What we learned at NESS, the first-ever news SEO conference
In this week's newsletter, Jessie and Shelby are back from the first-ever SEO for news conference with lots of search tips and tricks.
We were so thrilled to take part in NESS, News and Editorial SEO Summit organized by Barry Adams and John Shehata.
We learned a lot from industry-leading experts like Nicholas Thompson, Christine Liang, Lily Ray, Dan Smullen and Valentin Cornez. Getting to talk shop about search in the context of news with a community of 600+ attendees in breakout rooms and the chat was a delight.
We are so grateful Barry invited us to present. We talked about our shared passion for trees along with evergreen SEO strategies for news publishers (building on our newsletter on the topic from earlier this year). A special thanks to everyone who listened to our session, asked excellent questions (some of which we’ll answer in future newsletters) and sent in kind words. We’re this emoji: 😍.
This week, we’re taking a break from new news SEO concepts to recap the event and bring you the insights we found most valuable.
Don’t forget to sign up for our Slack community to talk about SEO for news at any time!
In this issue:
Seven action items for on-page news SEO
How to build up your E.A.T. efforts
Evergreen SEO (yes, we’re plugging our session)
Christine Liang: News SEO strategies and tactics
The wonderful Christine Liang, senior director of SEO at The New York Times, outlined seven key editorial best practices for search. They are: Keyword research, headlines, URLs, images and videos, internal links and speed.
Keyword research: Use Google and Google Trends to understand terms and intent during live and breaking news;
Write engaging, 65-character, keyword-focused headlines that update when significant new developments are added to the story;
Keep URLs to five words and keyword-focused, separated by hyphens (without words like “the” or “and” – just the key phrases);
Use images and videos during events that demand to be seen (along with words like “watch” or “see” to signal the content type of your page). Strong photos help publishers stand out in Top Stories;
Internal links pass relevance between pages and give structure to your site. Use keyword-targeted anchor links on the page for maximum effect;
Speed: Publish first (or early) – as much as possible – to start ranking with the core information. Then keep updating throughout the news event.
Christine’s session was an excellent rundown of the main on-page SEO considerations we make to drive the most impact in search.
Barry Adams: Technical SEO for news publishers
When it comes to technical SEO for news publishers, we are primarily concerned with crawlers and indexers. Editors are most concerned about rapid crawling of newly published articles – you want Google to be able to crawl as much of your site as it can.
Make sure your site has clean, well-structured HTML. The less clutter your site has, the easier time Google will have parsing through it and indexing the stories you want to be seen. Each page should feature well-written content (with easily identifiable entities) and links to other stories to signal relationships.
Pro tip: Barry Adams, a technical SEO guru, says Google tends to crawl content from the homepage over your sitemaps. Ensure your homepage has a good linking structure!
What is the future of technical SEO? IndexNow from Bing is one example, as is the live indexing API for Google (which is still in beta). In the long-run, it is likely technical SEO will be focused on the live indexing API for Google, since it’s easier for Google to rapidly index them.
Valentin Cornez: Achieving digital growth with data-driven optimizations
Google Insights tools for publishers co-founder Valentin Cornez made the very useful (!!) point that data is useless if you can’t turn it into action. Whatever data you collect and measure, the goal should be to turning it into actionable recommendations.
The tool, Google Insights for Publishers, enables editors to develop reports and insights for your team to help them take action.
Lily Ray: How E.A.T. affects Google News, Discover and Top Stories
Lily Ray, senior director, SEO & head of organic research at Amsive Digital, provided a deep dive on E.A.T. and how it impacts your outlet in search, Google News, and Discover.
Google understands authority on topics (publisher X has authority in a given set of topics). To see what topics Goole understands your publication to have authority in, use a tool like Similarweb.
To build authority, start with a tag page for a topic you write about often (including people, news events, or other entities and want to build authority in).
Try adding more than a list of headlines to your tag pages; include a biography or Wikipedia-style page that includes FAQs, photos, and/or other new information for the entity (like People.com and US Weekly do for Harry Styles and Beyonce 🐝).
A useful action item: Review your tag pages. Is it possible to expand the relevant and useful content provided on the tag pages for areas your publication is trying to establish itself as an authority?
Consider coupling this with expanded, more detailed author page updates for reporters who cover that beat.
Shelby Blackley & Jessie Willms: Playing the evergreen SEO long game
Yes, it’s us!
