EDITORIAL GUIDELINES

Last updated September 2021

We regularly update this page. Here’s what you need to know about being an SEJ contributor:


How to Contribute to SEJ

Search Engine Journal contributors are invited by the editorial team only.

Search Engine Journal accepts contributions from professionals in SEO, digital marketing, social media, content marketing, ecommerce, and PPC.

Expert Contributors commit to a recurring publishing date either monthly, every other month, or quarterly. Ad hoc slots are granted on a case-by-case basis and these columns run when there is an opening on the editorial schedule.


Contributor Agreement

All contributors at SEJ are expected to digitally sign a basic contributor agreement before posts can be published.


Posts Must Be 100% Original to SEJ

Columns accepted for publication must be exclusive to Search Engine Journal and 100% original. This means:

  • No plagiarism! We use CopyScape and it is at the Executive Editor’s decision whether the offense warrants a warning or removal from the Contributing Experts roster.
  • No self-plagiarism: You can’t “borrow” sentences from your own prior published content, or from company blog posts (or other written materials). If you’re going to use someone else’s words/thoughts, it must be properly attributed.

Note: As of May 2018, we no longer accept syndicated posts.


What to Write About

There are two ways to claim a topic for your next submission:

  • Pitch the Managing Editor.
  • Choose an approved title from the list in our private Writers Group.

If you aren’t yet a member of this group, you’re on Facebook, and you’re contributing to Search Engine Journal, please let the Executive Editor know to add you!

Search Engine Journal is a resource for digital marketers and SEO professionals seeking in-depth, expert advice and educational content. Always try to go beyond the basics/obvious.

The most successful articles tend to be:

  • Lists (e.g., examples, tips, tools, tactics).
  • How-to articles/guides.
  • Explainer posts (e.g., what is…/why x matters).
  • Expert roundups.
  • Thought leadership.
  • A solution to a problem.

Always provide actionable tips and practical advice.

Share your own experiences. Don’t rely heavily on quoting influencers, experts, or authorities from other sites.

Be the expert!


What Not to Write About

Search Engine Journal does not publish content pertaining to gambling, weapons and firearms, pornography, or other industries/topics that may violate Google’s content policies.

We do not publish examples of other marketing publications conducting their marketing activities. Try to find examples that are relatable to businesses and the agencies, consultants, and digital marketing/SEO professionals who assist them.


Posts Must Be Pitch Free

You aren’t writing to sell a product or recommend a particular product or service.

You’re writing to share your expertise, information, insights, and ideas with our audience.

Our audience of digital marketers can smell a sales pitch or gratuitous client mention a mile away.


Disclosures

If you have a relationship with a company or someone mentioned in your post, you must disclose it. Some examples of disclosures:

  • Citing original data/research from your company: “(Disclosure: I work for [insert company name here])”
  • “My case study features the Cleveland Zoo, a client of mine.”
  • “My business partner, Genevieve Focker, wrote the case study below.”

Experiences involving a client or business partner should be approved in advance by your Managing Editor and must contain a disclosure of the relationship in the article. Please note that client, company and colleague mentions will be removed if it does not serve the purpose of adding value for our readers.


Post Length

How long should your post be?

  • Our minimum post length for Contributing Experts is 1,000 words.
  • Most posts that appear on Search Engine Journal are between 1,500 and 2,000 words.
  • If you want to write an in-depth post that is 3,000 words, 4,000 words, or even longer, please ask for approval from your Search Engine Journal Editor first!

Note: Longer posts tend to get more pageviews, time on page, and social love. However, they also burn you out a lot quicker. Remember, you could probably turn that monster post into 3 or 4 more targeted posts instead!

The best posts are clear, concise and only as long as they need to be. After all, our readers are busy. Tell them what they need to know and get out.


Paragraphs

Try to be concise.

Always try to keep your paragraphs short.

One sentence is fine.

Two sentences is typically OK. But no more than three sentences. Please.

Short paragraphs are easier to understand and digest (particularly on mobile), help drive your point across, and encourage reading in this age of information overload and short attention spans.


SEO Best Practices

Let’s practice what we preach, folks.

Headline

Your headline should be interesting enough to entice people to click on it. It should be optimized for search and social media and have a character count of 70 characters maximum.

URL

You can edit your URLs (Permalink). Use this to highlight important keywords.

Images

  • Captions are optional.
  • Always add Alternative Text. This can be the post title or a succinct description of the photo that fits the post’s topic.

1227-image-alt-tags

  • Optimize your image file names. IMG_123454646572.png or screenshot3.png is bad.

Yoast SEO

We love Yoast SEO. It will highlight potential SEO and readability problems and areas for improvement.

What you need to worry about for your post:

  • SEO Title: Make sure this matches your headline.
  • Slug: This is the same as your URL/Permalink.
  • Meta Description: Optimize for search and give readers a reason to click in 1-2 concise sentences (around 20-27 words).
  • Focus keyword: What search query do you want to rank for?

WordPress Categories

Pick, at minimum, one WordPress category for your article.

You may pick up to two relevant categories (e.g., if your post covers both SEO and Content Marketing).

