Quick – Don’t panic. Those search engine optimization books you invested in and the classes in your newsroom still matter.
But writing for search engines is a strategy that needs updating. It does work great now, but you have to think ahead, and structuring everything for a search engine is only part of the equation for establishing long-term growth.
What’s the rest of the equation? Engaging web users!
The FUTURE of search will integrate social networks
While SEO fundamentals will help you (BIG TIME for most news orgs), they will only go so far. Search engines are continuously changing algorithms and ranking strategies. Why? So they can better serve people who are searching!
That means you have to continue to evolve in the way you present your news online if you expect search engines and readers to stick with you. (Note: Evolving doesn’t mean completely scrapping what has worked)
Search Engines are already looking at ways for social networks to help out on search results. Yahoo is experimenting with including Del.icio.us links in search results. It’s only a matter of time until social networks become a bigger influence on search.
This makes huge sense because it makes search engines’ jobs easier. Search engines can use recommended links by users of social networks to better vet pages and provide better search engine page results for searchers.
How you should adapt your SEO efforts: Start Sharing!
Keep writing SEO’d headlines and optimizing your site, but start thinking about what else you can do with your stories. To keep your traffic growing, you must grow your audience. More audience means more opportunities for sharing of your stories. More of sharing of your stories means more audience! See the circle?
Here’s the game plan you should follow:
- Keep writing SEO headlines, but make them appealing. Many readers will only see your headlines through RSS feeds or boxes that load headlines from your RSS feeds. New readers are NOT coming to your site, looking at the sports box and hoping you have a new sports story. They are using search, subscribing to RSS and their own custom home pages to get news. Your headlines should be clear and enticing – for both readers and search engines.
- Share your stories on social networks. Ka-Bam! That’s the grail right there sir. If you don’t read this article at all, make sure you get this message – SHARE YOUR STORIES! Give a try to Mahalo Share – the Firefox add on allows you to bookmark your stories with a number of social networks all at once (includes Facebook, Del.icio.us, Twitter and others). Then try Shareaholic. It will introduce you to social networks you didn’t even know existed. NOTE: Share your videos, photos and whatever else too!
- Participate. Sharing your stories is just the tip of your new SEO (make that SMO) efforts. You have to engage other users. You have to become a part of the social networking community. Until you make some friends and branch out, no one is going to care about what you’re sharing.
- Become a trusted user on at least one social network. You don’t have to become a power user on Digg, but you can become a voice on an interest group on Mixx. Think of these social networks as neighborhoods you’re moving into. Your neighbor is interested in your opinions on things, but if all you do is talk about yourself, you’re likely going to annoy people. Being a trusted user is being someone who adds to the group and acts as a good editor for others. Play like you would if you were making friends in the real world, and you’ll likely get more of your stories passed around.
- If necessary, make your own social network. Digg is mostly about Technology. Twitter is has a big number of web workers. What network works best for you for sharing your stories? If you can’t find one, try forming a group on Mixx, creating your own Digg clone using Pligg or your own network using Ning. WaPo is even investing in their own social networking platform.
- Market your stories. Surprise! Just because you put stories on the web doesn’t mean people are reading them. Nasty thought, isn’t it. People can go anywhere to find news, and they often do. So engage readers where they are. When you got a big story, or something of interest, tip off your local bloggers. Something of national interest? Contact web producers at the bigger outlets and let them know. The benefit of this is that you will get more backlinks to your site/stories, which will improve your search engine rankings.
So you may be asking, how does doing these things get me to rank better in search engines. On the surface, these actions will do little to help you.
What you will accomplish by engaging people on social networks is growing your influence on the web. You will meet more people who may not have known you before. You will become part of the community.
And communities share! As more people get to know you in their own corners of the web, they will be inclined to pass around the cool stuff you are sharing. Suddenly your network is growing, you are getting more audience. Your number of backlinks is growing. With all that, your presence in search engines will improve. Believe it!
Who knows, you might even end up getting better referrals and traffic from social networks than search engines, just like NewMediaBytes does! ha.