experience, so ask yourself: is it what you want readers to see? 🙃.
Use keyword research tools to identify your keywords (or use an incognito browser and dig around the platform). Use the target keywords in your titles, and descriptions for the curation and each image. This helps build topic relevance in Pinterest’s algorithm.
Pinterest is a visually-driven search engine, so ensure all your content contains rich, engaging images. Instead of relying on stock images, try a tool like Canva to generate Pinterest-specific visuals (consult our image SEO issue for additional image-specific tips).
Like default Google search, Pinterest is not a set-it-and-forget-it platform – nor will you see results right away.
To get quality traffic, you need to engage on the platform – this also helps Pinterest understand your domain quality. Curate content into boards (Canva can handle scheduling this content), re-pinning posts or pinning to community boards.
Consider a Pinterest experiment in terms of months, not days or weeks. It will take time to generate engagement, build a following or see Pinterest emerge as a strong referrer for your site. Even then, you might not see enough clicks to justify the effort.
Like with all things SEO, you won’t know until you try.
The bottom line: There’s more to search than Google. With some key optimization efforts, your outlet can potentially reach new and niche audiences on platforms like YouTube and Pinterest.
THE JOBS LIST
These are roles across the globe we see that are audience positions in journalism. Want to include a position for promotion? Email us.
The Washington Post is hiring two Operations and SEO Editors. Upload a résumé and cover letter to the Post’s job portal by April 11.
The CalMatters product team is hiring two roles.
NBC Universal is hiring an Associate Emerging Platforms Editor.
SERP Analysis Tool: SEO keyword rank checker.
Barry Adams on Twitter: Google updates that will impact how news publishers appear in search results.
Shalom Goodman on Twitter: Wordle’s popularity is still sky-high.
Newsletter news: Morning Brew tops four million newsletter subscribers as it looks to expand with M&A.