Content Types

Typically, you will choose “Tutorials.”

Excerpt

Please add an excerpt (maximum: 25 words) for every post. It can be similar to your meta description.

This is the description that appears on the Search Engine Journal website when it publishes. If your excerpt exceeds 25 words, it will end with a …

The Excerpt is located below the Yoast SEO box. (If you don’t see it click on screen options in top right and click Excerpt.)

A/B Testing of Titles

We A/B test headlines – your main headline and two alternates. Alternate headlines must be less than 70 characters.


In-Article Links

Links to third-party authoritative sources tell the reader that you are incorporating third-party perspectives and evidence in support of your argument. Otherwise, all you’ve got is a theory without substantiation.

Having said that, our editorial team is always on the lookout for links that appear promotional. We’re marketing to marketers, so if we don’t sleuth it out, our very savvy community eventually will.

Our editorial team looks for links to clients, friends, or appear self-serving in some way. In some cases, the promotion may be unintentional, but it will still have the same effect.

  • No links to people’s home pages for their companies for quotes or cited sources. Linking to sources’ Twitter handles, LinkedIn profile, or another type of bio page is OK.
  • No self-promotional calls to action (“Our new blog post covers this topic in detail. Click here to read!”).
  • No linking to gated content.
  • Any links that appear promotional or superfluous will be removed by editorial staff.
  • We reserve the right to add rel=”nofollow” to any link or remove a link at any time, before or after an article is published.
  • No links to websites in these areas: pills/RX, porn, gambling, and payday loans.

Buying, trading, or selling links is strictly prohibited. If someone approaches you to buy links in your articles, we’d appreciate you tipping us off (anonymously) via this form.


Statistics

Use recent, relevant stats that support the authority and expertise of your piece. (Never use stats older than 5 years – it’s most likely outdated!)

Link to the original source only (i.e., study, survey, etc.). Stats roundup posts or third-party infographics don’t count as valid sources.

No unattributed stats. If you can’t find the original source, don’t use it.

Use the statistic itself (eg.: 46%) as anchor text, not the surrounding text.


Formatting & Grammar Tips

  • Use H2 headings for your subheadings.
  • Use H3 headings for sections within your subheadings. If you need to go another level deeper, it should be bold (not H4).
  • No span tags.
  • No div tags.
  • Avoid bolding within sentences.
  • No filler/font formatting that affects content appearance.
  • Write out single numbers “one..nine.” 10 and up are written as digits. Percentages are written as digits.
  • For Pete’s sake: one space after punctuation. Please.
  • Example URLs (e.g. http://example.com) need to be plain text (not hyperlinked).
  • Title Case: Please use AP title case. For grammar nerds, here’s “coordinating conjunction” words that do NOT get capitalized in titles:

coordinating conjunctions


Images

General Guidelines

Stock photos come from Shutterstock only: Search Engine Journal has a Shutterstock account. If you would like to include a Shutterstock stock photo with your article, please email your chosen photo’s link to Abby, Search Engine Journal’s Editorial Assistant: abby [at] searchenginejournal.com to download it for you.

Please avoid Shutterstock images that are marked “Editorial.”

No stock photos from “free” stock photo websites: This includes websites such as Pexels, Pixabay, Unsplash, et. al. You will be asked to replace or suggest replacements for any stock photos that come from any sources other than Shutterstock, or the editorial team will replace it.

No transferring licenses: We do not accept stock images licensed by another person or organization via other paid stock photo providers (e.g., Adobe Stock, Getty Images).

Branded images: These are only acceptable in a news context, or in the context of a contributor citing a reputable source (e.g., Forrester, Gartner). Promotional images are not acceptable – images cannot include your company/agency logo or branding.

Disclose any business relationships: If there is an association between the contributor and the copyright owner for a branded image (e.g., contractor, brand ambassador, brand employee) this must be disclosed to the Managing Editor and Executive Editor.

Your own images: You can use relevant, unbranded images in your articles that you created (or your company created on your behalf – as long as any created images do not contain any copyrighted material), such as photographs you took.

Other guidelines you need to know:

  • PNGs only: Please.
  • Removing/replacing images: The Search Engine Journal editorial team reserves the right to replace or remove any images that you include without notice prior to publication. This could be because the image is deemed offensive, irrelevant to the post, has a negative connotation, or may violate these guidelines.

Featured Image Usage, Types & Attribution

Required: Upload a featured image (found on the right sidebar in WordPress) that is 1600 pixels wide and 840 pixels tall.

Please preview your post before submitting it to make sure your featured image is formatted correctly.

Attribution for a Featured Image that is a stock photo appears at the end of your article, underneath a horizontal line, italicized, unlinked. Here’s an example using this photo:


Featured Image: Dean Drobot/Shutterstock

Attribution for a custom Featured Image created by the Search Engine Journal team appears at the end of your article, underneath a horizontal line, italicized, unlinked. Here’s an example:


Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

Attribution for a custom Featured Image created by you or your company appears at the end of your article, underneath a horizontal line, italicized, unlinked. Here’s an example:


Featured Image: John Dough/Example Marketing Company

In-post Image Usage, Types & Attribution

Stock photos art (Shutterstock):

  • Credit goes in footer: Artist/Shutterstock (no link to Shutterstock)
  • Do not use images that are marked “Editorial.”
  • You can add text to images marked “Commercial”, not “Editorial.”
  • Composite photos that incorporate elements from two or more images must credit the source of both images and be marked: Search Engine Journal composite image: Artist/Shutterstock; Artist/Shutterstock.

