I’m a journalist, not a search-engine optimization expert. But I wanted to write this post because I want journalist bloggers to know that understanding a smattering of SEO isn’t a bad thing. It will actually help people reach your blog, which is really your goal if you’re trying to blog professionally.
When I mention SEO to many journalists I know, eyes glaze over. “We’re not techies,” I suspect they are thinking. “We’re writers, editors, reporters.”
I hope after reading this blog post you’ll realize you don’t need to be an Internet marketing guru to understand how to make SEO work for you. In fact, it’s one of those areas that even knowing a little bit is better than nothing.
First, what is SEO? In the very simplest terms, it’s using words in your post and headline that will help search engines find your content. So it’s back to “thinking like Google” as I explained in my post about picking your blog name. You need to use words that will let Google and other search engines — which are computers, not humans — understand what your post is about.
Why does it matter? One of your goals as a journalistic blogger is that people will find your post on a given topic. So when they type a search into Google, you want your blog to be among the first few sites that come up. (The first few sites are the ones that most people will go to.)
So here’s my Top 10 list of SEO tips for journalist bloggers:
- Write clear headlines: Remember: A computer is reading them, and computer can’t understand sarcasm, double meanings or irony. (A headline that works in print, such as comparing an election to a horse race, will just make Google think your post is about horses or racing, not politics.) But blog headlines don’t have to be boring, just straightforward. You want human readers engaged as well. Copyblogger offers some additional headline-writing tips.
- Include keywords in your headline: Keywords are those words you suspect people who are looking for a blog like yours would type into Google to find your blog. But don’t be forced about it; remember, your main goal is for humans to understand your blog. If your blog is truly about your keywords, it shouldn’t be hard to get them in the headline and lede.
- Avoid shortened names, especially in headlines: It’s normal journalistic practice to use just the last name of famous people in a headline, but online it’s better to use the full name because that’s what people are more likely to search for. And it clears up ambiguity when two people have similar names.
- Avoid abbreviations, especially in headlines: For example, it’s better to type “Syracuse University” if you’re blogging about that school, than to type “SU” even though any trained print headline writer would opt for SU. Why? The Web gives you access to people all over the world, and SU could mean different schools to people living in other places. Syracuse University is way more specific, so using it will help your blog connect with people who want to read about that school, not some other SU. Plus people who don’t live in Syracuse might be more likely to type in Syracuse University than SU.
- Repeat your keywords in the lede: Just like in a traditonal inverted-pyramid style, the first graph of a blog is the most important. Include your keywords here. This increases the likelihood that your blog post will come up in a search of those keywords.
- Write something: As I explained in my 10 Tips for journalist bloggers, a blog post needs to have content, not just links, or Google may think it’s just spam. Plus, readers need content to be interested.
- Link to other relevant sites: This just adds value to your page because it gives your readers more content, which makes Google perceive your content as more relevant. When you link, you turn part of your text into a hyperlink. It’s important that this portion of text contain content about what people will find at the link — not just “click here” or “this site.”
- Link back to your own site for relevant content: Again, this adds value to your post because you’re drawing on other content you already provided. If you’re blogging about one issue and then two weeks later, blog about it again, link back to the previous post. It gives readers an instant update and improves your blog’s relevancy.
- Tag your stories: Tags are a way of letting readers know what your post is about. If you tag well, your blog will get pulled up in Google searches when people type in your tags. Tags also help your posts get noticed in sites, such as technorati.com. (I’ll go into Technorati more in a later post.)
- Write good stuff: All the SEO tricks in the world won’t get people to read stuff that stinks. Author Randall Jarrell wrote “Writing Well Is the Best Revenge,” according to Bartleby.com. That’s good to remember. SEO may get people to your site, but only clear writing that provides informative content will keep them there.
Coming up next: My Top 10 predictions/hopes for journalism in the era of new media.