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5 Critical SEO Considerations When Optimizing News Websites

5 Critical SEO Considerations When Optimizing News Websites

News sites have the benefits of a constant stream of new content and special Google features such as Top Stories.

But there are other ways SEO for news sites is also unique.

Simply placing news content out in the world does not guarantee that it ranks in Google or attracts traffic to your site.

In this column, you will learn about five important considerations to keep in mind when planning your SEO strategy for a news site so that you can get a leg up from the competition.

1. Build evergreen content in your approach

As a news site, your core business model is to write about current topics.

But ninety-nine percent of the time, when you write about topics in a timely manner, your articles will inevitably have a short lifespan. You will see an initial increase in traffic to your article, and that article receives less and less traffic as it gets older.

This is the nature of news trading; you are subject to waves and currents of the news that resonates. And to consistently drive high levels of traffic, you need to keep pumping out more news.

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But what if you could keep the core news model intact and add more consistent streams of traffic to your site? You can if you build into evergreen content.

Evergreen refers to the fact that the content remains relevant and useful for a long time. An 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 at the top of funnel Category Hub pages that are evergreen. They then silo their news under these hub sections creating a powerful and relevant experience.

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While getting their fair share of traffic on actual news articles, they were able to build evergreen opportunities to give them more consistent streams of traffic.

2. Make sure your content appears in Google News

Getting your content included in Google News is a must.

Start by checking the content guidelines for inclusion to ensure that your site complies with Google’s standards. Most reputable news sources already follow these guidelines.

Then check the inclusion technical guidelines to ensure that Google can crawl your site and understand which of your pages are news articles.

When all else fails, submit your site for Google approval. You can see if your site has typically been accepted within 3 weeks.

Once your site is accepted, continue to produce strong content.

Google News works on many of the same basic SEO principles as organic search. Industry authority, keyword optimization, uniqueness, and social sharing will all help you rank better and get more visits from Google News.

See Lily Ray’s Optimization Guide for Google News, Top Stories, and Discover to learn more.

Concentrate on pure architecture

News sites can be a challenge for SEO growth because they are large and constantly growing by nature.

Keeping an eye on your website architecture is important to keep your site both navigable for readers and easy for search engines to crawl.

Organization is paramount. Look at the tags and categories you use on your site and ask yourself if they work for you.

You need enough tags and categories for readers to easily find what they’re looking for, but are the ones you use worthwhile?

If you have multiple tags with only a few articles each, it may be more advantageous to consolidate things into a smaller amount of pages with more content.

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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 “lower” your site is, the more likely it is that each page will be indexed. Keeping your tagging system organized helps with this.

Another thing you can do to improve the structure of your site is to add pagination at the bottom of each page instead of just using the “next” and “previous” buttons. This makes it easier to jump to certain pages without first wading through other irrelevant pages.

4. Mobile usability is critical

Mobile usability is important for any site today, but for news sites it is even more critical.

Most Americans spend their news on cell phones.

At the very least, your site should be constructed using responsive design that fits your formatting, no matter what screen size a viewer uses.

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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 doing so, however, you would like to read this AMP case study from Independent.ie.

5. Optimize for throughput speed

When it comes to news, you want your pages to be crawled and indexed quickly by Google.

People also do not want to wait for a slow place to load – especially when they have so many opportunities for news.

Fortunately, there are several SEO factors that can help with crawl speed, including site speed, hosting performance, and XML sitemaps. However, you cannot treat sitemaps for news like any other sitemap. Google has established some important guidelines for sitemaps in the news list.

First, just add 1,000 URLs or less to your Sitemap. Of course, you can include more by splitting your URLs into multiple Sitemaps, but be sure not to exceed 50,000 Sitemaps in your Sitemap index file.

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You will also need to regularly update your News Sitemap with new articles as they are published to keep Googlebot enticed.

However, when submitting these new article URLs, do not create a news sitemap for each one. update your existing Sitemap instead. Your News Sitemap contains only news from the last two days, and all articles will remain in the News Index for a period of 30 days.

Finally, when you go to create your Sitemap, use non-Google plugins.

If you use Google Sitemap Generator, it includes URLs that do not match your specific news articles. The frequency of publication on your site will also have a positive impact on the crawl rate, and it makes sense.

After all, if Googlebot consistently finds new content on your site with each crawl, it’s coming to your site more often.

Another thing to keep in mind is that quantity does not always have the same quality.

Make sure your content has value. If you post too much or publish unnecessary content, Googlebot will waste its precious crawling budget on the less valuable pages, which means your good content may remain unseen.

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As a rule of thumb, always avoid duplicate content and block unwanted pages with robots.txt / robots meta to ensure optimal crawl speed.

Takeaway

News sites work 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 are on your way to having a better optimized news site and enjoying more traffic and readers as a result.

More resources:

Image credits

All screenshots taken by the author, May 2021

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