How to optimize SEO for news websites? 3 key takeaways

SEO for news websites answers to proper considerations. Online publishers’ revenues like newspapers rely on visits and page views. While page views should not be the only metric to take into account (bounce rate and time on-site are more representative of user’s behavior), page views in still one of the main criteria to set CPM costs. And organic traffic remains one of the main source of traffic and visits. SEO should be a true concern for news media because it influences their livelihood.
This articles aims at giving key considerations to focus on when auditing and optimizing SEO for a news website.

1# Focus on architecture

Architecture is one of the most important SEO area to monitor because it has real impact on how Google and search engines are going to visit, interpret and rank your pages. For news media, this is particularly important because:

  • The website is likely to add new content on a day/weekly basis;
  • Content added is likely to be highly time-sensitive;
  • Newly added content is more likely to drive way more traffic from search results than static category pages or even the home.

To preserve the highest link equity, which is generally close to the home, you need to organize archive content to fewer clicks from the home page. At the same time, newer pages also need to receive link juice. To organize your architecture and distribute link juice properly, you should focus on:

Pagination

Pagination has a real impact on your architecture and link authority distribution. Some websites only have pagination relying on previous and next links on the home. Using numerical pagination is a better way to keep closer older content to the category homepage.
Moreover, users will need fewer clicks to reach a specific content.

Index

News media often deal with large volume of pages and it can be quickly complicated to keep pages from a few clicks to the home page. Creating an index operating as a collection of links on one page lets you have around 100 links per page. This way, you can store high volume of pages close the main page. Here you can organize links by theme, tags or any other relevant classification to provide a better experience to your users.

By using a SEO crawler like OnCrawl, you can understand how your architecture behaves and how link authority flows. It is particularly interesting for internal popularity flow. OnCrawl has computed a score called the Inrank that calculates how internal popularity is distributed throughout the pages regarding the number and depth of inlinks pointing to the page. Other factor are used to ponderate the Inrank such as anchors and duplicated content evaluation so that all inlinks are not born equal. The homepage usually gets a 10 points Inrank, and then the Inrank is inherited from internal links.

average inrank by depthFor a news media, this is even more useful if you need to check that some categories of articles are receiving enough Inrank.

page inrank distribution by group

For instance, you could need to reorganize your page depth distribution to put strategic groups of pages close to the home. You can compare where your pages are located by looking at your depth distribution.

page depth distribution by groupsBy looking at your logs, you can also understand that pages located far from the home have fewer chances to be crawled and indexed by Google. The same goes for crawl frequency.

crawl frequency by depth oncrawlTags and categories

Tags and categories – as taxonomy system – have been a subject of discussion for a while. Large websites are often suffering from creating too many tags or categories.
What you need to ask yourself is:

  • Are too many tags pages being created (meaning there is a lot of dilution of link equity and several thin pages housing one post)?
  • Are the current tag or category really useful and valuable for the user?
  • Are the rules used to create a new tag or category still relevant?

Different types of categories and tags can be used. Yoast has written an useful guide about category management.

2# Be found on Google News

Google News is for sure particularly useful for news websites if you want to drive more traffic. To be included in Google News, your content should:

  • Be unique & news oriented;
  • Include 3 unique digits or dates in URLs;
  • Have clean pages and links;
  • Have crawlable HTML.

Google has shared his requirements to appear on Google News and where to submit your website.

If you are already on Google News but don’t appear in the results, a few reasons may explain why. In fact, Google values the following points:

  • Category authority: the news source must be known for his expertise in a certain category (eg: New York Times for Politics);
  • Keywords in headline and titles;
  • Domain Authority: the news source must be an authority in its field regarding inbound links;
  • Social sharings;
  • Exclusivity of the story;
  • Citation Rank: number of citations from other other valuable sites matters;
  • Uniqueness;
  • Use of standout tag: Google offers the opportunity to designate certain content as higher quality via a standout tag, so you can separate higher quality, original reporting from thinner content you may be re-writing or even republishing from a feed;
  • Performance: your page must load quickly.

Duplicate content

You need to specifically focus on duplicate content if you want to have chances to appear on Google News but also just in terms of global rankings. Here are a few tips that could save you from being punished by Google:

  • Don’t use query attributes for clicks tracking. Some publishers use attributes like ‘?homepage=leftside’ to track from which part on the homepage a particular click has been made. You can instead use tracking tools like Hotjar to do so. Remember that Google will see ‘www.mywebsite.com/article.htm?id=2’ and ‘www.mywebsite.com/article.htm?id=2&homepage=leftside’ as different pages with the same content.
  • Manage cookies. Don’t use query attributes for sorting, either. Or dynamically insert a Robots meta tag set to ‘noindex’ whenever you have a sorting query attribute.
  • Link wisely. If you have a ‘shop’ section, link to it using ‘www.mywebsite.com/shop/’ or ‘www.mywebsite.com/shop/index.html’. Pick one of these two version and stick to it. If you mix them, you will create duplicate content.
  • Focus on pagination. If you have a multi-page article, you’ll probably put links at the bottom and top of the page that let people skip from page 1 to 2 to 3, etc.. When they land back to page 1, be sure the page URL doesn’t have ‘?p=1’ in it. Avoid to create useless duplication issues with the first page of your article.

3# Focus on crawl speed

News media need to get crawled and indexed fast by Google as content freshness is pretty low when it comes to news. Different onpage SEO factors can influence your crawl speed like site speed, hosting performance or XML sitemaps. News sitemaps needs to respect some rules:

  • Update your news sitemap continually with fresh articles as they’re published;
  • Don’t create a news sitemap per new article, but rather update your existing sitemap;
  • Only insert news from the last 2 days in your news sitemap (and articles will remain in the news index for 30 days);
  • Use plugins like the News SEO plugin by Yoast to create a news sitemap.

Frequency of publication will also influence your crawl frequency. If Googlebot finds new content on your website with every crawl, it’ll come to your website more often. On the other hand, publishing content on a regular basis does not mean publishing unvaluable content. You don’t want Google to spend its crawl budget on useless pages. To know more about crawl budget, you can check our article.
By checking at your logs and crawl data, you can understand where Google is spending its crawl budget and which pages he is visiting the most.

crawl ratio by groups

Any other recommandation you would like to share with us? Feel free to tell us what you focus on when optimizing SEO for news media.


Want to give OnCrawl a try? Start you free trial and see how we can help you optimize your news website!
Emma

About Emma

Emma is Communication & Marketing Manager at @Cogniteev and write about SEO and search engine updates.

Entries by Emma