Publishers that are serious about dominating the SERPs spend years honing their ability to produce intoxicating content for their readers.
I would know because I’m one of them.
Yet, when it comes to SEO, that’s only half the battle.
As Google’s algorithms have gotten increasingly sophisticated, they’ve also gotten better at identifying the absolute best sources of information for readers.
Google’s mission is to help everyone find the information they’re looking for – but they need your help to accomplish that.
Want to get on Google’s good side?
Align your web presence with its mission.
I’m going to show you how.
Here are 11 SEO tips for publishers to help your content deliver in the SERPs.
1. Optimize Your Website Architecture
In May 2020, Google announced that it will soon roll out an upcoming ranking signal that combines Core Web Vitals with existing user experience signals.
That’s a step beyond simply mobile optimization or structured data to land in all those SERP features.
It also means that you must present intuitive, user-friendly sites that make it easy for humans to navigate.
Fortunately, you can take many steps to ensure this.
Make it easy for search engines to crawl and index your site by:
Having Clear, Consistent Primary Navigation
For example, Search Engine Journal’s is prominently placed at the top, where both humans and crawlers can easily find it.
Clarifying Your Editorial Universe on Your Home Page
Someone who lands on your page should understand who you are and what you do.
The New York Times provides a great example of this for publishers:
Have a Sitemap
Sitemaps have been a best practice for a long time, and they’re still important.
They not only help your readers find important information but also help crawlers index your whole site.
2. Follow On-Page SEO Best Practices
On-page SEO best practices tend to align with best practices for content writing.
Make sure you’re always doing things like:
- Deploying SEO titles with keywords. Place the keyword first if you can in order to catch the eye of readers and search engines.
- Leveraging meta descriptions. Use keywords in one or two sentences with a compelling CTA to entice readers to click on your result.
- Make your headlines the same as your SEO title. You can make them different, but this can confuse your readers.
- Use headings throughout your content. Break up your content into chunks of about 300 words when you’re able to increase readability.
3. Add Author Bios & Pictures
Who writes you content matters.
The web is the great equalizer when it comes to who can publish content (hint: everyone).
However, as Google has placed more emphasis on concepts like expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness (called E-A-T in Google’s search quality rater guidelines), authorship has become more important online.
No, the mere presence of author bios won’t get you ranked higher in the SERPs.
Instead, author bios signal a willingness to be transparent and to prove that the content published comes from a reputable source.
In Google’s eyes, that’s a user experience detail that can help you rise to the top.
4. Optimize for Google Discover
Google Discover is a personalized feed content that proactively hunts down the most relevant content for individual users.
As publishers are discovering, it can be a source of massive traffic.
That’s leading many publishers to figure out how to optimize for Google Discover.
It’s meant as a way for users to more easily discover topics related to them based on their search history, browser history, app activity, and location.
Google calls it a queryless search and promises users more context and control over their feed.
How do you optimize for something like that?
You can do a few things:
- Keep putting out engaging, trustworthy content. Google will find it and curate it if it matches.
- Deploy evergreen content. They’re looking for content that will keep being useful.
- Use images and videos. Not only does it provide one more type of rich content for Google to serve, but 85% of all businesses are using video content today.
- Support multiple languages. Google Discover supports multiple languages and plans to roll out more.
5. Use a Compelling Featured Image
Whether it’s Google Discover or simply the SERPs, a compelling featured image grabs the attention of your readers.
Original art, graphics, and similar custom images are preferred.
If you can’t swing that, it’s OK to use a thoughtful stock photo.
Just beware of overused images that appear on multiple sites.
You can also optimize the images that appear on your site to give you a boost in the SERPs.
Things to do:
- Compress your images to increase page load time.
- Customize image file names – it’s one more place to sneak in a keyword!
- Write SEO-friendly alt text full of keywords.
- Mind the image file path structure – Google will consider it when ranking images.
- Make your images mobile-friendly.
