SEO for News Websites with Louisa Frahm
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SEO for news websites is a critical component of reach and frequency. In this podcast, I spoke with ESPN.com director of SEO Louisa Frahm about best practices when it comes to SEO for headlines, how to build an effective program to support SEO for publishers, and what she’s learned about creating resources to support SEO for journalists.
Louisa has a long history leading SEO for news websites. Before she joined ESPN.com, she was director of SEO at the Los Angeles Times, so she has experience in SEO for newspapers as well, so she also has experience in online newsroom best practices.
Search engine optimization for news websites is the art and science of creating online news coverage that can be easily found through Google News and Google organic search. Given that 86% of Americans get their news online, learning to cover the news in way that not only informs readers, but which grows audiences and drives sustainable traffic from search engines has become a crucial skill for journalists.
I started doing SEO for news websites in 2002 when I founded iPressroom, which was the first online newsroom management service. I sold the company in 2011 and remain a shareholder. Today, I am a Los Angeles SEO consultant helping organizations use editorial content to build mindshare, market share, and drive commerce. I also help publishers get their sites indexed by Google News, so contact me if I you need help.
SEO for News Websites
According to Similarweb, ESPN.com is the 83rd highest-traffic website on the internet with nearly 580 million unique visitors a month who average 3.6 pages per visit and spend almost nine and a half minutes per session.
Over 70% of the traffic on the ESPN.com news website is direct, and 21% of that traffic comes from organic search at 21%. After that is traffic social media at less than 4%, then email at over 3%.
Interestingly enough, the top athlete names that are getting the most search results in organic traffic at ESPN.com are the tennis player Andy Murray first, followed by the combat fighter Connor McGregor, then combat fighter Patty Gimblett, and tennis player Rafael Nadal, which is curious because soccer, or baseball or basketball or football are bigger sports. Louisa explains why that is in this exclusive on SEO for News Websites.
SEO for Journalists
When Louisa started working with her analysts at ESPN to help reporters execute best Google News optimization practices, their objective was to make sure that every single team and every single sport was equally prioritized within her department’s workflow.
Her team leads SEO for Journalist training programs, essentially teaching writers the right formula for SEO to support SEO in journalism. Reporters can rely on her department as a resource for the appropriate amount of care and guidance. Her team is prepared to help journalists sort through the various aspects of each of the 4 types of SEO, which are on-page SEO (on-site SEO), off-page SEO (off-site SEO), technical SEO, and Local SEO
At a major news publisher like ESPN, journalists don’t have to worry about the simple stuff, like providing a publication date, making sure every page is reachable from at least one static text link, or adding structured data to their article pages. That kind of technical SEO Is done for the already. Louisa and I don’t talk much about Technical SEO in this podcast. We focus mostly on news SEO. But if you’re at a smaller publication or have a blog you want to get indexed on Google News, these technical SEO details matter too.
In the United States, ESPN.com dedicates a good amount of attention to the NFL, the MLB, and the NBA, since they drive a ton of traffic. College football is also huge, but combat and tennis have very dedicated fan bases. So the nice thing about SEO for news websites is that backlinks happen organically, which is how it should be. News sites don’t have to actively lure links. Since news outlets are authoritative, they become points of reference and get attributed naturally.
SEO Headlines Journalism
Trending SEO Headlines in Journalism can be easily researched on Google Trends, which has a fantastic Real Time Stories view where you can see what the biggest stories are in organic search. Headlines matter a lot in SEO and Google Trends is a way to identify targets keywords. But the key is to effective SEO headlines is making sure to balance search engine needs with audience interest. You have to write for readers first, and search engines second.
When it comes to SEO headlines for televised programming, people want to know the date and time something’s one, as well as the channel. But these factors can be frustrated by different time zones and programs airing on different channels in different market. In the US, their 212 syndicated Nielsen-rated markets.
Based on her experience doing SEO for news publishers, Louisa says that checking the real-time articles trending in organic search is a great way to gauge what readers are interested in. She can see firsthand why headlines are important for SEO.
She can see which teams and players are trends, which is a great indication of what makes a good SEO headline and what’s most likely to grab the reader's interest. She can also which types of headlines are resonating most for any given needs break. It could be a straight forward news headline, a question headline, an emotional headline, a listicle, a how to or a reason why headline. All these formats have varying degrees of efficacy for different news beats and articles.
Subscribe to the Earned Media Podcast to hear the full interview about SEO for News Websites with ESPN.com SEO director Lousia Frahm.