We started day two of the conference discussing our step-by-step workflow for optimizing your evergreen content. A lot of what we discussed – literally, almost all of it, since we’re team little-effort-big-impact over here! – was from our newsletter a few months back on how to play the evergreen SEO long game.
Why evergreen? It’s a steady, consistent form of traffic that does not rely on the news cycle. It also can grow into a bigger content vertical, push people down the funnel or drive revenue to your organization.
Recirculate and track.
Action item: As part of the discussion, we also included an evergreen SEO tracking sheet, where you can execute your own evergreen strategy based on your business decisions.
🎉 Bonus next steps: Consider the topic for a pillar page if it’s evergreen. It should have enough breadth that you will have subtopics to explore.
Content pillar pages are often:
Guides: Explains in full a specific topic (often a list);
What is X?: A deep-dive answer to a question;
How to X: A step-by-step guide.
Pillar pages need to link up to the topic page, and out to specific pieces of cluster content. Internal links pull the entire effort together.
John Shehata: Google Discover optimization
The new kid on the block seems to be Google Discover, an AI-driven feed that is entirely personalized to the user.
It’s all about topics – interests that the user has and that they want to see more of in their own feed. A big warning here: while it can be an entrancing avenue of traffic, don’t get addicted to it. Google Discover seems to be optimized much more like a social feed (audience editors: think about the voice you use when you post something to Instagram or Twitter), and is much less dependable than search.
John Shehata, the global vice-president of audience development strategy at Condé Nast, went through a very comprehensive 13 ways to optimize your site (and stories) for Google Discover. We’d be giving too much away if we gave you all 13, but our favourites:
Optimize your headlines (click bait may do better here);
Mix your content types – try different styles of stories (listicles, Q&A, trending topics, evergreen stories, real news);
Consider high-quality visuals (1,200px wide, avoid using logo);
Have a mobile-friendly site (a must!);
Understand and enhance E.A.T. signals (we’re sensing a trend…).
Dan Smullen: The future of AMP in Google News and Top Stories
You may be considering whether or not to get rid of AMP on your site. You may have also heard the rumblings from many SEO experts (including the conference’s own Barry Adams this very week) that it is becoming increasingly evident that even Google itself is becoming less and less favourable to AMP articles (and we don’t need to even get into Google’s lawsuit issues around this topic).
Dan Smullen’s talk discussed a fascinating case study around a group of their publications dropping AMP and what happened in the months after. The organization introduced a paywall and as their business focus changed, they realized that AMP was causing issues with the user experience of subscribers.
For them, it was business first, AMP second. The results were fascinating, seeing a change in the way Google looked at page experience in a mid-June algorithm update.
A huge stat for us: Before Google announced its update, non-AMP URLs had around 8 per cent visibility for all top stories (according to Newzdash). After the update, non-AMP URLs jumped to 25 per cent visibility (a 4x increase).
Something to consider… Is AMP a huge driver for your traffic? Have you been focusing on page experience? Consider the options based on your organization’s business needs.
Nicholas Thompson: SEO & the future of publishing
This keynote was just what we needed to finish the conference. Nicholas Thompson, the CEO of The Atlantic, closed out the conference ensuring we remembered why we are doing SEO for journalism.
The assignment should be sacred. The text should be sacred. At the core of everything we do is journalism. As news SEOs, we can advise on trends, what people are looking for, what stories have search interest or if there is an angle to explore. But we are not the assignment desk. We are enhancing journalism.
The bottom line: We’re so humbled to be a part of this amazing conference and can’t wait until the next one. For now, we’ll be soaking in all of the knowledge we gained and putting it into action in our own publications!
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.
Managing Editor, Audience at WAMU/DCist in Washington, D.C.
Audience Editor, Thomson Reuters in Toronto, Canada.
Sr. SEO Analyst, CNN Español in Miami, Fl.
Sr. SEO Analyst, CNN in Mexico City, Mexico.
Four SEO positions, Conde Nast in New York, N.Y. and U.K.
Digital Social Media Producer, CBC in Canada (remote).
Tons of roles coming out of Hearst (Manager level as well as Commerce SEO Strategist and freelance SEO support). Email firstname.lastname@example.org if interested.
Huge update from SEMRush: Keyword intent is now a feature in the keyword tool!
Who will be responsible for all of those redirects from facebook.com?
Why (and how) topic clusters are your most powerful SEO weapon.
Best practice for author pages, courtesy of Lily Ray on Twitter.