News websites have the advantages of a constant stream of fresh content and special Google features such as Top Stories.
But there are other ways SEO for news sites is unique, too.
Simply putting news content out into the world doesn’t guarantee it will rank in Google or attract traffic to your site.
In this column, you’ll learn about five key considerations to keep in mind as you plan your SEO strategy for a news website so you can get a leg up on the competition.
1. Build Evergreen Content Into Your Approach
As a news site, your core business model is to write about timely subjects.
But ninety-nine percent of the time, when you write about timely subjects your articles will inevitably have a short lifespan. You will see an initial spike of traffic to your article, and that article will receive less and less traffic as it ages.
This is the nature of dealing in news; you are subject to the ebbs and flows of what news resonates. And in order to consistently drive high levels of traffic, you must keep that pumping out more news.
But what if you could keep the core news model intact, and add more consistent flows of traffic to the website? You can if you build in evergreen content.
Evergreen refers to the content staying relevant and useful for a long period of time. One example of a news site that has done this well is Bankrate:
Using Ahrefs’ Top Organic Pages Report, you can see that their top 10 pages are all top of the funnel Category Hub Pages that are evergreen. They then silo their news under those hub sections creating a powerful and relevant experience.
While they get their fair share of traffic on actual news articles, they were able to build in evergreen opportunities to give them more consistent flows of traffic.
2. Make Sure Your Content Shows up in Google News
Getting your content included in Google News is a must.
Start by checking the content guidelines for inclusion to make sure that your site is up to Google’s standards. Most reputable news sources already follow these guidelines.
Next, check the technical guidelines for inclusion to make sure Google can crawl your site and understand which of your pages news articles are.
Once everything is looking good, submit your site for Google’s approval. You’ll be able to see whether your site has been accepted typically within 3 weeks.
Once your site is accepted, keep working on producing strong content.
Google News operates on many of the same basic SEO principles as organic search. Industry authoritativeness, keyword optimization, uniqueness, and social shares will all help you rank better and get more visits from Google News.
Check out Lily Ray’s guide to optimizing for Google News, Top Stories and Discover to learn more.
3. Concentrate on Clean Architecture
News sites can be a challenge for SEO growth because they are large and constantly growing by nature.
Staying on top of your site architecture is essential in terms of keeping your site both navigable for readers and easy for search engines to crawl.
Organization is paramount. Take a look at the tags and categories you’re using on your site and ask yourself whether they’re working for you.
You need enough tags and categories for readers to easily find what they’re looking for, but are the ones you’re using of value?
If you have multiple tags with only a few articles each, it may be more beneficial to consolidate things to a smaller amount of pages with more content.
Another important aspect of site structure is depth. In other words, how many clicks does it take to get from your homepage to any other page on your site? Keep this number as low as possible.
Search engines crawl your site by following links from one page to the next, and the “shallower” your site is, the more likely it is that every page will get indexed. Keeping your tagging system organized will help with this.
Another thing you can do to improve your site’s structure is to add pagination to the bottom of each page, rather than just using “next” and “previous” buttons. This makes it easier to jump to specific pages without wading through other, irrelevant pages first.
4. Mobile Usability Is Critical
Mobile usability is important for any website nowadays, but for news sites, it’s even more critical.
The majority of Americans consume their news on mobile phones.
At the very least, your site should be constructed using responsive design, which fits your formatting to whatever screen size a viewer is using.
You may also want to consider adopting AMP, a type of publishing technology that removes formatting and makes pages load very quickly for mobile users.
Before you do, though, you’ll want to read this AMP case study from Independent.ie.
5. Optimize for Crawl Speed
When it comes to breaking news, you want your pages crawled and indexed quickly by Google.
People aren’t going to wait around on a slow site to load, either — especially when they have so many options for news.
Fortunately, there are several SEO factors that can help with crawl speed, including site speed, hosting performance and XML sitemaps. You can’t treat news sitemaps like every other sitemap, however. Google has laid out some important guidelines for sitemaps in the news vertical.
First, you should only add 1,000 URLs or less in your sitemap. Of course, you can include more by breaking the URLs into multiple sitemaps, but be sure not to exceed 50,000 sitemaps in your sitemap index file.
You’ll also need to continually update your news sitemap with fresh articles as they’re published to keep Googlebot enticed.
But when you post these new article URLs, don’t create a news sitemap for each one; update your existing sitemap instead. Your news sitemap will only contain news from the last two days, and all articles will remain in the news index for a span of 30 days.
Finally, when you go to create your sitemap, make use of non-Google plugins.
If you use the Google Sitemap Generator, it’ll include URLs that don’t correspond to your specific news articles. The frequency of publication on your site will also positively impact crawl speed, and it makes sense.
After all, if Googlebot consistently finds new content on your website with every crawl, it’ll come to your site more often.
Something else to keep in mind is that quantity does not always equal quality.
Make sure that your content carries value. If you post excessively or publish unnecessary content, Googlebot will waste its precious crawl budget on those less valuable pages, which means your good content could remain unseen.
As a rule of thumb, always avoid duplicate content and block unwanted pages with robots.txt/robots meta to ensure optimal crawl speed.
News sites function a little differently than many other types of sites. Most visitors are drawn to news sites by breaking news content with a short expiration date.
If you keep these guidelines in mind, you’ll be on your way to having a better-optimized news site and enjoy more traffic and readers, as a result.
- Google News Optimization: How to Boost Your Site’s Visibility & Traffic
- Google Search Console Adds Report For News Publishers
- Core Web Vitals: A Complete Guide
All screenshots taken by author, May 2021