6. Publish News Quickly
Want to be at the forefront of your industry?
In addition to being the best, you’ll have to be at the forefront of reporting in it.
Strive to be the first – or as close to the first – as possible when industry news breaks.
Keeping a pulse on your realm of expertise can help.
For example, make sure that you:
- Create Twitter lists and follow RSS feeds.
- Join Facebook and LinkedIn groups.
- Keep pace with your competitors on social media.
- Consider industry news aggregators to identify stories as they emerge.
If you can’t be the first?
Apply your own unique angle on things and seize the advantage that way.
7. Stay Inside Your Editorial Universe
What does Google like more than well-written, engaging content?
Strong content that’s also authoritative, written by an expert in the subject matter.
Make sure you demonstrate that authority and expertise by staying inside your editorial universe – your proverbial lane on the web where you’re known for what you do.
What does that mean?
- Choose your topic clusters and write on them. Only them. In past years, Search Engine Journal covered news about non-search topics, such as Google Docs. To absolutely no one’s surprise, they bombed. They had nothing to do with our editorial universe: search. We’re not a tech publication.
- Never air your company’s dirty laundry. While sharing stories and behind the scenes looks at the brand can help readers connect, it can also quickly muddy the water if you’re oversharing or straying into conversations that don’t involve your brand.
8. Use Other Channels to Support Your SEO
While you should have your own domain where your SEO efforts are focused, don’t neglect the use of other channels to support your SEO.
If something goes viral, that’s one more wave of energy for you to ride.
- Facebook: According to the Pew Research Center, 69% of Americans use it.
- Instagram: Some 75 % of adults age 18-24 and 57% of adults age 25-29 use it.
- LinkedIn: If you’re in the B2B market, LinkedIn reports that 80% of social media marketing leads originate on the platform.
- Anywhere else your target audience congregates online: Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, and others are all potentially viable options.
9. Make News Evergreen
While content on current events might be important to your industry, make sure you’re also producing evergreen content that doesn’t go stale so quickly or you may find yourself in a feast or famine pattern of web traffic.
If a post has stopped getting traffic, it may be time to transform it into a more timeless piece.
As you combine your content, do:
- Update stats, facts, or images that might now be outdated.
- Write fresh headers, a new introduction, and conclusion.
- Revisit the CTA.
- Add new material.
- 301 redirect all the old articles to the new evergreen article to preserve and transfer all the equity to the new page.
10. Include Images & Videos
Overwhelmingly, users want visual content.
One study by Wyzowl found that 87% of marketers believed video content improved their web traffic. They also found that people are 2x as likely to share video content.
You can even include the transcript of the video on the page for an extra oomph to your SEO.
Likewise, visual content like images and infographics can also prove a valuable tool for your SEO strategy.
Not only do they provide extra options for keyword inclusion, but they can improve the overall readability of your site.
11. Your Best Link Building Tool? The Publish Button
Last but not least, as our founder Loren Baker often says that the best link building tool is our Publish button.
Your primary emphasis as a publisher will remain in producing new content rather than marketing or outreach.
Focus on creating link-worthy, relevant, awesome content.
For maximum schedule, do:
- Use SEO best practices Google has provided to publishers.
- Keep to your schedule.
- Hone your writing skills.
- Not let perfection get in the way of completion.
Takeaway: Online Publishers Must Be Smart About SEO
The workings of SEO might seem arcane to publishers beyond how it functions in content.
Yet, SEO is becoming a more holistic initiative that brands need to consider from every angle if they want to succeed.
These 11 SEO tips for publishers accomplish just that.
With them, you can improve your position in the SERPs beyond what you can accomplish with killer content and grow your brand’s reach.
Check out the SEJ’s Complete SEO Guide to get more awesome tips.
- Google’s SEO Best Practices for News Publishers
- 5 Critical SEO Considerations When Optimizing News Websites
- Google News Optimization: How to Boost Your Site’s Visibility & Traffic
All screenshots taken by author, August 2020