EDITORIAL GUIDELINES

Last updated May 2018

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


How to Contribute to SEJ

For the most part, we invite people to contribute to SEJ. That said, there are two other ways to get your foot in the door:

  • Pitch us your idea. Need instructions on how to pitch us? Then you probably aren’t ready to contribute to SEJ.
  • Get a recommendation. Ask someone who contributes to SEJ (or a well-known/respected figure in the industry) to introduce you to the Executive Editor.

Search Engine Journal accepts contributions from SEO professionals, search marketers, and digital marketers. There are two ways to contribute to SEJ:

  • SEJ Writing Schedule: Contributors are invited to write on a recurring publishing date (either monthly, every other month, or quarterly). (Note: No writing slots are currently available.)
  • Ad hoc: This is for contributors who are only able to contribute sporadically, maybe 1-3 times per year. Posts run whenever there is an opening on the editorial schedule.

Posts Must Be 100% Original to SEJ

Any columns accepted for publication must be exclusive to Search Engine Journal.

Posts must be 100 percent original. This means:

  • No plagiarism! We use CopyScape. If you’re caught once passing off someone else’s work as your own, you’ll get a warning. Do it again, and you’re gone and blacklisted.
  • 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

You are welcome to draw from your own experiences to come up with your own ideas and topics. Please discuss the idea with the Executive Editor to make sure nothing else similar is being worked on by another author.

We also have a private Facebook Group just for SEJ Writers. Once a month, the Executive Editor shares a list of topics with the group. If you aren’t yet a member of this group, you’re on Facebook, and you’re contributing to SEJ, please let the Executive Editor know to add you!

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
  • Opinion posts/commentary/think-pieces

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!


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.

If you write about an experience involving a client or business partner, you must disclose the relationship in the article.


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, Grenevieve Focker, wrote the case study below.”

Post Length

How long should your post be?

  • Posts should be at least 1,000 words.
  • Most posts that appear on SEJ are between 1,500 and 2,000 words.
  • We do love longer posts, but our editorial team is small and limited for time. So 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 the SEJ Executive 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, 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.

URL

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

Images

  • A Caption is 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.
  • 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: 20 words) for every post. It can be similar to your meta description.

This is the description that appears on the SEJ website when it publishes. If your excerpt exceed 20 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 50 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 calls to action that are self-promotional (“Our new white paper covers this topic in detail. Click here to download!”).
  • 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.


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: Use this nifty tool to easily convert to AP-Style Title Case! For grammar nerds, here’s “coordinating conjunction” words that do NOT get capitalized in titles:

coordinating conjunctions


Images

PNGs or animated GIFs only, please.

Featured Image

Required: Upload a featured image (found on the right sidebar) 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.

To use a Shutterstock stock photo, please email your chosen photo’s link to SEJ’s Editorial Assistant, Angel: angel [at] searchenginejournal.com. She’ll download it for you. (Note: Follow the same process if you want to use Shutterstock for any in-post images.)

In-Post Images

  • All in-post photos must be center-aligned, unless they are aligned with text.
  • You can use images from Shutterstock (SEJ has an account) and sites that release all licenses (e.g. Death to Stock Photo, Unsplash, and Pixabay) only.
  • You can also use images that you created or photographs you took. Your own screenshots are great!
  • No promotional images: Images cannot have a company logo or brand.
  • No external links on images.
  • No memes. While we love memes, and there is debate on whether memes fall under ‘fair usage‘, we have paid too many Getty copyright violation penalties. No memes pleeze.
  • The SEJ editorial team reserves the right to replace or remove images they deem irrelevant to the post or has negative connotation without prior notice.
  • All images must have proper attribution at the bottom of your post:

Image Credits

Featured Image: DepositPhotos.com
In-post Photo: Pixabay.com
Screenshot taken by author, May 2018


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 SEJ going forward.
  • We may add a disclaimer at the end of any article to disclose any relationships (or lack thereof) that either SEJ or the author may have with organizations mentioned in the article.
  • In the instance of corrections to byline, facts, or updates to published articles, SEJ 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.