For local news publishers, there are numerous ways to grow an audience. The majority of readers still use Google to research local news stories, and the websites they discover will often get bookmarked for easy referencing in the future.
This begs the question: “What is the best way for local news publishers to make sure their articles are appearing in Google searches?”
The answer for most publishers is to implement an SEO strategy that involves optimizing content with search engines in mind.
Why is SEO for local news publishers important?
The reason every local news publisher should care about SEO is simple: web traffic. In today’s competitive media landscape, readers have thousands of places to turn for their news. When people search for local terms, news publishers should want the articles they’ve posted to come up first.
If you’re a local news publisher, then SEO can help you grow your audience organically. Rather than paying for each click, search engines are essentially sending free traffic to your website.
It’s no surprise that SEO is important for web publishers. But what about SEO for local news publishers, specifically? One study found that nearly as many Americans say they prefer getting their local news online as say they prefer to do so through TV. The percentage that prefers to get local news online (37%) is much higher than the percentage of Americans who prefer a printed newspaper (13%).
Any publisher that’s serious about getting web traffic should be optimizing their article pages with search engines in mind. This is why we, at Web Publisher PRO, put so much emphasis on building out the parts of our clients’ websites that impact SEO. For example, we recommend that publishers’ websites be built with clean architecture. That means websites should be easy for readers to navigate and easy for search engines to crawl. Things like tags and categories are important, as well.
Mobile usability is another factor that plays a role in SEO for local news publishers. With the majority of readers now consuming news on smartphones and other mobile devices, publishers should be using responsive web design. This ensures that their content is formatted correctly regardless of the user’s screen size or device. The adoption of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) also plays a role in this. (You can read more about how to get Accelerated Mobile Pages for your WordPress website, here.)
How to Improve SEO – A Local Publisher’s Guide
If you’re ready to start improving your website’s rankings in search engines like Google and Bing, we recommend following these steps:
1. Check page load times
Slow page load times don’t just impact the user experience on your website, they can also impact SEO. Use a tool like Google PageSpeed Insights, GTmetrix, or Pingdom to test your homepage and uncover any potential issues. If your site is running slower than it should, then you’ll want to find out the reason.
Sometimes slow webpages are caused by oversized images or improper caching. If the issue is outside the scope of what you’re comfortable with, then you’ll want to bring in a web development firm for assistance.
2. Install the Yoast plugin
Here at Web Publisher PRO, we frequently recommend the Yoast plugin local news publishers. But you don’t have to be one of our clients to take advantage of this excellent tool. With the Yoast SEO plugin, you can get similar results as you would hiring a professional SEO consultant. The plugin will help you target focus keywords in your content. You’ll also be able to easily write meta descriptions and add page titles to your content, both of which play a role in determining in search engine rankings.
If you are having trouble configuring the Yoast plugin and adjusting the settings based on your own goals and metrics, then you’ll want to reach out to a web developer for assistance. You can also read Web Publisher PRO’s guide to using the Yoast plugin, here.
3. Get your content to appear in Google News
Are your articles showing up in Google News? If not, you’re missing out on a major opportunity to grow your audience. Check out the Google News inclusion guidelines to make sure your website adheres to Google’s standards and that it qualifies as a reputable news source. If it does, then you should read Google’s technical guidelines to make sure your website meets all the requirements for site structure, language and encoding, and individual article pages to be included in the Google News feed. Local news publishers no longer need to submit their websites to be eligible for the Google News app and website.
4. Clean up your website architecture
We mentioned this before, but it’s worth noting again. When it comes to SEO for local news publishers, having clean website architecture plays a major role in determining page ranking. Working with a web developer is the easiest way to make sure your website is organized in a way that meets Google’s guidelines. Having an organized tagging system and a consistent site structure goes a long way in improving SEO.
5. Use the right keywords
Local news publishers usually don’t have to put as much effort into keyword research as the publishers of more general interest websites. That’s because relevant local keywords are inherently a part of most local news stories. Think about a high school sports recap or a review of a community play. There’s a good chance the keywords that people would be using to search for this content are already used liberally throughout these articles. However, it’s still a worthwhile practice to look at what your audience is searching for and which terms they’re using to find your website. This may have an impact on the long-term projects that your writers produce.
This is a lot to digest. SEO for local news publishers is an important topic, and it’s something our clients at Web Publisher PRO are always interested in improving. If you’d like to learn more about how Web Publisher PRO is working with local news publishers to grow their audiences and develop sustainable business practice, get in contact here.