SEO Tips for News Sites

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By Boris Dzhingarov

A news site is considered one that only features news and nothing else. This is different from a regular business site that has a blog page with industry news on it. Nevertheless, it’s beneficial to approach different types of news sites carefully from an SEO perspective to get better results and not set them back. This requires you following best practices to avoid making grave errors which could hurt search rankings in the future.

Here are five SEO tips applicable to news sites.

Use Accelerated Mobile Pages

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) is an initiative from Google to help speed up predominantly text-based websites. Faster websites can be favorably ranked in the search engines because they reduce loading time and bounce rates.

AMP itself is essentially a stripped-down version of XHTML, which provides the content and links to images along with indicators (mark-up) about where the headings are, which section is a paragraph, and so forth.

The goal with the invention of AMP is to ensure articles display on a mobile device considerably faster than they did previously. This is done by revamping what a website should look like, removing pretty graphics and maintaining a minimalistic approach to reduce the size of the page.

In most cases, news sites choose to create a separate version of each article which is AMP-compatible. This is automatically selected by most mobile web browsers when visiting a page. Alternatively, news sites can provide a separate website for mobile users, which is set up for AMP alone.

Site Structure is Important

With a news site, visitors and search engines need to be able to search and find the latest content easily. However, they also should have no difficulty locating older stories too.

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For older news sites, their structure often becomes dated with bad taxonomies. This includes confusing navigation and outdated categories and tags that lead nowhere.

Creating a clearer structure to help both human visitors and search engines understand how to find news articles of interest on different topics is highly advantageous. It will avoid people getting lost navigating the site and make it simpler to update too.

When changing categories and/or relocating articles, it’s sensible to use a 301 redirect to ensure that visitors don’t get a 404 error because the page has been moved. The redirection process will automatically forward traffic to the new location and maintain valuable “link juice” during the transition.

Protect the Crawl Budget by Removing Old Content

Google has a crawl budget where, depending on the popularity of the site and how often it is updated, the search engine’s bot will only crawl up to 1,000 pages at a time. Contrary to what people often believe, Google doesn’t automatically look at every web page on a site because it would take up too much time and resources. What’s important about this for SEO purposes is that old content could be taking up many of the 1,000-page crawl budget slots with newer, more relevant content getting ignored.

To address this issue, first access Google Analytics or the premium service from ahrefs to determine what the most visited pages are on the site. Then examine the least viewed pages and obtain a report that lists them out. From there, set about removing these pages from the site to avoid them being potentially crawled in the future.

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Now create an XML sitemap to make it easier for Google to better index the more popular content. Bear in mind that for sites using Google News, there is a separate news sitemap which should only show the most recent two days’ worth of content. At Google, these articles are usually locatable for a full 30 days, however.

Improve Internal Linking Between Articles

Interlinking has become a far more useful resource than expected. Not only does it make it quicker to locate content related to the current article being viewed, but it also helps draw connections for the search engines too.

Furthermore, with SEO, inbound links pointing at one article can be spread through multiple other internal pages that are interlinked. Doing so often makes related pages rank higher in Google and receive more regular organic traffic than before. This is particularly useful on subject matters where getting inbound links to an article is difficult to achieve due to either its lack of popularity or sensitive subject matter.

When using the WordPress CMS, the new Link Whisper plugin from Niche Pursuits makes interlinking much less time-consuming to do. The tool provides intelligent suggestions about which pages should be interlinked and even highlights the most appropriate anchor text to use.

Use Evergreen Content, Not Only Topical Subjects

Every news site that publishes topical news that’s current today should also focus on evergreen content. Evergreen topics are ones that will be of interest in the months and years to come; not only in the search for this week. Also, with news topics, there are numerous websites publishing similar articles covering the same piece of news. There are only so many ways to present the information in a different light. However, with articles covering evergreen subjects, it’s possible to build a reputation for excellence.

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From an SEO perspective, natural links often get added over time to pages that cover subject matters in an in-depth manner. Adding in link building efforts can also encourage search engines to rank the article higher. Furthermore, if there’s social media interest which gathers steam, the lengthier article can become a powerhouse driving new visitors to the site.

When combining impressive, longer content on broader topics with interlinking, the link juice and traffic going to the popular pages can be funneled into other related news topics and articles of interest. This ‘Raising all boats’ effect is very real when a website has a few evergreen articles and a link building strategy behind them; it can spread the positive effect across the entire site.

SEO for news sites should be treated differently to blogs or corporate websites. Improving the site structure, navigational approach, attitude towards older content that’s rarely visited, and interlinking can do much to improve ranking prospects. These are positive changes both for the visitors through better usability and from a search engine’s perspective too. It can take a few weeks to see the results through improved ranking, but the wait is surely worth it.