The practice of search engine optimization is foreign to some journalists. Though it is a growing practice with some publishing houses that require their journalists to implement SEO on their websites, its still leaves some journalists scratching their heads.
SEO can be a very complex practice, but it can also be very simple. You should be doing at least the basics to guarantee that your content will get a good ranking on search engine results and will get found by Web users. Below are a few basics to implement that will get your SEO off the ground. Once you understand these, you can move to more complex SEO practices. But for now, these are a must.
1. Know where to find searchable keywords. Sites such as SEO Book or Keyword Discovery are good places to start.
2. Use keywords that are commonly searched. A good rule of thumb is to pick keywords that are searched at least 25 times a day by users.
3. Put keywords in your headlines. Journalists like to use creative headlines that don't necessarily hit the mark with search engines. Remember you want people to find your online content, so if you're going to make creative headlines put a few keywords in there as well.
4. Use keywords throughout your content. Good quality content is a must, but so is having keywords. You need both of these for good SEO —not one or the other.
5. Use keywords in your links. For example, if you want someone to read another article, don't hyperlink the words "Click here to read more." Hyperlink the name of the article (which should have keywords in it).
6. Make sure your URLs have keywords and aren't generic. Some posts will automatically use the date of the post as the permalink. Customize your permalink so it includes the headline or keywords. For example, www.maureenalley.com/8_18_2009 versus www.maureenalley.com/seo_best_practices.
7. Know how search engines work. Look at titles and descriptions that appear on search engine results. When you create the title and description tags of your Web pages, remember to include keywords (and keyword phrases of two or three words). Also note that amount of characters search engines display are all different.
8. Let someone know when you've linked to them. Search engines look at the quality of links pointing to your site to determine the credibility of your site. When you tell other people that you've written about them, they may link to your content on their site.
9. Get your content out there. The more sources that syndicate your content, the more chances of someone picking up your content and linking to it.
10. Constantly refresh your content, because search engines like it. Search engines are more likely to visit sites that are always updating content.
To move into the realm of good SEO, you need to wear both a journalist hat and Web hat. Thinking only as a journalist will inhibit your Web success just as it will if you only think as a Web professional. Combine your talents for ultimate exposure and success. Good luck!
Maureen Alley is managing editor for Website Magazine, a trade publication dedicated to Web professionals. She was formerly managing editor for Residential Design & Build magazine, a property of Cygnus Business Media. Alley graduated with a BA from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and is currently attending Roosevelt University in Chicago for her Masters of Science in Journalism. She has been a member of ASBPE since 2006 and was a judge for the 2009 Azbee Awards program. She writes a blog at www.maureenalley.com about young journalists and new media. Contact her at malley13[at]gmail[dot]com.