Why Journalists Needs to Optimize for Search, and How To Do It

At its core, journalism is about seeking the truth and reporting it in an ethical, fair and balanced manner.

Back in the days of typewriters and fedoras, journalists could do just that, piece together a couple of sentences and call it a day.


But today that’s not enough. Today journalists must worry about reporting the story, writing it up and THEN making sure people actually find it.

With the demise of newspapers, getting stories read isn’t as easy as simply having the paperboy plop today’s edition on your readers’ doorsteps. Newspapers aren’t dead (yet at least), but if journalism is going to survive then editors from the biggest daily down to the smallest blog need to understand the importance of optimizing content for the web.

Journalism thrived for years without SEO, but in this day and age you can’t have quality journalism without quality search as all those eyes (and advertising dollars) head to the Internet.

The core dissonance between search and journalism involves the theory that old-school journalists don’t want to be writing for the search engines.

Some journalists find it unethical to manipulate articles in any sense for the sake of search. They find it against the industry’s code of ethics, which essentially states that stories should be written for the sole purpose of serving the reader and only the reader.

But you can have good SEO on your articles without crossing the line to anything close to the yellow journalism so prevalent in prior eras. In fact, journalists can write optimized articles without changing the content or meaning of their pieces basically just by making sure a few words are in the right places.

Here are three easy tips to optimize your articles.


Optimizing title tags

By including a keyword you want to rank for in the title (and particularly as close to the beginning of the title as possible), you can greatly improve the odds of ranking for that particular keyword.

Of course, you can’t just do this for any keyword. You’re not going to jump onto Page 1 for a highly-competitive keyword, but I have found success ranking for long tail keywords thanks in large part to optimized title tags matching with relevant content on an authoritative site.

It’s important for your content to match your title tags and to sprinkle in the keyword you’re trying to rank for a few times, particularly at the beginning of the piece.

With the All in One SEO Pack plug-in, you can even write title tags that differ from your headlines, so you can keep the short, punchy headlines that characterize newspapers and then write an elongated title with keywords in the title tags.

If you can develop a content strategy in which you write multiple articles optimizing for the same general keyword in the title tags, you can find yourself with indented listings for said long tail keyword like so:

Taking advantage of Google News

This example also illustrates another way to gain easy traffic on your articles by optimizing them: Google News results.

All reputable sites should be submitted to Google News. Once you’re in, your article (and sometimes even a picture) will show up at the very top of the SERPs. So in essence, you can temporarily own the de facto No. 1 spot on Google (even sometimes for competitive keywords) just by writing an optimized article that makes it into Google News.

Sure, this is not a reliable long-term link building strategy since you could be gone the next day once your story isn’t the freshest piece of information on that topic around, but for a temporary boost of traffic, Google News results at the top of the page can be very valuable.

Taking advantage of Google News is one of the reasons it’s so important to pay attention to the news cycle. By anticipating the kind of topics that will run hot at a given time, you can be sure to focus your energy on covering that topic and getting it optimizing in Google News and the SERPs. In this way targeting a keyword that will run hot during a given time period that normally doesn’t get much competition (such as the example above) can be an effective traffic strategy.

This is one of the ways SEO and journalism go hand in hand. Journalists would do this anyway; they just need to make sure said content gets optimized.

Optimizing for names

It’s often a good idea to optimize for particular names. It would be tough to optimize for a product name or something of that ilk that companies are spending thousands of dollars link building on.

But link building for a prominent name on your beat, such as “Amare Stoudemire” in this example, can be very fruitful. Although you would not get to Page 1 for a famous name, you could certainly crack the aforementioned “New Results” for said page, which could lead to many clicks if that name’s in the news. A long tail version of an important name, such as “Amare Stoudemire trade rumors,” can also yield results.

The future of SEO and journalism

I’m the last person to ever want journalism to become a bunch of keyword-focused drivel with bits and pieces of news smattered in. We have enough of that smut on the Internet, but that’s not what I’m talking about.

I see journalism and SEO learning to not just co-exist but thrive together in the coming years. Journalism needs SEO to get its articles found, and search needs journalism to provide rich content for the search engines.

There once was a time the news was reported once a day and the biggest consideration in writing headlines was making them fit into a box.

But all the rules are changing. News never sleeps these days, with stories being reported around the clock, and all the income moving online.

Journalism must adapt to its surroundings, and that means considering keyword placement in title tags and optimizing for names. It won’t solve everything plaguing journalism, but it’s certainly a start.

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