Screenshot of a website

  • We cannot publish anything that may include stock images, original artwork, copyrighted photos, etc. in the background. Anything that may fall under copyright or identify a person/organization must be blurred or excluded.
  • Credit goes in caption: Name of website, Month Year (no link to the website).
  • Example: Screenshot from SearchEngineJournal.com, April 2021

Screenshot of a tool

  • Credit goes in caption: with Name of tool, Month Year (no link to tool)
  • Example: Screenshot from Google Search Console, July 2021

YouTube Still

  • Credit goes in caption: with Video Title, Name of YouTube Channel, Month Year (no link to video)
  • Example using this videoHow does user feedback impact search results? #AskGooglebot, Google Search Central, July 2021

Screenshot from Google Search:

  • Credit goes in caption: with Screenshot from search for [search term], Search engine name, Month Year
  • Example: Screenshot from search for [buy television], Google, July 2021

Other guidelines you need to know:

  • One stock photo per article: Unless otherwise approved by the Search Engine Journal editorial team. You can use the other types of images outlined above to help tell a compelling visual story (see In-post Image Types section, below).
  • No memes and GIFs. While we love them, there is debate on whether they fall under ‘fair usage‘. We prefer to play it safe. So avoid these gray areas that could potentially cost you and us time and money.
  • Instagram embeds: Embedding something from Instagram? You need to obtain written consent from the account holder. Otherwise, we can’t include it. (We also cannot accept screenshots of Instagram content to get around this due to potential copyright infringement issues.)
  • All in-post photos must be center-aligned, unless they are aligned with text.
  • No external links are allowed on images.

Republishing Content Guidelines

In order to avoid duplicate content issues with Google, we permit content to be republished 14 days after publishing on SEJ. You MUST use a canonical link.


Editorial Review and Corrections

  • If we find out authors aren’t writing their own posts, we reserve the right to reject or delete the post, as well as prohibit the author from writing for Search Engine Journal going forward.
  • We may add a disclaimer at the end of any article to disclose any relationships (or lack thereof) that either Search Engine Journal or the author may have with organizations mentioned in the article.
  • In the instance of corrections to byline, facts, or updates to published articles, Search Engine Journal reserves the right to edit any post at any time. Post changes may be noted with a note from the editor about the change and the reasoning for the update or change, if applicable.

Our Publishing Process

  • Contributors on the writing schedule: Posts are due 2 business days before your next publishing day.
  • Ad hoc contributors: Our goal is ~2 weeks turnaround from the time you submit your post draft to publication.

So, what happens when you’ve finished an awesome post and pressed that blue WordPress button “Submit for Review”?

Post Status: Submitted to Editor

When you’ve finished a post draft, you’ll press the big blue button. Your post will go through the first round of copyediting, link checking, and whether it passes our editorial rules above.

Post Status: Copyeditor Reviewing

This stage is where our Copyeditor gets out a red pen and corrects for:

  • Typos, grammar, content flow
  • Links. If the link is germane to the content, it stays. But include a link four times? Use keywords or calls-to-action? Too self-promotional? The red pen will spring into action.
  • Full disclosure. If you reference your company in the article, your connection as the author needs to be made clear. So instead of “ABC SEO published a case study…” it should read “My company, ABC SEO, published a case study…”.

Post Status: Ready for Scheduling

Get on your mark! This post will be sanity checked one last time by our Executive Editor before it’s sent out on its way into the world.

Post Status: Scheduled

It’s gonna go live!


Your Bio

Head to “Edit My Profile”.

Make sure to fill out your Biographical Info.

Upload a color Profile Photo – use a headshot so people can clearly see your face.

Add links to your personal Social Profiles:

  • Twitter.
  • LinkedIn.
  • Facebook.

Add your Company Details:

  • Your company.
  • Your position.
  • Your company’s URL.

Note: You are eligible to get a followed link from your SEJ profile page if you meet some basic criteria:

  • You must have written at least 5 SEJ articles.
  • You are on the SEJ writing schedule (or contribute articles on an ad hoc basis somewhat regularly – minimum 1-2 a year).
  • You agree not to abuse your link. Or you will lose it.

If you meet these criteria, and haven’t yet received your followed link, please let us know!


Missing Deadlines

If you’re going to miss your deadline, please give us a heads up.

We know you’re busy. Stuff comes up.

Just let us know. It only takes a couple of minutes to send us an email or private message.

If you miss 2 deadlines in a row, we’ll contact you to make sure you want to continue on as an SEJ Contributor.

If you miss 3 deadlines in a row, and fail to respond to communications from us, you will lose your status as an SEJ Contributor.


Questions?

Hit us up here.